London 2012 criticised over opening ceremony volunteer call


The London 2012 organising committee’s appeal for volunteers to take part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Paralympics has been criticised by leading disabled artists and performers.

The organising committee, LOCOG, announced this week that it was seeking 5,000 disabled and non-disabled volunteers to fill roles as dancers, actors, percussionists and all-round performers.

LOCOG said it was looking for anyone with “a positive attitude, huge amounts of energy and a willingness to perform in front of a stadium audience and to millions of people around the world”.

But Dr Ju Gosling aka Ju90 said she believed the “vast majority of disabled people” would be put off by a demand for volunteers with “huge amounts of energy”.

Gosling, an artist who trained as a dancer and is a former member of the Rhinestone Rollers wheelchair dance group, added: “I haven’t worked with anyone in the Rollers who would fit this definition, nor indeed many other professional disabled performers, including myself.”

The actor and broadcaster Mik Scarlet said the phrase could easily put many disabled people off applying to be volunteers.

He said: “Those words will put some people off and they will think, ‘I don’t know if I could have the capability of being energetic for three weeks solid.’”

He added: “I hope it doesn’t put people off because I can’t imagine that the people involved in the opening ceremonies would make such a massive mistake as to exclude all the people within the disabled community who wouldn’t describe themselves as energetic.

“My advice would be to go along [to the audition]and if you feel you are being excluded, then sue them.”

Gosling also criticised LOCOG’s decision to call for both disabled and non-disabled volunteers, rather than just seeking disabled people, which she said was a “massive missed opportunity to explode many myths about disability to the world”.

And she questioned whether LOCOG would cover the extra support and travel costs of disabled volunteers, an issue that was not mentioned in its appeal.

A LOCOG spokesman said: “We are looking to put on a show and if people want to be part of a cast of a show I do not think it is particularly unfair to say they will need energy.

“We want people who are committed and want to be involved. There is not a way to get around that. It is what is required to put on a show to a global audience.

“These people need to have an expectation of what is required of them so they do not drop out when they realise it is going to be quite demanding. They must have a pretty good level of enthusiasm and energy.”

He said the volunteers would also need to make a substantial time commitment, while they were looking for at least 8,000 people to audition for the 5,000 roles.

He added: “The Olympics ceremonies are open to disabled performers and the Paralympics ceremonies to non-disabled performers. We are trying not to exclude anybody.”

But LOCOG has so far been unable to say whether it would fund the extra travel and support costs of disabled volunteers.

Volunteers will have to take part in up to three rehearsal sessions a week of up to four hours each from June, and a series of all-day rehearsals in the three weeks leading up to each ceremony.

The deadline for applications is 13 February, and applicants must be 18 years or older on 1 March 2012.

19 January 2012