To see a mad visual of this summer: Click here (use your mouse to move it around)
I’ll remember the Olympic Closing Ceremony until I drop dead or go mental. That morning, me and my crew from the pink truck had free run of the deserted stadium. Two of the girls, Kim and Fiona, found the BBC commentary box and took pictures of themselves in the white leather armchairs normally occupied by Denise Lewis and Michael Johnson.
Ten hours later, as we were about to go live to half a billion people, me and my pub-lad mates walked across the middle of the packed stadium in full costume while eruptions of camera flashes shimmered over the massive terraces. We then hid beneath the blue-lit Gherkin as 80,000 people counted to ten and Gareth – our dancing master – gave us NASA-style instructions via our personal radios. ‘Pub lads, hold. Hold. Pub lads, go.’
Then we poured out from the giant models of London landmarks, waved flags, sang ‘God Save the Queen’, performed to Madness and Blur, and did stadium-sized dance routines to the Pet Shop Boys and One Direction (never thought I’d say that). Twenty-five minutes later, we exited through the terraces, high-fiving the audience as we went. Adrenaline overload.
Bursting into the holding area with hugs and elation was followed by hazy, euphoric wandering. Then I and seven pink-truck mates were whisked into some of the best seats in the house by a good Samaritan. We were directly behind the cauldron.
Annie Lennox was stupendous. Take That were awesome (never thought I’d say that, either). When The Who closed with ‘My Generation’, a spiral of fireworks swept around the stadium roof, and they dumped a mountain of red, white and blue confetti over us, I actually lost my cool.
I was reduced to jumping up and down on the spot, windmilling my arms and shouting, ‘Aaaaaaargh!” It really was worth £1,000 per ticket.
After the whopping spectacular, we headed for the 24-hour casino. Then I collected two 18-year-old pack backers, went back to our place, drank cocktails, and passed out on the sofa at 6 a.m. on Monday morning, beneath two Union flags. Win.
Three weeks earlier I was on stage at the Secret Garden. I had 15 minutes, fluffing for Mark Stevenson of the League of Pragmatic Optimists. Everybody was wasted. The stage manager hadn’t slept for three days and was tripping on acid. Before me was marquee of muddy festival goers, slumped wide-eyed on wicker armchairs.
I explained to them that the human world is in better shape than ever before, and that we should see through the sea of alarmist media around us and keep a sense of perspective. Happy applause. Did anyone get that?
As I left the stage, two outrageously striking young women, dressed as fairies, with the cheekbones to pull it off, tugged on my jeans. One of them said ‘That was amazing. You really put it all in perspective. All those graphs about life expectancy. Everything I’ve been learning just fell into place and made sense. I think you’ve just inspired me to study economics.’
They received a free book, right there.
A week later I was in a disused industrial building, with a post-apocalyptic feel, off Seven Sisters road, doing marketing shots for a forthcoming interview. Marian, the self-possessed Hungarian photographer in charge, spent the whole day shouting commands at me.
I was taken to the roof, with a panoramic view of London, surrounded with lighting rigs, then Marian ordered me to take my shoes and socks off, and sit in a puddle of cold, stagnant water. She was a professional, so I complied.
The interview is tomorrow. Yaz, the British Jordanian conducting it, says that The Jolly Pilgrim is basically correct, except for the bit about religion. He promises a bellicose discussion. I’m looking forward to it.
Pictures and things:
- Marian and me on the roof (full 360-degree picture)
- That picture in the puddle, again (full 360-degree version)
- THE BOOK!
We came in peace for all mankind – Neil Armstrong
All comments welcome below …