AN UP-AND-COMING footballer who travelled with the Olympic Torch in a speedboat driven by David Beckham was one of dozens of Waltham Forest residents who played starring roles in London 2012's spectacular opening ceremony.

Walthamstow's very own Jade Bailey, 17, was watched by an estimated global audience of one billion as she brought the iconic flame along the Thames to the Olympic Stadium on Friday.

Jade, an Arsenal and England youth player, was nominated by Waltham Forest Council after organisers appealed for a talented young footballer.

She has spent much of her teenage years training at the Bailey Elite Football Academy in Wadham Lodge, Walthamstow, and its director Steve Mitchell said staff were very proud of her.

He added: “It was fantastic to see her at the ceremony and have her achievements recognised.”

And the borough was also well-represented among the thousands who performed inside the stadium.

A total of 19 students from Leyton Sixth Form College and three from Waltham Forest College were picked for their dancing skills.

Leyton's Sarah Sharkah, 16, said it was amazing to be directed by the ceremony's artistic mastermind, Oscar-winning Danny Boyle.

She added: “Everyone who performed with me was so down to earth and I have formed fantastic relationships with all of them.”

Personal trainer Joseph Cohen, 24, of Forest Side in Chingford, was among the dozens of Waltham Forest residents who succesfully auditioned for a role in the 'physical acting' sections, performing as an industrial worker in the epic 'Pandemonium' sequence.

He said: “The experience seemed to be over so quickly, but the atmosphere in the stadium was something I don't think I'll ever experience again. It is one of the best things I have ever been involved in. The noise of the crowd, the lights, flashing of cameras - I felt like a rockstar for the night.”

Rachel Wedderburn, a 46-year-old stay-at-home mum from Melford Road in Walthamstow, was part of the 'mechanical' cast at the ceremony, whose job was to direct audience participation such as Mexican waves and the mini lights attached to every seat.

She said: “It was so exciting. The first time we rehearsed in the stadium my jaw was just wide open the whole time, and it was great to see the same reaction on all the people in the audience.” ONE Leytonstone couple were lucky enough to both secure centre-stage roles in the ceremony.


Katie Evans, 26, was chosen to lead out the athletes from Guinea while partner Paul Mitchell, 27, was another performer in the Pandemonium scene. Katie, who accompanied the country's flagbearer round the track while wearing a harness bearing its name, said she was delighted to be chosen for the role despite not having any links with Guinea.

She said: “We only met the athletes as we went out and so didn't have a chance to talk to them, but the flag bearer was very good and responded to me encouraging him to speed up or slow down.

“It went by in a bit of a blur. I don't think it really hit home that we had just walked out in front of millions of people until I got home.

“It was incredible to meet some of the world's top athletes and being in the stadium for the fireworks was amazing.”

Mr Mitchell said the 120 hours of rehearsals for his 15 minutes of performance had been truly gruelling, especially during the initial rain-soaked practices at the old forecourt in Dagenham.

The charity worker, of Matcham Road, said: “It was very tiring and often very frustrating but also full of lots of laughs. “Once we got to the stadium and it all started to come together it was still exhausting, but fun and full of banter as we got to know each other better and bonded as a group.”

He added: “On the night it was incredible but also sad to be at the end of an amazing journey. “We ran into Danny Boyle after the show by chance and he just seemed so relieved”.

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