The Games Makers in their own words: Heroes from Norfolk and north Suffolk who made London 2012 happen

A former Dereham student has described her unforgettable role in the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics.

Kayleigh Mann, 25, carried the placard for Iran at the curtain-raiser for the Games, was a flag escort for the Islamic nation in the spectacular finale and walked in with Iran's most successful competitor.

She was a pupil at Mileham Primary, Dereham Neatherd High and Dereham Sixth Form College before gaining a degree in performing arts (modern drama) from Brunel University. She now works for 42nd Street Recruitment Services in London and explained why she was the standard-bearer for Iran,

'We were chosen so we looked the complete opposite of our country which is why I ended up with Iran and not Sweden!'

She said they had rehearsed for several months and had to try to keep all the details secret.


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'Press helicoptors hovering above the stadium sometimes made this very difficult,' she said.

On the night 204 countries were each led out by the placard-bearer along with a flag-bearer and 'petal child'.

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'The atmosphere was incredible even though we were blinded by the lights and flashes so couldn't see any people in the crowd and couldn't hear anything because of our ear-pieces. It was very surreal knowing you were in the same place as the best athletes in the world, the Queen, Paul McCartney and the inventor of the internet. Very, very surreal!

The costumes were made up of photographs of other volunteers with the concept of bringing all types of people together and the idea that they were representing all people.

'We got to keep them afterwards and some girls have already sold them for thousands apparently!'

Kayleigh said she stayed after they had finished their section and went outside the stadium to watch the fireworks and sway to Hey Jude while reading messages from family and friends in Australia, America and Denmark saying they had seen her.

'I headed home on a high on the Tube with people from every country – after being interviewed by a Chinese TV network! It was an amazing night and really exciting to be part of the biggest show on earth.'

Kayleigh said the closing ceremony was just as exciting.

'We were officially named the flag escorts and walked on to the field of play with the athlete from our country who had performed the best during the games. Mine was an Iranian wrestler called Komeil.

'It was amazing being able to stand in the middle of the stadium and take in the sights and music and the thousands of incredible, hard-working athletes who had achieved so much during the past couple of weeks. I have yet to watch the show on iPlayer as it is back to the nine to five office job but I am sure it will be very emotional to watch back.'

And a retained firefighter from Waveney who was in the Olympic Stadium as a first-responder said it was a 'once-in-a-lifetime experience' on which you could not put a price.

Mark Saunders, 46, from Oulton, near Lowestoft, was based in medical centres at strategic points round the stadium as part of a team including a doctor, nurse and four or five first-responders. He would spend an hour in the medical centre and then four or five hours out and about meeting people and checking on the crowds around the stadium.

The EDF worker, who works at Sizewell in health and safety, security and first aid, also had his picture taken with some athletes including 800m medallists Russian champion Mariya Savinova and South African Semenya who took silver.

Mr Saunders said: 'I did the opening and closing ceremony and every day of the athletics. I saw all the world records and was pictured with some of the athletes – it was awesome.

'For me the highlights were Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Usain Bolt, but the closing ceremony was out of this world.

'The atmosphere was just unbelievable – the interaction between the volunteers, the public and the Army, and seeing so many people really happy, was a wonderful experience.'

A Weston Longville woman who first starting officiating athletics events when her son was young had never dreamed it would lead her to being on trackside at the greatest sporting show in the world.

Christine Baker, 65, was the chief track judge at the Olympic Stadium for the athletics events.

The married mother-of-two said: 'It's something which will never come again in my lifetime. It was unbelievable, I don't think you can ever really describe it, especially on that 'super Saturday' when Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford won – that hour was just exhilarating. There was so much noise and cheering. The whole stadium seemed to vibrate.'

Mrs Baker first started officiating 26 or 27 years ago when her son Mark, who now lives in New Zealand, started training with what was then known as the Norfolk Olympiads Athletics Club.

Since then, she has climbed the ladder and has officiated at some big meets including the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace.

The retired Dairy Crest worker said the Olympic Games 'topped the lot'.

'We were sitting on a table about 10 metres away from the finish line – I was there for every race in the stadium,' said Mrs Baker, who worked 8pm to 1pm and 5pm to 10pm each day. She will also be an assistant referee for the Paralympic Games.

'I will never get a chance like that again, it really was an experience. We made sure we were there for the gold medal ceremonies for the Brits – I've never heard God Save the Queen sung so loudly. It really was brilliant and something I shall never forget.'

A tennis coach had the 'dream' job as he escorted top tennis stars to and from the courts – including Andy Murray and Roger Federer in the final.

Richard Love, 39, from Mulbarton, was volunteering at Wimbledon as a field of play attendant. His role saw him walk players to and from the tennis courts and to the press and media areas. He was on duty on the final day when Murray won his gold medal and the two Williams sisters took the women's doubles title.

The Wymondham Tennis Club coach said: 'It was fantastic. When I applied, I would've done anything, I just wanted to be part of it but I was really lucky because I got pretty much the best job I could've got.

'After Andy Murray got his medal, I took him up to the balcony. It was a fantastic opportunity, a really amazing week and working the final really topped it off.'

Mr Love, who is married with two children, said it had also inspired his own tennis career.

'It was a really responsible job and has made me realise there's a whole lot more I can do in tennis. I now want to get my International Tennis Federation refereeing badges. It's the start of something for me.'

For the Paralympic Games he will be based in the Olympic Park for wheelchair tennis.

A former international fencer has been inspired to return to the sport after volunteering at the Games.

Cathie Davies, who fenced for Great Britain and represented Wales in the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and 1998, was one of the Games makers based at the ExCel centre for the fencing competitions, working on the field of play, ensuring all the competitors had everything they needed and were plugged into the electronic scoring equipment properly.

The 48-year-old, of Tuckswood, Norwich, said: 'It was absolutely fantastic. I'm still buzzing from it. The bit that amazed me the most was how everyone was so good-natured and wanted to have the best Games they could.

'People were shaking our hands and wanted to have their picture taken with us. The fencers were amazing. They were tremendous.

'There were a lot of tears whether they won or lost and they were really grateful. They all said thank you, no matter what language.'

The experience has also made the Norwich & Norfolk Community Arts (Norca) operations manager consider picking up a sword again.

'We were watching the medal fights while working on them and you got really involved. It made you think about what it was like fencing and the roar of the crowds was incredible.'

kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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