London 2012: 'The most surreal experience' of a lifetime

By Dekan Apajee
BBC London

Image caption,
Dekan was among 1,600 dancers who came on after the Chariots of Fire sequence

What could be better than getting a ticket to the London Olympics opening ceremony? BBC London TV reporter Dekan Apajee danced his way into history as he joined thousands of performers to welcome the world to the London Games. He recounts the "surreal experience".

It is finally here. The day that has slowly crescendoed into one of the moments that I will no doubt remember for the rest of my life.

My journey began back in February when I came across a news story about organisers of the Olympics opening ceremony attempting to recruit more male dancers.

The first reaction that came into my head was, "I can do that. Or at the very least I will give it a go".

But away from strutting my stuff at the odd Christmas work-do, this was a giant leap into the unknown.

First auditions were held at Three Mills Studios in Bromley-by-Bow in east London.

Practising in ponchos

More than 300 hopefuls sat down for the briefing and as we made small talk with each other a silence cascaded across the room and then we saw the reason - strolling causally across the room was Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle.

You could immediately see everyone sit up straight, adjust their clothing, face front and smile back - you never know he might be scouting for the new lead in his next film.

Image caption,
Dancers trained for three months for the big night

After a brief and inspiring presentation we began the audition.

Skip forward three months and I have got 40 hours plus of dance rehearsals under my belt.

Walking onto the field of play for the first time was awesome.

The Olympic Stadium feels so small from the seats, but try walking from one of the entrance points to the middle and I would be surprised if you did not break out into a little sweat.

Most of our stadium rehearsals were spent practising exactly how my section of 1,600 dancers would get on and off the stage without a mass collision of costumes and dance moves.

This would not have been so bad if only the rain would have let up.

If it was not for the continuous supply of ponchos we would have been doing the show in wet suits.

But then as expected the British rain turns into a tropical paradise.

'This is it!'

Two days to go and it is our final dress rehearsal before the big day. Friends and family are in the 60,000 audience and back stage we are so hyped up.

Wow! The next time we do the routine, it will be the last time we ever do it - that is scary and sad because I have made such great friends!

It is 20:00 BST and my section of dancers slowly make their way across the immense Olympic Park to the stadium to follow the Chariots of Fire sequence just before 22:00 BST.

There is no turning back, no second goes, no more practising.

Image caption,
Dekan said being part of the ceremony was a 'surreal experience'

Everyone is excited and capturing the moment with cheeky pictures on their smart phones. The sound of the crowd inside the stadium is indescribable.

As I get to the starting position for the final time I take a moment to look around me - everything has slowed down, the chatter drowned out by the sound of my heart pounding.

Then just as quickly, the volume is turned up and music blares into our headphones - one, two, three, four…'Go go go'.

The flashes and noise make me jump into action. This is it! This is it!

Within minutes it is over, but it was the most surreal experience ever.

One moment we are behind a black curtain under the stadium, and the next we strut into the stadium in front of thousands and watched by millions.

I cannot put into words how that felt, it has not sunk in yet.

The excitement, nerves and joy... I went through it all in a matter of minutes.

There were screams of joy once it was over and we raced through the stands to exit the stadium.

I can just hope we did our country proud and by the look on their (audience) faces I think that we did.

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