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Principal role at the greatest show on earth

THE RETIRING Principal of Havering College has pulled off a spectacular surprise for students and staff by playing the role of a medieval peasant in the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Noel Otley – who officially steps down as Principal of the college on August 31 – was in the “green and pleasant land” sequence watched by up to one billion people worldwide plus an 80,000-strong stadium audience.
A quick rerun on BBC iPlayer reveals Mr Otley stood on a bridge applauding a traditional English cricket match.

As the countryside made way for the smoke stacks of the industrial revolution, his role involved carrying out a tree.

LOrd Coe with Noel Otley before the Olympic opening ceremony

Mr Otley, who lives in Shenfield, Essex, said: “It was fantastic. There was an audience of 80,000 including the Queen and it was so exciting to be part of it.

“The transition to the industrial revolution was amazing. The drumming made the whole stadium pound and you could feel the vibrations of the drumming through your body.”

The father-of-three, successfully auditioned for one of the 2,000 Olympic opening ceremony volunteer roles after spotting an advert.

Rehearsals for the “green and pleasant land” sequence started in May and were led by Toby Sedgwick who provided the horse choreography for War Horse.

Mr Otley said: “I have met fantastic people along the way. Working with Toby Sedgwick was amazing. Danny Boyle was always at the rehearsals. He would join in and talk to us. He is a really nice bloke.

“It’s impossible to pick out a personal highlight. It was just the fun of doing it. It was strange because as you were performing knew what your cues were, such as when to look at Kenneth Branagh as he was making the speech. But at the same time you could just stand there on the set, soak in the atmosphere in the stadium and see what was on the big screens. It was brilliant.”

•Noel Otley officially retires from Havering College of Further and Higher Education on August 31 after a long and successful career in education spanning almost 40 years. Maria Thompson, the college’s current Deputy Principal, has been appointed his successor to lead the college from its current position of strength into an exciting future.