Ball skills

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The star-studded BT British Olympic Ball raised money and support for Team GB, 42 weeks before the London 2012 opening ceremony…

It’s nice to get out of my jogging bottoms and dress up for an event, says a shivering Amy Williams, Olympic Gold medalist. Dressed in Armani, she is walking a gold and glittering carpet at the BT British Olympic Ball, courting the waiting media and photographers like a true sporting pro. Tonight, she is joined by sporting greats, past and present – Steve Backley, Sir Steve Redgrave, Kris Akabusi, Torvill and Dean, Denise Lewis, Duncan Goodhew, Ben Ainslie and Jessica Ennis. All are braving the autumnal evening, smiling at the flashing cameras, and then, dressed in his Strictly Come Dancing ballroom outfit, Audley Harrison stops in his tracks: “I really want to see people get excited about the Olympics,” he tells Stand Out. “The Olympics made me and it’s my legacy.”

The invited sportsmen and women have joined the 2,100-strong audience in order to raise funds for Team GB and the London 2012 Olympic Games. In all, 140 Olympians including 85 Gold medalists are enjoying the occasion, which sees 173 tables of guests devouring a Tom Aikens-designed menu and enjoying entertainment from Sir Tom Jones. Potato soup, Welsh lamb and white chocolate mousse with winter berries are on the menu, which is cooked by Payne and Gunter and served by Off to Work.

Olympia’s Grand Hall is a shiny white canvas – a white carpet, supplied by SO Group, white banquette seating and gold cushions, white catwalk stage and white table linen complement the ice Chiavari chairs with white seat pads from Invisible Blue, mirrored table centres and tea lights. Team GB’s logo – a lion’s head – has been transformed into a reflective table centre and two silver lion’s heads flank either side of the main stage. BP, BMW and BT branding is also visible and two trampolines on either side of the hall give tonight’s performances added bounce.

Good times

The British Olympic Association (BOA) event is being organised and managed by Fireball. VIP tables of 12 have cost £14,340 inclusive of VAT, and for that guests are promised a prime position, Champagne, VIP gift bags and an Olympian or two at their table. Bronze table packages cost £7,128 including VAT and individual tickets have sold for £594. The event is a sell-out. Edf Energy, Coca- Cola, Prestige Ticketing and BP are just some of the organisations pledging their support and hosting a table.

The 2010 event, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, was attended by 1,100 guests including over 60 British Olympic medalists. Guest of honour HRH Prince Harry attended alongside celebrity stars. TV personalities Amanda Holden and

Ben Shephard hosted the event and there were live performances from Jamie Cullum and Mark Ronson.

Tonight, Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart are presenting – Fry modelling a red, velvet suit – and Sir Tom Jones, Tinchy Stryder, Dappy and Rory Bremner are adding to the proceedings, which has HRH The Princess Royal, president of the BOA, in attendance.

Among those to walk the glittering gold carpet are three-times cycling Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, 400m hurdles World Champion Dai Greene, triathlon world number one and two Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, and a host of celebrities including Downtown Abbey’s Dan Stevens, former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, model Nell McAndrew and singer Katie Melua.

An Olympian herself, the Princess Royal delivered a speech calling on the entire nation to unite in support of the greatest team Great Britain and Northern Ireland will ever have sent to an Olympic Games.

Crystal CG has produced the event’s animations that will pepper the evening’s format – a dinner, entertainment and silent auction. Up for grabs are a behind-the- scenes tour of QI, golf with Lee Westwood and Lawrence Dallaglio, a Hello magazine experience and work experience with the BOA. The majority of bids open at £500 and the evening begins with pledges worth £183,000, and that’s before things get serious. IML voting keypads allow guests to enter their bids, with the money raised funding everything from medical and logistical support to training camps.

Logistical skill

Amanda Heathcote, chief executive officer, Fireball, comments: “This event was the big one. We’ve worked with the BOA for some time, we suggested the idea for the ball and they went for it. We did the math and we worked with them to raise sponsorship.”

Heathcote explains that there was no set brief but she had the vision to go forward and transform the blank, conference space that is EC&O’s Grand Hall. The lion’s head logos were created with the BOA and then silver, white and gold were combined to add sparkle and glamour.

“EC&O, Payne and Gunter, HSL and SSL allowed me to negotiate their fees down or offered extra supplies – without them we could not have put such an event on, and raise so much money.

“We created a platform to unlock the wealth in the room, and the ball has raised over £700,000 for Team GB.”

Heathcote explains that the event was a year in the making. The event’s date was announced last November and Fireball began to sell tables in January. In total, 19 Fireball staff worked on the event.

“It was a body and soul job,” continues Heathcote. “We were confident of selling the increased number of seats, we knew we had a year to go and we had assessed people’s interest in a great social night out. The ball is a fantastic turn out of British culture. We set the benchmark last year and now we have momentum, and we’re launching Team GB at the Royal Albert Hall on May 11, 2012.”

Adds Peter Mather, BP’s head of country UK, said: “In addition to the fantastic sums raised at the ball, BP Target Neutral offset the entire travel carbon footprint of the ball as part of BP’s commitment to help make London 2012 the most sustainable Games possible. The BOA is joining Target Neutral and spectators from around the world in setting a new world record for the most number of journeys offset to a single event – London 2012. We’re proud to be supporting the BOA and Team GB, at the ball and beyond, as they aim for success at the Games.”