LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
The opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics is just hours away now. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle of "Slumdog Millionaire" has put together the official kickoff spectacle. It's a wide-ranging tribute to British history and culture called "Isles of Wonder," with music and dancing, also farm animals and 10,000 volunteers.
NPR's Tom Goldman introduces us to one of those volunteers, a Londoner who still can't believe she's about to perform on the world's biggest stage.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Let's start with your name and title, please.
SASHA FEACHEM: You want me to be Sasha or Alexandra?
GOLDMAN: Be who you want to be.
FEACHEM: OK. So, my name is Alexandra. No, I don't know. Do I want to be Alexandra? Hold on a second. I can't decide.
GOLDMAN: Let's give Sasha Feachem a pass, OK? By the way, she finally did decide to use the diminutive of her given name, Alexandra. We're not going to ride Sasha for fumbling the easiest part of an interview, because she's been through a nerve-jangling year, from snooty Londoner...
FEACHEM: I actually thought it was a bit of a rubbish idea that the Olympics were coming to London.
GOLDMAN: ...and self-described least-sporty person on the planet...
FEACHEM: I was always the fat child at the back of every gym class sobbing because they were trying to make me to do something on some bars somewhere or climb a rope, and I never even got off the ground.
GOLDMAN: ...to one of 1,400 proud performers doing an urban street dance in what Feachem calls the most complicated segment of tonight's opening ceremony, in front of the world.
FEACHEM: I think it's a tremendous honor. It hasn't really hit me until the last couple of weeks when we've been rehearsing at the stadium. And I'm also a huge megalomaniac. So the thought of three billion watching, obviously, has been a massive plus for me.
GOLDMAN: Actually, the world TV audience is estimated at around a billion, but who's counting? And who would have thought a 39-year-old BBC radio science producer would audition for the event as a bet with a friend, make the first cut, then show up for a second audition surrounded by scads of 18 to 20-year-olds, all of them, Feachem says, clearly dancers.
FEACHEM: I mean, they had, like, leg warmers on. They had these huge headphones on. They were, like, grooving out as they waited. I mean, it was like something out of "Fame." Like, oh, dear Lord, what am I doing here?
GOLDMAN: We forgot to mention: Feachem says she was a keen dancer as a child, and evidently keen enough at the second audition. She made the cut.
GOLDMAN: Outside the Olympic Stadium this week, the thousands of opening ceremony performers paraded by on the way to one of their final dress rehearsals. It was a sight. There were costumes that looked like David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, odd wigs and makeup that conjured up memories of that freaky "Star Wars" cantina scene. And there was Feachem.
FEACHEM: How are you?
GOLDMAN: I was hoping I'd see you.
FEACHEM: I have to keep up with my bum.
GOLDMAN: You look great.
FEACHEM: Thank you.
GOLDMAN: I have no words to describe you.
FEACHEM: Pink hair - I look like Madonna, circa 1982, right?
GOLDMAN: Feachem moved on to rejoin her urban street dance buddies as an Olympics volunteer hurried over to the scene of our brief chat.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You're not allowed to do any interviewing, by the way, mate. Just to let you know.
GOLDMAN: A stark reminder that amidst the fun, I was not particularly welcome there. It has been a mission of organizers and volunteers to keep secret as many as the ceremony's details as possible. It's been tough, with that nosy British press already unearthing morsels, according to their sources, such as the epic Mary Poppins vs. Voldemort smackdown, the nurses and children performing a bed dance in honor of Britain's National Health Service, the rumored finale of Paul McCartney singing "Hey Jude." For the most part, Sasha Feachem, a self-admitted blabbermouth, has stuck by the code of silence - for the most part.
FEACHEM: I can tell you I'm facing the queen on the night, facing the important box.
GOLDMAN: You best not have a bland look on your face, then. Are you prepared to smile?
FEACHEM: No, that's a worry. What do you think an urban street dance expression is? I think you're supposed to be a bit mean and moody. I haven't quite mastered it yet.
GOLDMAN: Best hurry, Sasha Feachem - only hours to go. Tom Goldman, NPR News, London.