The London Olympics ended a couple of weeks ago, but we still have the Olympics fever! We interviewed two people who participated in the opening and closing ceremonies, and the first person is Ashley Steed. She performed as a drummer in the opening ceremonies. Stay tuned tomorrow as we bring you Emily Kwan’s thoughts on working on the ceremonies. We hope you enjoy it!

1. Talk to me about the experience and what you learned from it. Also, what specifically did you do for either the opening or closing, or both?

I had the most amazing time volunteering for the Olympic Ceremonies. I love the Olympics in general and believe they are the best of what humanity has to offer in terms of athleticism, dedication and passion. It’s a moment where the world comes together to compete in sport and it’s also a chance for the host nation to show off what makes them great to the world. And I think London and the UK should be very proud.

I was a pandemonium drummer during the Industrial Revolution (where the rings were forged) and then those of us who were drummers had a quick change and then came back on as marshals for the athlete parade. I was in the center bit of the stage and eventually made it down to a ramp where the torch came by, which was pretty amazing.

2. How long was the process? When did you guys become a part of it and talk about the time commitment it was.

I remember seeing something about auditions last year in October and as I was really keen on getting involved I thought performing in the ceremonies would be an incredible experience. The first audition was in November, I was in the very first audition group (my number was 007). They had us do basic movements and simple acting exercises and some dancing. Then there was a second round of auditions in January. That’s when I picked up the drum for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing but thankfully the dude next to me was a drummer so I just copied him. I guess it worked as I got the gig.

We started rehearsals the end of May, though other groups had started earlier. We had a couple of rehearsals a week and they broke all 1000 of us drummer/marshals into smaller groups so that they could teach us all how to drum without thinking. Rick Smith, the composer, was at every rehearsal and Mike Dolbear was our amazing drumming coach. They entire team of drum captains and mass staff really were wonderful and made rehearsals so enjoyable.

As it got closer to the ceremony we had more and longer rehearsals. We also had long rehearsals for marshalling too – which compared to the drumming were tedious especially as it seemed every time we had rehearsal there would be some downpour so we’d be standing in the rain for hours. But we also knew, at least I knew, that on the night the long hours would be well worth it.

3. I’m sure you were really nervous the day of. Tell me about the feelings you had that day as you were waiting for the ceremonies to start.

I actually wasn’t nervous at all, just excited. We had two dress rehearsals that week so we all knew the feeling of having 80,000 people in the audience. On the night, however, the world would be watching.

I think I was mainly excited that I wouldn’t have to keep it a secret anymore. That all our hard work would finally be recognised. Because of the relentless media here, so many secrets were leaked, which was quite disheartening. We all signed strict confidentiality agreements and I never said anything about the specifics of the show. So I think on the day, I was happy that it was all finally happening. That my friends and family back home in the US would be able to share in this experience too. Needless to say there were lots of emotions running through.

4. What was your favorite part of the opening and closing ceremonies?

My favourite part of the Opening was when us drummers stopped to turn and face the center when the rings were alight. I got emotional even during rehearsals during that bit. And as none of us knew anything about the cauldron or who would light it, I have to say that that was such a special moment. The cauldron was simply gorgeous and I love the fact that they had seven young athletes to light it – staying true to the “Inspire a Generation” motto.

As for the closing, I have to say Spice Girls. Even during a rehearsal when they were there I squealed. And during the show I squealed again.

5. Did you guys meet any athletes? Any stories you want to share.

I had so much fun chatting with and teasing the athletes next to me during the closing ceremony. I had a lot of Cubans and Puerto Ricans by me and they were thrilled when I got the camera man over to film them. I didn’t really get to chat to many athletes, but had a great time watching them wander around after the show along with all the cast. It was like most of us didn’t want to leave.

6. Were you able to go to any events? If so, how were they. Any favorite moments?

I went to the Men’s Boxing final. Luke Campbell for Team GB won gold against Ireland’s John Nevin. It was fairly bittersweet for me, as my boyfriend and his mates that we went with are all Irish. So being the good girlfriend that I am was rooting for Ireland. But it was a good fight and a well deserved win for Campbell.

7. If there’s anything else you want to include, or if there’s something you want our readers to know, let us know!

So much has been said about the amazing volunteers for the London Olympics. And I’m going to add to that. I’ve met amazing people from all over GB and the world and have made some new incredible friends. I’ll never forget the first time all 1000 of us drummed in the stadium. Nor will I ever forget walking to the stadium in our ridiculous blue suits and light bulb bowler hats. We all keep in touch via a private facebook group and plan drumming events, share articles and pictures about the ceremonies, and support each others work, etc. All of us volunteered our time, and I was surprised by how many commuted into London for it. This again takes me back to what I was saying before, about the Olympics exemplifying the best in humanity. This was a once in a lifetime experience, and am so proud to have been a small small part in it.

What was your favorite part of the opening or closing ceremonies? Let us know in the comments!