Olympics role for former Cantabrian
An earthquake-affected former Cantabrian is set to take centre stage at the London Olympics.
Andrew Johnston will perform before crowds of more than 80,000, including the Queen, at the opening and closing ceremonies after beating thousands for a spot.
He left Christchurch for England after the February 2011 quake destroyed his home and photography business.
A confidentiality agreement prevented Johnston from giving details about the hour-long performance, but he said his involvement was for the first 17 minutes.
The job had been a "huge boost" after the devastation of the quakes, he said, and it was a "privilege" to take part.
A cast of about 10,000 was selected from two auditions and Johnston knew of only one other Kiwi taking part in the ceremonies.
Johnston had applied to be a Games volunteer, but only 70,000 were picked from about 500,000 applicants.
He later received an email from the ceremonies committee inviting him to audition for the "mass movement" performance.
"We had to jump around a bit and there were people with clipboards looking at your movement, your rhythm, and if you were smiling or miserable," he said.
"By the time I got home there was email saying 'Congratulations, you passed the first audition'."
After hearing nothing for weeks after second audition, Johnston thought he had missed out on the "opportunity of a lifetime".
Confirmation he had progressed came while he was away and the deadline to accept had passed.
However, after desperate emails to organisers, a spot became available.
The commitment meant four-hour round trips from his Portsmouth home to London three times a week for rehearsals.
Excitement about Friday's opening ceremony outweighed any nerves, Johnston said.
"Because there's so many of us, you don't feel like eyes are just on you, so the nervousness is not there," he said.
Johnston is volunteering at the Paralympics that follow the main Games.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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