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My role in ceremony a magical moment

THEY promised us sexy people, and sexy people were what we got - in droves.

To be precise, 5,000 athletes at the peak of their physical fitness. And we were allowed to touch them.

But that wasn't the motivating factor in auditioning for a part performing at the Commonwealth Games ceremonies: it was but a joyous perk.

From the audience end the opening ceremony divided opinion, but from inside we were having the time of our lives. People make Glasgow, the city's marketing slogan says, and Glasgow's people made the opening ceremony.

A colleague took this video from the inside view: go here to watch from our perspective

What the choreography team did, ever so cleverly, was build us up gently. We began auditioning in the Mitchell Library, scooting around finding map co-ordinates and pretending to call home to roost a golden eagle.

Those of us with rhythm enough were brought to rehearsals, where the skills we would need were drip fed to us so imperceptibly we barely noticed. Passing space hoppers and giant teddy bears on the counts of one and seven became the nous needed to build up banks of chairs in minutes flat. Marching drills helped us travel to precisely where we needed to be and in record time. The humour and charm of the choreography team ("Marshals: attention! About face and left, left, left right ... we need your personalities too, people, this isn't Korea") helped corral us 500 novices who made up the Athlete Marshals into patterns and shapes we didn't know we were making.

We were asked to be good hosts. We were told to be sweet with one another. It was delightful, for hours every week, to join a gang completely free of cynicism and to submit to a tightly controlled, rhythmic order.

Each week we were teased with secrets to keep, the band of Scottie dogs who led out the 71 Commonwealth countries among them. Although pleased as peaches with our oddball chair routines, we had a hunch our four-legged co-stars would steal the show. For a blabbermouth extraordinaire, I learned as much about discretion as I did about mass choreography.

What was particularly wonderful was to watch people grow in self-assurance and those who were already amply supplied with self-assurance take that confidence and gift it to others around them.

Before we went on stage on Wednesday night our head choreographer, the inimitable and unflappable Steve Boyd, told us: "When this is over, remember you've done Thread the Needle in front of a billion people around the world. Job interviews, public speaking, you have nothing to be scared of any more."

The night was as sipping a potion brewed in Wonderland: there you are on the field of Celtic Park and there's the Queen up there, Rod Stewart back there, Billy Connolly speaking from that gargantuan screen, John Barrowman kissing a boy, the Red Arrows whisking overhead, fireworks, confetti, Govanhill Park and 5,200 fine athletes for whom you are personally responsible. And don't forget it's your job to spy dog doo and point at it until a human pooper scooper arrives to take it away. (Steve: "We don't want a 30ft skid mark on the perimeter.")

Naysayers cringe, forgetting the ceremonies are not just for Scotland, they are from Scotland, and our perspectives do not tally with those of the viewers overseas. Still, for Scotland the ceremonies are as much participatory as spectator sport, the Games about community as much as activity, and the chance to learn what volunteering gives you as you give of yourself.

I was a Commonwealth Games cynic until I peeked behind the curtain and found the Wizard: impressive not for magic, but because his grand trick is to make spectacle from imagination, hard work and friendship.

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