From Big Ben's traditional role in our New Year's Eve celebrations to the hard-to-miss Olympic Torch relay, everyone loves a good countdown. Let's face it, half the Olympic media coverage is made up of stories marking milestones such as '100 days to go to the Games' or, in my case as a volunteer performer in the opening ceremony, 'Less than two weeks until Show Day'.
Admittedly, while a good countdown certainly helps to build momentum, generate excitement and convey a general sense of occasion, my own personal countdown evokes a feeling rather more familiar to everyone as "OMFG". On a good day that can stand for the realisation that together with thousands of other dedicated volunteers I am truly part of the Greatest Show on Earth performing in front of 80,000 excited people in the stadium plus a global audience of four billion (next to a good countdown everyone loves a superlative), while on a day of rehearsals when things don't go 100% according to plan it could easily mean "I urgently need to travel back in time and make a deliberate point of not signing up to do this".
In all fairness we've come a long way from the wintry days in East London where the auditioning process turned out to be less Chorus Line and more Can you put one foot in front of the other?, and where, despite working with Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, it quickly dawned on me that I wasn't necessarily chosen for my individual acting talent but for my outstanding ability to congregate with a sufficient enough number of people to produce good television pictures.
Fair enough really, given that as a 14-year old I failed to make it into stage school, and although that sobering experience back then should have sufficiently taken care of my acting ambitions it was the fact that, ever since I got the call-back from the Olympic organisers, I was simply to be known by my bib number that removed any potential Hollywood fame from my bucket list.
Fast forward to July 2012 and with only eight days to go until Show Day I am at a stage where I am frantically trying not to mess up my steps, stay in the moment and not get physically violent with fellow performers who fail to understand the basic concept of a crocodile line. Thankfully ever-cheerful cast coordinators, stage managers and show directors who could all easily earn a decent living on the motivational speaker circuit have managed to bring together 10,000 people like you and me, all to some extend still believing that it's the taking part that counts.
Because that's the thing with a countdown...it's only a countdown if you're planning to watch the opening ceremony in front of the TV. If you're part of it then "Show Day minus eight" is a menacing looking deadline and gee, does that focus the mind.