Crowds far surpass expectations for church-hosted events on Games opening night
The number of people attending the hundreds of Olympic opening night events hosted by churches have far exceeded expectations, according to reports from round the UK.
Churches in Buckinghamshire had expected 2,500 people for their Opening Ceremony festival but around 6,500 people turned up.
‘It was a wonderful night for the entire family,’ said organiser Rev Martyn Groves. ‘Sky News broadcasted live from our location. Many people thanked us for hosting the event and we were able to tell them of our plans for the next two weeks like our two-week Kids’ Holiday Club.’
Meanwhile, people queued round the block to pack into Purley Baptist Church in Surrey to attend the family-oriented Opening Ceremony Festival organised by local churches.
There were activities for children including face painting and making flags to be waved during the big screen showing of the Opening Ceremony. Sports were led by Olympian Donovan Reid who represented Great Britain in the 100-metres in Atlanta in 1996. Donovan is a member of Purley Baptist Church.
‘We planned for 400 and almost twice that number turned up,’ said the main organiser Julie Davies, as she sent out for more supplies of hamburgers and sausages.
Graeme Hodge from The Salvation Army church in the London Borough of Sutton had a similar experience. ‘We really had no idea how many people we would have, but expected 50 to 60 and had 160 in attendance,’ he said. ‘More than half of those attending we had never met. We were packed into our facility, but no one was leaving.’
The inspiration for all this activity has been the agency More Than Gold, set up to help churches use the Games to serve their communities. Spokesperson Marty Woods said, ‘We had anticipated about that about 500,000 would attend across the UK. But the signs are that many more have been involved.’
The largest event hosted by churches to mark the opening of the Games was in Dagenham in Essex. It attracted over 10,000 partygoers hosted by 500 volunteers from 20 churches from across Barking and Dagenham.
One highlight of the evening was a world record attempt at the ‘most number of people wearing party hats in one place’. Although results are still to be confirmed, festival organisers are confident.
In Hartburn in Tyneside, the Vine Church made plans for up to 150 people and twice that many attended, many of whom wondered why the church offered the free entertainment. Their spokesperson, Kev Clarke explained, ‘We wanted the church to be in the forefront of celebrating such a unique event and to be engaged in the community.’
Added, Marty Woods, ‘The story of greater numbers than expected is a constant theme we are hearing from churches that served their communities by hosting an opening night festival. This bodes well for all that the churches have planned over the coming weeks.’
Report by Krishana Kraft
More photographs available at: www.flickr.com/photos/morethangolduk/
To contact the More Than Gold Media Centre Tel: +44 (0)207 316 1333
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