David’s ring saga at Olympic Park

David O'Neale can just be seen with white shirtsleeves where the flow of 'steel' joins the ring'Picture by Sheila McDonald
David O'Neale can just be seen with white shirtsleeves where the flow of 'steel' joins the ring'Picture by Sheila McDonald
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WHEN David O’Neale’s friend showed him a picture of the ring forging at the Olympic opening he said ‘that’s me!’

There in the smoke next to the glowing ring was David, 56, from Bridgham, as one of the smelters.

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David said: “It was a life-affirming opportunity, as a few weeks after hearing I had passed the audition, I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

“It’s the inclusive nature of it. There were people taking part in wheelchairs, everyone could take part and they went to every length to help you. I can still walk but a long walk is tough so they provided a mobility scooter.”

In spite of the chaotic look of the industrial revolution scenes, David says it was planned meticulously. The arena was divided into counties with a team of three overseeing each. The 19 rehearsals allowed lots of problem solving.

“One of our jobs was to strip away the grass,” he said. “We spent ages working out how to drag off these big sheets of Astroturf, then someone in our group rolled one up and three carried it.”

After seeing the Green and Pleasant Land section David gave director Danny Boyle a copy of his book Village Life The story of Bridgham in Norfolk. Copies of his other book Lest We Forget, about the impact of World War One on the village, helped the volunteers who dressed as soldiers and had been told to find out about the war.