London Olympic opening ceremony role for St Albans man

A ST ALBANS man has shown that the best way to top strutting your stuff in front of former United States president Bill Clinton is to perform before a global audience of billions.

Jeffery Lovejoy, of Old London Road, has described taking part in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games last Friday, July, 27 as “surreal”.

He admitted not knowing how he was going to top the experience of performing as a worker in the farming segment, and a smelter in the tribute to the industrial revolution during the ceremony, masterminded by film director Danny Boyle.

Jeffery added: “I still get chills describing it. It was really cool. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would have done this. I keep thinking, did I really do that?”

Originally hailing from California, he performed in front of the former US president in Georgia – Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics.

He clearly developed a taste for the Games, because when searching for tickets ahead of London 2012 last year, he saw an advert calling for people to take part in the opening ceremony.

Jeffery assumed he would not be offered a role following an initial audition.

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He explained: “I’m quite a big guy; I can’t dance. I saw all these people stretching and I’m this big guy in jeans, so I thought, ‘I don’t belong here’ but I gave it my all.”

But he was called back and started rehearsing after Christmas.

Jeffery said keeping details of his part in the ceremony secret for seven months “killed me”.

He spent hours rehearsing in “jampacked sessions” at weekends and after work.

Jeffery paid tribute to artistic director Danny Boyle who gave performers tips on how to convey emotions needed to portray the impact of the industrial revolution on Britain.

Jeffery said: “We had to practice facial expressions. I have a lot of respect for Danny Boyle because he was there for us every step of the way. He thanked us for coming, and I was so honoured to be part of his creation. It was amazing.”

Among those watching him in the dress rehearsal before Friday night’s show was Andrew Meredith, landlord of the White Hart Tap pub in St Albans, who is “like a brother” to Jeffery.

Andrew said: “It was fantastic, even though it was just the rehearsal. We didn’t see everything, because the organisers wanted to leave some surprises at the opening ceremony.”

Entitled Isles of Wonder, the ceremony welcomed top athletes from more than 200 nations for the start of the Games, marking an historic third time the capital has hosted the world’s biggest sporting event.

A total cast of 15,000 will take part in both the London 2012 opening and closing ceremonies, watched by an estimated audience of four billion worldwide.

In the UK alone last week’s opening ceremony was watched by nearly 27 million television viewers.