The Warmest of Welcomes
After arriving in the Athletes Village, the Palau, Vanuatu and American Samoan athletes were given a warm welcome to the London 2012 Olympics with a theatrical performance by members of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. The performers entered the main plaza energetically to their rendition of ‘Bicycle’ by Queen, ringing hand bells whilst cycling around the athletes and gathering them together. The atmosphere was further enhanced by the glorious heat and cloudless blue skies, making the Oceania athletes feel slightly more at home after the previous few months of dreary weather at the British training camps. The radiant sunshine matched the vibrant colours of the jester-like outfits of the performers, as their dances hailed the athletes before they raised each nation’s flag.
They were initially welcomed by the ‘Queen’, a performer dressed elegantly in gold, sat upon the shoulders of a jester, giving the welcome an authentic feel as the jesters bowed to each Chef de Mission, who were encouraged on to the stage alongside the Mayor of the Athletes’ Village to hear their national anthem. After leaving the stage, they signed glass columns placed beneath their national flags; these proceedings showed the respect, importance and unification of all the nations.
Kent Yamada, the Chef de Mission for American Samoa, signed his name alongside others. The respectful silence of the athletes during this process was in complete contrast to the buzzing atmosphere surrounding the dancing that shortly followed.
Ken Yamada, President of the American Samoa National Olympic Committee, looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself alongside all the other teams. The American Samoan athletes danced along to the upbeat music, as did the Palauan athletes, similarly, who had clapped in time to the music earlier in the day.
Once all the nations were welcomed, the ‘Queen’s’ closing words were followed by an inspirational poem, with the jesters emphatically whispering key words. The poem had a sporting theme throughout, with phrases such as “courage must be bigger than expectation”; it helped to close the welcome event. The athletes were initially startled by the jesters, and were later ushered over a red carpet towards the entrance to the Victory Park to their cover of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen, which helped to inspire and excite all the athletes. Nathaniel Tuamoheloa, an American Samoan wrestler, felt similarly to the Palau and Vanuatu athletes, when he said that he now feels ready for the Games. Each Pacific nation, by the end of the week, will all have experienced this celebration of the welcome ceremony, made possible by London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.
These team welcome ceremonies have excited the athletes and their countries in the build-up to the official beginning of the Olympics, as the welcome ceremony marks the beginning of their journey at the London 2012 Olympic Games.