Remarkable stories from an extraordinary year

I was there...as a Games Maker at London 2012

The closing ceremony of the Paralympics on September 9 marked the end of London 2012 and was a spectacular finale to an incredible summer of sport.

The Pink and Purple army of Games Makers were key to the success of London 2012. With an infectious cheerfulness and enthusiasm, the 50,000 volunteers gave up their time - 8 million volunteer hours in total - to help the public and the athletes.

Ollie Armstrong, 24, took eight days out from studying for his masters in Exercise Physiology at Loughborough University to be a Paralympics Games Maker. He worked in a team of 18, setting up the starting blocks for the sprint races. Ollie watched the closing ceremony with his parents and his sister...

“My time as a Games Maker was one high to another, with no dips, and the closing ceremony was an epic climax to my eight days. I was blown away by how amazing it was.

The night before, after the last race, I had gone out with other Games Makers for drinks - and we ended up partying with the entire Dutch Paralympics team until 5.30am.

So maybe lack of sleep was partly to blame, but when I handed over my ticket to get into the Olympic Park for the closing ceremony the emotion of it all just totally overwhelmed me. This amazing place had been my home for eight days and this was going to be the last time I came through this entrance; my time as a Games Maker was over; no more incredible athletics to watch; no more London 2012. I just crumpled in tears.

When I walked up the stairs into the stadium the noise from the crowd, the lights and the power of the music all hit me and I was off again, tears streaming down my face. When I got to my seat and my family saw the state I was in, they wondered what the hell had happened.

I would defy anyone to be any different. It had been the best time of my life.

I could not find a single fault with the whole experience of being a Games Maker and that closing ceremony just topped it all off for me.

I loved the 'Mad Max' motorcade and Coldplay were amazing. They couldn’t have chosen a better band for that night and that stadium. Every seat had a light pad in front and they used that so well, the colour changes swept around the stadium.  Coldplay’s music is so much about colour, it was perfect, really effective.

The place went mad when Rihanna came on and then it all calmed down when they played Strawberry String with the disabled orchestra (the British Paraorchestra). That was beautiful and very moving.
At the end of the night, Lord Coe said thank you to the Games Makers, and there was a huge roar. Every single person stood up to applaud and the clapping went on for minutes. That was so powerful to know the public recognised how we had helped make the Games.

I have so many amazing memories from those eight days. Like the first time I walked into the stadium and looked up to see it full, totally full, not a single empty seat. The atmosphere in there was electrifying and it was like that on every day.

When Johnnie Peacock won the 100m I went with some of the other Games Makers and half bribed the people at the Orbit with chocolate to let us go up there. So we were at the top looking down watching the medal ceremony for Jonnie Peacock and David Weir, hearing the crowd go absolutely insane and I was like, “Somebody pinch me. I cannot believe this is happening.”

After Oscar Pistorius won gold in the 400m on the last night, I stayed by the tunnel to wait for him and when he had collected his medal and saluted the crowd, he came across. He caught my eye and came over and told me: “You guys have made my Games.” We had set up his blocks for every race and it was just so nice to get that personal thank you, for him to recognise what we had done.

Ollie Armstrong was also featured in a McDonalds advert and appeared in billboards around London

We had put a lot into it. I did 8am to 10.30pm every day and it took me two hours to get to where I was staying so it meant I got four-and-a-half hours sleep a night. Lots of people had insane schedules like that, but nobody grumbled. All of us thought it was such an honour to be part of the Games we would have done anything.

It's hard to describe the sense of pride we had pulling on the Purple and Poppy uniform as I called it. I think the organisers did a good job choosing the Games Makers because we were all fairly cheerful, upbeat positive people to start with, but, still, in that uniform we felt so privileged.

It was even more special - and surreal - for me because I was in a McDonalds advert. I was The Smoooooother, the guy raking the long jump sand pit. I was on giant billboards around London and they used the picture on the Paralympics programmes every day. I had people ask for MY autograph. I felt like a film star. Two policemen came over in the Olympic Park once and said, 'Look, it's the rakey rakey man'.
Before I left London, I persuaded one of the stations to let me have their The Smoooooother billboard. So I have a framed picture of myself in bigger than life size as a memento.

The fireworks at the end of the closing were sensational. When it was all over I'd gone from being tearful and choked up to just, well, happy, really.

As we were leaving the mood was so jubilant, everyone just had the biggest smile on their face. The crowds were filtering out, going really slowly, but there was no pushing or jostling, everyone was polite and respectful. It was such a feelgood moment. It had been such an amazing night.

As I was walking away from the stadium I just thought, ‘Yeah, the Games are over, it's finished...but, my God, did we put on a great show’."

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