A Dublin teacher taking part in tonight’s Olympics opening ceremony has described the experience as ’mind-blowing’.
Deirdre Nugent from Tallaght is among 8,000 Londoners who will perform in the three-hour ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
The Sixth Form teacher, who has lived in London for nine years, answered a call on the city’s regional news looking for people to take part. She was then asked to auditions and made the final cut.
“They decided I had rhythm and said ‘here’s some drum sticks, here’s a drum, you’re in’,” she said.
Deirdre is one of 1,000 drummers who will perform in the opening sequence of the show, which has cost £27million and will be watched by a global audience of four billion.
“When they light the flame, I’ll actually be on the pitch with all the athletes. I’m so excited!” she said.
Rehearsals have been taking place since the end of May and for the last two weeks those taking part in Danny Boyle’s extravaganza have been put through their paces every day.
“It’s been pretty full on,” Deirdre said. “I’m lucky because I’m on school holidays but some people are only getting home at 3am, then they’re up for work the next day and back in rehearsals that evening. But it’s so worth it.”
The Dubliner admits she’s got little performance experience – the closest was being in a marching band when she was a child.
“I was in the Tallaght Festival Band,” she said. “But I applied for this because they said they needed people and it was a chance to be in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. I’m never ever going to live in an Olympic city again or get the chance to be in front of four billion people.”
She added: “We had dress rehearsals on Monday and Wednesday in the Olympic Park. We got into our costumes and were given out drums. And I’ll spend today at the Stadium, which is milling with athletes and people.”
So what can we expect to see tonight? There have been rumours of David Beckham kicking a flaming football, Daniel Craig pulling some 007 moves and even the Queen taking part.
Deirdre says the costumes and special effects will be spectacular, although her own outfit wasn’t quite what she was expecting.
“I was hoping for sequins and glitter,” she joked. “But I look like Peig Sayers! It’s not my finest moment but as a group we look brilliant and it’s quite fitting for our sequence. But I won’t be going clubbing in it afterwards.”
She added: “My friends who watched the dress rehearsal said it was mind-blowing. They said it was really, really good. There’s lots of famous people singing and taking part. But I can’t name names. But all I’ll say is that you’re waddling along in your Peig Sayers outfit and then you bump into some big urban artist.
“Everybody who’s involved, whether they’re a celebrity, a volunteer or a professional dancer, they are all so excited. It’s the biggest thing in the world right now.”
And what about the man behind it all, Danny Boyle?
“I met him, he’s so sound,” Deirdre said. “Every time you see him he just goes on and on about how he couldn’t do this without us. And then there’s Rick Smith from Underworld who’s the musical director. His music is used throughout the performance. All the music is British.”
The pre-show will start at 12 minutes past eight – marking 20:12. The main event then kicks off and the parade of athletes follows, with Team Ireland being led out by boxer Katie Taylor.
“In rehearsals every time the Irish flag goes past me I well up,” Deirdre said. “So when Katie Taylor walks past with the Irish flag tonight it will be such a moment. If you see somebody passing out from the excitement, that’ll be me!”
She added: “We’ll finish about 1am and then I go straight into closing ceremony rehearsals next week. It’s Olympictastic!”