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‘So wonderful, so full of hope and pride’ - Memories of the London 2012 Olympics

PUBLISHED: 18:58 25 July 2020 | UPDATED: 20:17 25 July 2020

Crowds flocking to the Olympics in 2012 Picture: LEIGH HORTON

Crowds flocking to the Olympics in 2012 Picture: LEIGH HORTON

LEIGH HORTON

What are your memories of London 2012? Amazingly, it’s now eight years since the Games which caught the nation’s heart.

The Isles of Wonder Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London in 2012 portrayed the strengths and achievements of our nation Picture: Tony Marshall/PA WireThe Isles of Wonder Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London in 2012 portrayed the strengths and achievements of our nation Picture: Tony Marshall/PA Wire

As we all face a wait for the Tokyo Olympics, which have been postponed to 2021, people from Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex have been looking back to the highlights of the London Games.

Bob Betts took nearly 200 young people from Norfolk to work at the Games, and says it was very memorable.

“I was a lead on Bridging the Gap, a project to bring young people to work at the 2012 Games.

“I took about 100 from several colleges in Norfolk, including my own East Norfolk Sixth form,” he said.

Bob Betts, who was a lead on the Bridging the Gap project,  took a group of young people from Norfolk to work at the 2012 Games Picture: SUPPLIED BY BOB BETTSBob Betts, who was a lead on the Bridging the Gap project, took a group of young people from Norfolk to work at the 2012 Games Picture: SUPPLIED BY BOB BETTS

“I continue to bring young people into security worldwide now. It was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime three months. I made life-long friends.”

Sarah Wilding of Hadleigh also worked at the Games and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

She wrote: “My partner Joel and I and our children Amber and Joshua had a fantastic time watching the synchronised swimming, though I remember it being very hot in there.

“Joshua was only four at the time, and he fell asleep during the event.

Games Maker Karen Redfern and her family had a great time at the 2012 Olympics Picture: KAREN REDFERNGames Maker Karen Redfern and her family had a great time at the 2012 Olympics Picture: KAREN REDFERN

“His fondest memory is trying curry for the first time at the Olympic Park, and Amber lost her first tooth!

“There was such a positive atmosphere throughout the venues, and we can so look forward to when these type of events can happen again.”

Proud day as a torch bearer

Claire Marritt from Norwich had a very special role. She recalls: “I was a torch bearer in 2012 and thousands of people cheered

The Olympic Stadium in London in 2012 Picture: Martin Rickett/PA WireThe Olympic Stadium in London in 2012 Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

me running.”

Claire, who carried the torch in Woodbridge, was honoured to be chosen to be one of 8,000 torch bearers.

At the time, she said: “It will be something to tell my grandchildren one day. I never thought it would happen in a million years.”

Karen Redfern, from Stebbing, near Great Dunmow in Essex, was one of the army of Games Makers, volunteers who took a range of roles at the Games.

Games Makers had an important role Picture: KAREN REDFERNGames Makers had an important role Picture: KAREN REDFERN

She said: “I never had so many strangers smile at me on the Tube!”

Karen and her husband, David, attended the opening ceremony with their two grown-up daughters, Leanne and Caitlin. “What an experience, and an athletics session later too. Great memories,” she said.

Watching the area’s regeneration

People who lived near the Olympic Stadium lived with building excitement in the run-up to the Games.

Leigh Horton, who is originally a Londoner but has moved to Ipswich, wrote: “I lived two miles from Stratford and travelled every day through the building site on the Overground.

“It was a wonderful transformation of a derelict area. But the whole surrounding area started to come alive.

“In Waltham Forest, there was also a lot of redevelopment. Community organisations, particularly arts, came alive and some, such as Stone Space in Leytonstone, are still going. It was a wonderful, cohesive atmosphere for months before and after.”

He said there were some negatives, including environmental concerns, and cynicism about whether it would be delivered on time.

“But the opposition melted once the Games got underway.”

Leigh added: “I went to an event at the Aquatics Event (only ticket I could get). The atmosphere in the Park was electric but also very friendly, people from all countries talking, helping. No sense of negative rivalry. Just one huge party atmosphere.”

Watching from home was special too

Philip Steward said: “The Olympics, for me, are always special in terms of the 10,000 metres and the marathon.

“The 10K takes place at a time when other events are in play, and returning to the progress of the 10K, thanks to judicious TV programming makes for an excellent evening.

“The marathon is an opportunity to have a birds-eye tour of a city, as well as following the elite, all watching each other, ready to make a break for glory from about 22 miles.

“In 2012, at the London Olympics, late in the evening of the opening ceremony, leading up to the lighting of the many-flamed cauldron, I was moved to near tears during the playing and singing of the beautiful and uplifting Caliban’s Dream.”

Opening ceremony really blew us away

The opening ceremony was an element which made a particularly strong impression on many.

And it’s something precious to recall amid the current social distancing regulations, meaning we can’t currently have any big get-togethers.

Joanna Billings, a member of the Ipswich Remembers Facebook group, writes: “We watched the ceremony at home. Ready to be embarrassed by it, thinking pessimistically that it would be as disastrous, after the planning, building and security mess-ups in the lead-up.

“But we were blown away. It was hands down one of the best things I have witnessed.

“I was very proud to be British by the end and even cried at certain moments. It was so spectacular that I then wished I’d bothered to try and get tickets by joining the draw.

“However, because it was so great, I looked into going to the Paralympics, which turned out to be even more inspiring, and actually our tickets were affordable.

“We had the best day out with our two-year-old, and we can say we were there.

“We have pictures of it, and although she has no real memories of it, she often talks about it and wants to look at the photos as a 10-year-old.

“Seems a world away from life now. We watched it the other night and it was a great reminder of all the things that have made us what we are.”

Kesgrave High School’s PE department tweeted: “After the recent few months, this occasion feels like a lifetime ago!

“Rewatching the opening ceremony of London 2012 would be a great reminder of a time when we could celebrate sporting achievements together.”

And Amanda Shreve, a member of the Norwich Remembers Facebook group, writes: “I was an international student at UEA. I thought I knew a lot about British culture and history, but the opening ceremonies took my breath away as I watched from my flat.

“I’m embarrassed to say I had to ask my British friends why Kenneth Branagh was dressed like Abraham Lincoln.”

Twitter user Wendy Moore said: “We have the DVD and watch it occasionally. It was so wonderful, so full of hope and pride.

“My husband loved David Beckham bombing down the Thames in that speedboat. The Queen was fantastic – enjoyed watching the making of it a few days ago.”


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