Mehreen Umar is one of 15,000 cast members performing at the London Olympics Opening Ceremony. She reveals there are quite a few more surprises to come that didn’t even make the dress rehearsals. I try and get her to spill the beans...
Danny Boyle’s £27m extravaganza
The 28-year-old dentist and ‘yarning darling’ decided that just because she couldn’t get tickets to the Games, there was no way she was going to miss out on the opportunity of being involved in the Opening Ceremony.
“I saw a piece on BBC London about volunteering during the Olympics and I decided to apply as I really wanted to be a part of it. I was asked to audition, then made it to the second auditions and was put on a reserve list. When I was invited to rehearsals to be an understudy I was then told I would be in it after all… it was a pretty awesome feeling!”
So at 2pm today, Mehreen, who is taking part in a dance sequence that aims to “celebrate British music”, will be heading down to the stadium to spend six hours getting ready, mingling with her new dance buddies, and preparing for the big night ahead.
Her dance piece, choreographed by Boy Blue Entertainment, is 17-minutes long in total, but she tells me that the cast will be involved during the whole ceremony.
“I’m feeling a little bit nervous because earlier this week it was just my mum, dad and brother watching – tonight Barack Obama and the Royal Family will be there! There’s a bit of pressure, but it should be really fun.”
‘The dress I wear gets the most attention!’
I tried to grill Mehreen on what she would be wearing for the big reveal tonight, but of course it’s all about ‘saving the surprise’. “Let’s just say when I saw it for the first time six weeks ago I fell in love with it. I really do love it so much! Some of the performers are allowed to keep their costumes but my section can’t – probably because the dress I wear gets the most attention. It is such a shame, but I will be getting lots and lots of photos.”
Mehreen told me that although there have been two dress rehearsals in the last week (one on Monday for Games officials and another on Wednesday for friends and family of the cast), there was lots that didn’t happen that will do tonight. So ha to all the smug #savethesurprise Tweets, you don’t know it all!
Saying that, last night I read stories about sheep, cricket and Paul McCartney being involved – not in that order I hope. Let’s just carry on pretending we don’t know anything about it…
“I think that most of the cast had to sign contracts, but because I joined late I never received one – but I
wouldn’t dream of spoiling things, I’ve worked too hard for that. People have been kicked out for Tweeting pictures or putting them up on Facebook.
“The whole thing has basically been a bit crazy. To step out with an audience after weeks of rehearsing to just empty seats was amazing. The atmosphere changed the whole dynamic. Some girls try to get as much stage and camera time as they can, which has been annoying, but if it looks messy they won’t end up on camera anyway.
“Danny Boyle has been there for loads of our rehearsals and always says thank you, he seems to really appreciate the time we’ve all put in as volunteers – especially rehearsing in not very nice conditions as it’s all been outdoors.”
Good luck tonight Mehreen! Oh, I nearly forgot, good luck Team GB!
What time does the Opening Ceremony start?
Watch coverage of the ceremony on BBC One from 7pm. The actual show kicks off at 9pm and is expected to last until midnight, with fireworks until 12.30am.