When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
County residents on their marks for Olympic roles
WITH just one day to go until the Olympics officially begin, excitement around the county is at fever pitch.
From the thousands of lucky ticket-holders to competitors like Hannah England, Fran Houghton and Pete Reed, the county has many roles to play.
Bicester resident Ben Whaymand, 36, has a key role running the Aquatics Centre and water polo venue Eton Manor.
He said: “At the four test events we’ve run, the hairs have stood up on the back of my neck.
“There’s such a growing feeling of excitement. And that’s with just 3,000 people in the audience. Imagine the atmosphere when the venue is full.”
Mr Whaymand, who commutes to his job in Crystal Palace each day from Bicester, said the athletes started arriving on Monday and were already training hard.
He said: “There are some really heartfelt stories here already. One swimmer from Cameroon said he’d never trained in a 50m pool before, only 15m.
“My three-year-old daughter Holly can’t stop talking about the Olympics, especially since she went to see the torch in Bicester.”
Fellow Bicester resident Stephanie Smith, 34, who will be working as a volunteer physiotherapist, was excited when she received her uniform for the next month.
She said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can’t wait to feel the atmosphere in the arena.”
Tristan Hale, 29, from Begbroke, will be heading to London to take his place as the UK’s youngest fencing referee for the Modern Pentathlon competition.
He said: “It has crept up on us, I’m very excited and very much looking forward to it.
“I don’t think it would be right if I wasn’t even slightly nervous.”
Taking a prime spot at the Olympic opening ceremony tomorrow will be Year Five pupils from John Hampden Primary School in Thame.
The eight 10-year-olds will hold the flag for Honduras in the Guard of Honour ceremony.
Headteacher Alan Haigh said: “The children are all very excited about it.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them which will stay with them as a momentous and memorable event.”
Oxford’s town crier will be playing an essential role at the Olympic opening ceremony, making sure athletes get behind their countries’ flags – by crying at them.
He will also be joining the peeling in the nationwide bell-ringing project All The Bells.
Anthony Church, who has been Oxford town crier since 2009, will be ringing his bell tomorrow morning at the Olympic stadium. He will be joined by England’s only two other town criers, Robert Needham, of Colchester, and David Peters, of Guildford. Mr Church, 62, of Barns Road in Cowley, said: “We were so proud that they were going to show the traditions of England to the world.
“I’m going to be crying where the athletes are staying, making sure they’re in the right order at the right time, stood behind the right flag.
“There will be Purley Kings and Queens as well. It will be a real priviledge for me.”
And more than 30 bus drivers from Oxfordshire are also playing their part in the games, providing transport for athletes and media organisations.
The 33 Stagecoach drivers, taken from Oxford, Witney and Banbury routes, are already helping to cope with the eight million visitors expected to descend on the city over coming months.
Offering spiritual guidance at the Games will be Reverend Andrew Wingfield Digby from St Andrew’s Church in Linton Road, North Oxford. He was appointed one of the lead chaplains, heading the team of 20 international chaplains based in the Olympic Village, and headed to the capital a few days ago.
Earlier this year, he told the Oxford Mail it would be a “privilege” to be involved.
He said: “It is about caring for the athletes as people and a lot of them are very committed Christian believers.
“It will be extraordinary to see all these athletes in peak condition and minister to some very interesting people.”