Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text WILTS GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
Swindon parties as Olympics gets under way
Swindon came together to party last night as the Queen gave a Royal blessing to the London 2012 Olympics at a spectacular opening ceremony which thrilled the world.
Performers from the town were among the cast of 10,000 who brought the show explosively into life at the Olympic Stadium with a a stirring musical soundtrack and mesmerising sequences reflecting Britain’s heritage.
The extravaganza, inspired by William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, was beamed around the world to up to four billion.
The early part of the show saw Sir Kenneth Branagh, dressed as Swindon icon Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He entered the scene reciting Caliban’s speech from The Tempest.
In Swindon, about 400 hundred people watched on the Big Screen at Wharf Green, where the Riff's Travelling Band and children’s play equipment got the crowd entertained. Dan Lidbetter, 32, an accountant from Old Town, said: “It really put the country on the map.
“People will forget about all the problems in the build-up and just talk about the sport now. It made me proud to watch.”
Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s show included James Bond star Daniel Craig making a dramatic entrance and Sir Paul McCartney closing the show.
A parade of sporting legends, including David Beckham, Marlbor-ough gold medallist David Hemery and Bradford on Avon swimmer Sharron Davies walked around the arena. The best of British theme also took in a fly-past by the Red Arrows.
Swindonians taking part in the Opening ceremony included drummer Janine Cowie, whose church in Haydon End held a special screening until midnight.
The 25-year-old, of Haydon Wick, said: “It’s a cliche but it was an absolutely once-in-a lifetime experience. It was electrifying, emotional and tiring. I couldn’t sleep because of nervous excitement.
“When I got in the stadium I took out it all out on the drum in front of how many tens of thousands of people? I can’t find words to describe it. It was absolutely phenomenal.”
New College student Gemma Muskett, 18, danced on the left-hand side of the 27-ton Whitechapel bell, the largest harmonically-tuned instrument of its type in the world, in the hospital bed scene.
Also amongst the town’s representatives was 23-year-old Charlotte Nice, who led out the Chinese athletes.
“It's not often you knowingly experience something that you’re aware you will remember and be recalling for the rest of your life. The opening ceremony was exactly that to me,” she said.
“Seven years ago I remember declaring as a 16-year-old that I will be part of the ceremonies when the games come to London and I am overwhelmed by the fact that my once far- off dream is now a reality.
“It was without a doubt one of the best moments of my life and I couldn’t be any prouder to have been part of the show or to be British.
“I’m incredibly lucky to have another chance to perform at the closing in a couple of weeks. If the opening ceremony was anything to go by, I have every faith that Britain will once again prevail and put on a show like no one else can.”
A green and pleasant land, complete with sheep, cows and geese, was the setting for the opening of the £27m ceremony.
The countryside scene, complete with villagers playing cricket and football on the green, gave way to a set of 30ft-high chimneys rising out of the stage.
Chelsea Pensioners, representatives of the Windrush generation and a steel band were also among the cast.
The epochal theme continued as the chimneys disappeared and hundreds of NHS staff and patients, including many from Great Ormond Street hospital, arrived on the stage pushing trolleys.
The spectacle – watched by 60,000 people inside the stadium – was astonishing in both size and detail, with the camera zooming in on children tucked up in bed.
Another highlight which will live long in the memory was the sight of giant Olympic rings suspended above the stage bursting into flames in a spectacular pyrotechnic display.
The crowd at Wharf Green whooped and cheerd with each new scene, with huge cheers as Craig’s Bond and the Queen appeared to parachute to the arena from a helicopter.
Natasha Dixon, 31, a dance teacher from Park South, was also in the crowd.
She said: “It’s moving. If anything can inspire another generation of athletes, dancers and performers, then this is it.”