The appeal for the public to take part in the London Olympics opening ceremony reminds me of a scrape I got into in Athens where the 1969 European Games were being staged. I was there ostensibly to teach conversational English to a footballer, but he got me caught up in so many stunts very few lessons occurred.
Not content with getting me stranded overnight on a rocky outcrop in the stormy Aegean with only flapping racks of dried octopuses for company, he also had me attending a Vladimir Ashkenazy concert using stolen tickets while the real ticket holders created merry hell at the door.
Plus he managed to smuggle me into the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the games. Not as a punter but as a participant! The idea was that I would be disguised in one of those puffball skirts worn by Greek soldiers, complete with white stockings and pompoms. After twice circling the stadium it became apparent that I didn’t know the intricate folk-dance steps required of my particular parade section. The director began eying me in a suspicious manner. I made a swift exit and hid behind a grandstand until rehearsals finished and scuttled back to the waiting bus.
Another time the naughty fellow got us into a huge military tattoo staged by the fascist generals who were in charge at the time. This would have been fine had he not fibbed that my friend and I were top designers from the BBC. Thus we had to collect our tickets on the day from the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, no less. Crowds parted as we waived our crested invitations and we were swiftly ushered up the red carpet that stretched the length of the ancient stone arena, along with a bevy of orthodox bishops.
Alarmingly, our seats were on the podium directly behind said nasty medal-heavy generals who shook our hands and offered us polystyrene ceiling tiles to insulate our bottoms from the cold marble seating. Lesser mortals suffered tile-less, we noted.
The nationalistic marching and flag waiving seemed endless so when we thought a sufficient amount of time had passed we made our polite excuses and left.