Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Mary Peters: Secret’s out... this was best ever opening

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: The Olympic Rings are assembled during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line in the men's road race
Queen Elizabeth II (left) makes a speech at the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told. The words of the old nursery rhyme never rang so true for me than at Friday night's opening ceremony.

Even now, with the excitement barely died down, I cannot believe how fortunate I was to be chosen to play a part in the climax of the most incredible spectacle ever to launch any Games... and these are my 12th.

And it is beyond me how the seven of us Gold medal winners managed to keep to ourselves the role we would play in handing over torches to the seven young athletes to ignite the flame that signalled to the world that the London 2012 Olympics had truly begun.

We'd earlier been sat among other Olympians and medal winners and couldn't even tell them what we were about to do when we slipped away to change into our uniforms.

We'd been in ‘civvies' until then so no-one, other than the seven, had any idea of what was about to happen.

Keeping quiet about it all wasn't made any easier for just being told on the morning of the ceremony what our exact roles would be.

We weren't part of the rehearsal. In fact, I only found out three weeks ago that I would be taking part at all when Seb Coe phoned to ask if I'd be willing.

I replied ‘Gosh, why me?' and he said simply that I'd been good to him, and to his father, when I was the Great Britain team manager and he was competing.

I was honoured to accept and doubly proud, in the event, to hand my torch to our own Katie Kirk from Holywood. Once again, Katie's involvement was shrouded in secrecy.

I had been asked to nominate a young athlete in her age group, 18, who I believed possessed the talent to become a future Olympian — without knowing the specific role that person would play.

Through my Mary Peters Trust, which assists and charts the progress of all our developing sports talent here, I drew up a short list and quickly identified Katie as ticking all the boxes the organisers required.

Katie, too, didn't find out until the 11th hour that she would be part of the torch-lighting party of potential young stars of the future.

What an inspirational memory and story to carry with her on her journey and to pass down. As I passed on the torch, I hugged her and said simply: “Next time you'll be competing.” I truly believe that.

The whole experience was so uplifing for us all.

Amid the acclamation for a most magnificently choreographed ceremony, I've heard some grumbles, too, about the meaning and relevance of some aspects.

For me, the spectacle was a celebration of the nation, pure and simple. It was patriotic, but not political, nor do I believe it was meant to be. This was about setting the benchmark for a great Olympics and it succeeded.

I'll let you into another secret... Danny Boyle didn't take a fee for his incredible work, not a penny. He insisted instead that money be put towards buying tickets for the children in the east end of London, living around the Olympic Park.

I'm home now for a few days to catch up on my sleep and a few household chores before returning to London to take up my duties, escorting VIP visitors, in my role as an Olympic ambassador.

I've bought some tickets and will take in a few events. I can relax now I don't have any more secrets to guard with my life.

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