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Diary of an Olympic Volunteer: Graduation Day

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Certain events in life - your first kiss, passing your driving test - only come around once, and when they do it's hard to not get swept up in all the excitement and hype. Later on in life, of course, you'll discover that hype is sometimes just the younger brother of anti-climax so you become jaded and cynical. But since I'm perpetually 30-something none of that should make it into today's column.

Because today is the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. It's Show Day or, if you want, graduation day for over 10,000 volunteers for the Greatest Show on Earth, who have given up countless free weekends, spent enough days on the training site in Dagenham to ruin anyone's street cred, endured blistering sunshine and torrential rain in very unequal measure in order to learn how to pick up a prop, bulge (don't ask, you'll understand tonight), march on the beat despite dubious cues, and look out for each other, and who, when all is said and done, couldn't have been happier that they did. Some did so in order to prove that it's really the taking part that counts, others for the remote chance of getting on TV and enjoying the 15 minutes of fame that was promised to them by a certain Andy Warhol way back when.

Whatever it was that got all of us to drag ourselves over to East London time and time again we need to remember that Show Day, and the London Olympic Games themselves, would be impossible without people like you, me, and actually anyone who (still) believes in the Olympic ideal that states that "to build a peaceful and better world requires a mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play". And so, let me just say...

Ladies and Gentlemen, Class of London 2012.

Let me salute you to the way we all embraced those values. When I first met you you were nothing but a bunch of people I didn't know. But here I am, having made a number of friends, having picked up your prop when you missed a cue, and not judged you afterwards (not for long anyway). We had the best of times, we had the worst of times, and in that way you are a forceful reminder of my school days.

And like in those days there you were: the jock (step forward Mass Coordinator), the geek, the ghetto dude, the gay guy and the tom boy, the bully (who can forget the stern emails from the Olympic organisers), the prep, the drama kid, the loveable chav (it wouldn't be London without you), the nerd/know-it-all and every other conceivable stereotype.

You were all there and in a way you represented not only what secondary school but what London as a whole was, is and always will be about. We don't care where you come from, who you think you are or how you dress. Once you're in costume (whatever that might be) and able to start your choreography when told to do so over the in-ear monitors you become part of a bigger thing. Something so big that three billion people think is worth watching.

In London they say you meet people for a reason, a season or a lifetime. And if you ask me London 2012 is certainly a good enough reason to meet. Having been with all my fellow performers since December last year it also definitely feels like a whole season (admittedly, with all the rain it was quite an autumnal one) but will we have met for a lifetime?

I guess, like with the friends you made at school, only time will tell. But like graduation day the Olympics in your home town only come around once in your lifetime, so whether you are part of it or even if you are just watching them from your sofa you better remember them like your first kiss. Because sometimes the hype doesn't come with an anti-climax. Instead, all you are left with is simply amazing, so now let's get this show on the road!

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