OLYMPIC BLOG: Filipino performer recounts opening ceremonies

Patricia Olabre
Filipino Patricia Olabre was one of 15,000 chosen to perform for the Olympics opening ceremonies. She shares her experience with Rappler.

THE CHOSEN FEW. Patricia, middle, was one of the 15,000 chosen to perform in the Olympics opening ceremonies. Patricia Olabre.

LONDON – As I write this piece, the opening ceremony has just wowed the 4 billion viewers worldwide and left me with an unforgettable memory to have been part of this once-in-a-lifetime extravaganza.

When I sent my application as a ceremonies volunteer performer in August 2011, little did I know that it was the beginning of my own countdown to the London 2012 Olympics. 


The organizers confirmed my audition dates in October.

During the first audition, I had to dance to different songs, act out some scenes and follow choreography. In the second one, I was handed a “drum” and had to show off my non-existent drumming skills!

Thankfully, my CAT training paid off, as it made easy for me to follow directions such as standing at ease, and turning around, among others.

These were both held at Three Mills studio in East London.
What made me decide to volunteer? I kept asking myself over and over.

Aside from being a full-time mother and teaching yoga on the side, how could I possibly squeeze in the 30 days of rehearsals? I was never a big fan of the Olympics but I always loved watching the opening ceremony.

OLYMPIC FEVER. Olympo-mania hits London. Patricia Olabre.

The Olympics is only an event I watch on TV. However, with all the media publicity as the Games neared, I thought it would be stupid not to get involved.

Here was my chance to get a closer glimpse of this hyped-up event!

Getting chosen
Fast forward to January 2012.

I felt anxious, as I had not heard back since my auditions. Finally, I get an email from them: “Congratulations! London 2012 Ceremonies are pleased to inform you that you have been successful in your audition to become a Ceremonies Volunteer Performer in the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening or Closing Ceremonies…” 

I was speechless! I never expected to be chosen among the 15,000 applicants!
Initially our casting coordinators said that we had to be available by end of March for the first rehearsals, which was a bummer because we would have still been in Manila by then.

You miss two non-compulsory dates and you’re out! Luckily though, when they sent our first call schedule, it was not until the end of May.

Then it started to feel real. 

Caring team

All I could see were numbers! Gosh, I thought, what did I sign up for?

But I went to the first practice.

There was a presentation on our segment and the field of play design by Directos Danny Boyle himself.

All succeeding rehearsals, whether at Three Mills, in Dagenham or at the stadium, we were always given free water and hot drinks. It was only when we started rehearsing at the stadium did they give us free food as well.

The team always made us feel special, always thankful for the hard work we were putting in.

COSTUMES. Patricia, right, with fellow performers. Patricia Olabre.

The coordinators were always there to make sure we felt alright, gave us updates on what was going on and constant reminders about the next dates.
Our group of a thousand drummers was divided into 4 groups during rehearsals, practicing our drumming skills on different days. We all met in Dagenham to learn how to move and dance at the same time.

This part would prove important during the athletes’ parade so we could entertain the crowd and athletes at the same time.

It was an extremely challenging task for the organizing team but they managed it so well. As we drew closer to the Games, the rehearsals became longer and more tiring.

During these days, we also started fitting our costumes. If not for my husband and family helping out, I don’t know how I could have survived.

Top secret

Our first rehearsal at the stadium in mid-July was a very exciting moment. We were among the first ones to practice there.

No photography was allowed but some cast members just could not resist the urge to snap away. Sadly, some of them were asked not to come back.

It was top secret what went on behind the scenes.

The security team made sure of that: they were going through our Facebook and Twitter accounts. I even overheard someone being given a warning and was asked to delete the images she posted on her account.

These people meant business!
My family was among the crowd during the first dress rehearsal. It seemed so surreal performing with actual people in the stands. Nevertheless, it was as exhilarating for them as for me to be there.

It was amazing to have shared this experience with them.

Finally performing 

Group 51 was part of the Industrial Revolution.

We drummed like crazy and had a fabulous time. I was drumming with all my might that my bonnet slipped off my head!

Seventeen minutes of fame while we watched Green and Pleasant Britain turn into a black and chaotic industrial nation. It gets me emotional all the time.

Although it became really difficult to keep the athletes at bay, with a stroke of luck, I was one of the lucky few to stand in the center ring as a marshal.

NO WORDS. Patricia says there are no words to describe her experience. Patricia Olabre.

The athletes and coaches within our vicinity seemed quite amused with our groovy dance moves.

I saw how the seven athletes of the future generation lit the cauldron. I could feel the heat of the Olympic flame on my face. There are no words to describe that moment.

The fireworks, the coming together of all nations – that says it all. I am so proud to have made it my second home.

In the spirit of friendship, respect and fair play, London welcomes all the athletes of the XXX Olympiad. – Rappler.com

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