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Over 60,000 pack London's Stratford stadium for dress rehearsal

BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor — Special Assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 26, 2012    

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LONDON, England — More than 60,000 persons streamed into the Stratford stadium here in East London yesterday for the final dress rehearsal ahead of tomorrow's grand opening of the 30th Olympiad.

Games volunteers acting as flag-bearing athletes, were put through their paces to test the audience-participation element of the show.

Four hours before the start of the full show, hundreds of specially invited persons began streaming into the venue for the rehearsal, the first session of which was held on Monday night.

Among those at the stadium yesterday were 10,000 cast and crew members who were advised to allow plenty of travel time for the grand opening after chaos on train and tube lines on Monday caused many to be late for the rehearsal.

Tickets to the rehearsals were given as goodwill gestures to a number of individuals and organisations, among them the Royal Navy.

Many of these persons were unable to secure the much sought-after tickets to the Games.

With a cast of thousands, numerous choreographed events and special effects, the opening ceremony will be one of the highlights of the London 2012 Games.

Train staff and Olympic volunteers were also out in their numbers, directing persons to the Olympic Park, while the smartly attired police remained alert. Persons desperate for a ticket openly pleaded with passers-by for an extra one, but those efforts were futile as the tickets were scarcer than gold dust.

Jamaican Seymour McLean was among the unfortunate many who did not secure a ticket to the rehearsal. However, this did not deter him from taking his two British-born sons as close to the happenings as he could get.

"I wanted to show the kids what is happening here, " he said. Jamaican flags in hand, the family proudly donned their colours as they braved the crowd to capture the moment on camera.

"It is very interesting", said 11-year-old Theodore.

"Yohan Blake is going to win the gold," his six-year-old brother Janhoy interjected.

Meanwhile, Jamaicans Michelle Lundy and Joy Johnson who attended Monday's rehearsal said it was spectacular.

"It was a wonderful production and a must-see and I am glad I got the opportunity to see it," said Johnson.

Jamaican-born Lundy, who is now a British citizen, said in the spirit of patriotism, she will be honouring the wishes of artistic director Danny Boyle to not reveal details of the show so as not to ruin the element of surprise for the opening ceremony.

Boyles, she explained, had also asked the audience not to Tweet or post pictures of the events.

"We felt very honoured to be a part of the first set of audience to enter the stadium," she beamed.

Over at the O2 Arena where Jamaica will be staging a 10-day exhibition dubbed 'Jamaica House', workers and volunteers of the Olympic Games were also out in their numbers preparing for the large crowd expected to pass through when the Games begin.

Soldiers, who were working alongside security personnel were polite as they undertook a very detailed airport-style check of persons and belongings. The soldiers were drafted after security company G4S failed to honour its obligation to recruit and train enough personnel for the Games.

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