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Olympic role for college principal
A COLLEGE principal was one of the army of volunteers who helped make the magical Olympic opening ceremony possible.
Shenfield resident Noel Otley, who steps down as principal of Havering College at the end of August, was in the 'green and pleasant land' sequence which was watched by up to one billion people worldwide.
Mr Otley played the part of a peasant who stood on a bridge applauding a traditional English cricket match.
As the countryside made way for the smoke stacks of the industrial revolution, his role involved carrying out a tree.
He said: “It was fantastic. There was an audience of 80,000 including the Queen and it was so exciting to be part of it.
“The transition to the industrial revolution was amazing. The drumming made the whole stadium pound and you could feel the vibrations of the drumming through your body.”
The father-of-three, successfully auditioned for one of the 2,000 opening ceremony volunteer roles after spotting an advert.
Rehearsals for the sequence started in May and were led by Toby Sedgwick who provided choreography for War Horse, the 2001 Steven Spielberg war drama.
Mr Otley, a governor at Shenfield School, said: “I have met fantastic people along the way. Working with Toby Sedgwick was amazing.
"Danny Boyle was always at the rehearsals. He would join in and talk to us. He is a really nice bloke.
“It’s impossible to pick out a personal highlight. It was just the fun of doing it.
"It was strange because as you were performing you knew what your cues were, such as when to look at Kenneth Branagh as he was making the speech.
"But at the same time you could just stand there on the set, soak in the atmosphere in the stadium and see what was on the big screens. It was brilliant.”
Mr Otley, of Priests Lane, retires from the college in Hornchurch on August 31 after almost 40 years in education.