2012 London Olympics: Behind the Scenes – Opening Ceremony

"Andy" a university student and volunteer performer in the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, holds up the "grass shirt" costume he wore during the show to hide his face from Danny Boyle.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

CraveOnline was treated to an impromptu behind the scenes take on the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics last night on a train ride from London to Surrey.

During the 2012 Summer Olympics, the trains out of London are running late – allowing those fans leaving the capital city after various events (and maybe a few pub crawls) to make it home to outlying areas late at night.

On a packed run from Waterloo to my hotel in Surrey, I crammed into the seats alongside a young man burdened with a bag full of clothing odds and ends. As he spoke with friends seated around him, I realized he was an on-field volunteer performer during Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremonies this past Friday. He had parts of his costume in that bag beside him.

After listening to the tales of all the work that went into the massive production, I identified myself as a reporter and asked him if he’d discuss some of his experiences on the record. He agreed – as long as I didn’t use his last name and never showed his face. After all, he’s rehearsing for the upcoming Closing Ceremonies now and would like to keep his spot. If he let his secret, behind the scenes insights out into the open with his name on the record, he’d be Danny boiled for sure. So, he’s Andy for now.

According to Andy, he and his fellow volunteers began rehearsing for the Opening Ceremonies in early May and have been meeting at various locations on a set schedule since then. Andy was recruited with others from his university in the southwest of England.

Andy filled many rolls during the conference, including a drummer during the march of the athletes and a laborer during the “industrial revolution” segment of the show.

“We didn’t have the actual drums until the dress rehearsals,” Andy said. “Until then, we were banging away on buckets.”

The production featured plenty of animals – especially early in the show as players recreated rural England’s “Mountains Green” with horses and such. While some of Andy’s friends were worried about those creatures and their potentially terrified reaction to all of the music and fireworks, Andy put everyone’s worries to rest.

“The animals loved it,” he said. “It was as if they sensed their was a show on and knew it was something special. They only thing that bothered (the horses) was they had to move on turf and not real grass. They weren’t used to that.”

While the show featured everything from pyrotechnics to massive video screens to clouds that rained on command (actually massive helium balloons joined together with radio controlled irrigation systems), Andy said the only real enemy of the show was Lord Voldemort.

During a celebration of British fiction, before multiple Mary Poppins descended from the sky, He Who Must Not Be Named from the Harry Potter Series rose high over the stadium to torment children everywhere.

“It was inflatable,” Andy said. “It had to inflate right and deflate quickly. Then we had to pull it down and out of the way. It never worked and always caused problems until the second dress rehearsal the night before the show. That was the first and only time it worked. So, we didn’t know if it would come off right on the actual night.”

Andy insisted his reluctance to share these secrets while being identified had nothing to do with Danny Boyle.


“No, he’s a nice guy,” Andy explained. “I just don’t want to get in trouble with the organizers. And I’m absolutely sworn to secrecy on the Closing Ceremony, so don’t ask me.”