“How could we not be excited?” Behind the scenes at the Olympics with Mike Hawthorne

Posted on July 27, 2012

It seems to have been a long time coming, but tomorrow the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony will begin and the Games will officially have started.

With Olympic fever gripping the world, it seems impossible to get away from documentaries, previews, adverts and campaigns all featuring the athletes who will be competing at London 2012. The sporting elite have reached a highlight of their careers, and surely deserve a lot of attention and support, but what about the thousands of other people working behind the scenes?

Mike Hawthorne lives in Highbury, London and has been deaf since birth. Last year he saw an advert on the London 2012 website asking for volunteers to take part in the Opening Ceremony, to be directed by Danny Boyle. Having applied, Mike attended an audition with over 70 other hopefuls, all of whom were Deaf and disabled. The audition involved work with professional dancers, and a lucky few, including Mike, were invited back for a second audition – this time with over 400 participants dancing together.

Mike said; “I was over the moon when I heard I had got a part. I was a gymnast when I was younger and I think those skills helped me. I was actually the first ever deaf gymnast to win the British Veteran Gymnastics Championship, in 1987! I started gymnastics when I was ten, after seeing Olga Korbutt in the 1972 Olympics. My dad was in the garden doing rubbish cartwheels, so I showed him how I did them and he was so impressed he helped me join Basildon Gymnastics Club.”

Since April, Mike and the other 1,396 dancers have been rehearsing almost every day, and have met Danny Boyle himself on many occasions.

“I thought Danny Boyle would be pleasantly surprised to see four of his team are deaf dancers. We have been given the opportunity to show we can do it, and we can! I am very positive about the whole thing – it is a once in a lifetime event, how could we not be excited about it? As for performing in front of the world at the Opening Ceremony, it gives me goosebumps, but in a good way! I think it will be very emotional.”

As well as starring in the Opening Ceremony, Mike was asked during rehearsals if he was interested in performing for the Paralympics Ceremony.

“I would love to have performed at the Paralympics, but in my heart I don’t want to be selfish and perform in both, when it gives other disabled performers the opportunity instead. Also, I already have a role as Games Maker there, so I will still be involved. I will be a Transport Team Desk Member at the Athletes’ Village. I’m really looking forward to it as I will have an interpreter for my training, but my desk team are going to learn BSL before we begin, which is great.”

Around the world, there are stories of people doing things to commemorate and remember the Olympics, and Mike is no exception;

“I am going to have a tattoo on my arm of ‘London 2012’ with the five Olympic rings to remind me of the time I was a performer and Games Maker, wearing the uniform and bringing the Olympics to everyone in the world. I will remember it forever.”

The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, training and consultancy Deafworks, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Look, Smile Chat campaign, and the National Theatre’s captioned plays.

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

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