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County plays its part in Olympic opening ceremony
10:00am Monday 30th July 2012 in Olympics
The Union Flag is carried into the stadium and raised by representatives of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force Royal Air Force personnel led by Squadron Leader Lambert from RAF Brize Norton
OXFORDSHIRE played a pivotal role in making the London 2012 opening ceremony a spectacular success.
Oxford rower Cameron MacRitchie, 19, took centre stage as a one of seven young athletes given the honour of lighting the Olympic Cauldron as the ceremony closed.
That capped a night of county involvement that included flag-raising, phone lines and the flame.
Even an Oxford-built Mini had a cameo role in Friday night’s spectacle, that attracted a global audience of one billion.
And Abingdon featured in a video fly-through of the River Thames to open the show.
RAF Brize Norton servicemen Squadron Leader Tal Lambert and Sergeant Gary Main were involved in flag-raising ceremonies.
Sqn Ldr Lambert, who was team leader for the military at the show, said the team was “immensely proud” to have been part of the ceremony.
Emma Fuller, a 33-year-old NHS occupational therapist from Bicester, was one of 300 “mechanicals” within the stadium crowd.
It was her job to conduct the audience participation, making sure they flashed lights or waved cards at exactly the right time.
The volunteer, who will also perform the role at the closing ceremony, said: “We had two red torches to help direct the audience participation.
“It was like using Morse Code.
“It was almost like being an air stewardess standing in the aisles.”
She added: “I just felt incredibly proud to be there and be part of what was being created.
“It was just breathtaking.”
South Oxfordshire resident Rowan Atkinson was one of the stars of the show.
He brought his unique brand of humour to the occasion when Mr Bean starred in a performance of Chariots of Fire.
Mr Atkinson said: “It was a very well-kept secret.
“It was great to be conducted by the legendary Sir Simon Rattle in such a low-key event,” he joked.
Eight pupils from Thame’s John Hampden Primary School also took part in a Guard of Honour ceremony welcoming the athletes of Honduras as they arrived in the stadium.
And Oxford’s Town Crier Anthony Church was in good voice in the athletes’ village.
The Cowley resident was one of three criers tasked with mustering the competitors for the opening parade, making sure they were all in the right order, behind the right flag and on time ready to march to the stadium.
Mr Church, 60, said: “Team GB were the noisiest of the lot. “They were really pumped up for it.” And he had to tell the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt to slow down after the Jamaican sprinter had gathered a little too early.
“We had a bit of banter,” said Mr Church.
“I said ‘you have to stay and wait until others have passed’ and he said ‘in that case I am off for a coffee’.
“It is a day I’ll never forget.”
Witney-based STL Communications installed about 500 telephones for organisers to coordinate the event, which was attended by Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron .
STL managing director Brendon Cross said: “We were very proud to be associated with the Olympics, in particular the opening ceremony which was absolutely fantastic.”
He added: “Oxfordshire business and people have been pivotal in the whole thing which is great.”
Mr Cameron said: “Friday’s opening ceremony was a spectacular showcase for our country. “It was great to see so many young people and members of our Armed Forces including those from Oxfordshire taking part.”
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty and Oxford Brookes University chancellor, also helped carry the Olympic flag during the ceremony.
- See our Olympics section for, news, Live coverage and picture gallaries from London 2012.