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British Tamil youth take centre stage at London 2012 Olympics

Six times gold medallist and Britain's most successful Olympian Chris Hoy and British Tamil Nila Natkunan lead Team GB into the Olympic stadium at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics


Oscar winning director of the opening ceremony, Danny Boyle and Joel Joseph

Joel Joseph during his performance in the opening ceremony

Beach volleyball line judge, Mathiynan Nithiyananthan from Wembley

The much celebrated London 2012 Olympics was not just a spectator sport for the capital's Eelam Tamil youth. From volunteers, to games makers to performers and torch-bearers, they were embedded into the very fabric of the games.

The inclusion of the legendary music maestro Illaiyaraja's song 'Nanthaan Ungappanda' from the 1981 Kamal Hassan film 'Ram Lakshman', to the playlist for the Parade of Nations at the opening ceremony was merely the beginning.

Hundreds of millions of viewers across the globe tuned to see Team Great Britain be led in at the opening ceremony's Parade of Nations, by Nila Natkunan.

The global audience watching the ceremony peaked at 950 million viewers, as plenty more young London Tamils took centre stage.

Kapilan Shanmuganathan and Joel Joseph both from East London, and Navadini Vijayakumar from Wembley were also part of the dazzling spectacle of the opening ceremony.

Well before the official opening, a number of Tamil torch-bearers heralded the games. Tamil torch-bearers included: Sam Ramsamy, Sivakumar Renganathan, Niresha Umaichelvan, Haresh Selvaskandan, and singer from the British boy-band, The Wanted, Siva Kaneswaran.

See this feature on website Tharmarai for more on the torch-bearers.

Several Tamil university students, such as Ragavi Nambiar and Mathiynan Nithiyananthan, spent their summer as one of the many volunteers that helped ensure the smooth running of the event.

Mathiynan, from Wembley, had the much coveted role of being a line judge at the women's beach volleyball gold medal match.

Speaking to Tamil Guardian, 28-year-old Kapilan expressed his pride in being able to take part in the opening ceremony:

“I really do feel proud to be able to represent both the Tamil community and Great Britain. Since most of my experience in dance has been from Tamil shows, it was great being able to take that experience to an international platform, especially one as huge as the Olympic Opening Ceremony.”

Joel Joseph, a 21-year-old audiology student at UCL who attended rehearsals during his end of year exams told Tamil Guardian:

“Being part of the opening ceremony was a privilege and a great honour. Being from East-London I was delighted to be selected for a role in the opening sequence. I was able to work with professional actors and dancers to create a great show for the world to see. It was one of the greatest spectacles that London has produced.

"I think it’s something special to our Tamil community that we are raised as all-rounders and despite the adverse reasons for being in this country, we have made the most of all the opportunities open to us to become well integrated and proud citizens of Great Britain.”

Despite the buzz and excitement of London 2012, Tamil youth remained critical of Sri Lanka's inclusion in the event.

Vethan Maria, a member of the hospitality team at Sportsmark, spoke to Tamil Guardian by Stratford High Street station, after visiting the Tamil hunger striker, Gobi Sivanthan, who held a 22-day protest at Sri Lanka's inclusion at the Olympics. 

Vethan who was on his way back from a shift at the Olympics site, and had dropped by to express his solidarity with Sivanthan, said,  

"As a young member of the Tamil Diaspora, it is awe-inspiring to see Mr Sivanthan's hunger strike during the Olympics.

"Seeing his sacrifices made me realise that there is always something we can do, however small the contribution might be.

"The Olympics have been massive for London, it has positively changed its atmosphere and its people however, the inclusion of Sri Lanka in these games, I believe, is unacceptable.

"It feels as though the whole world has condoned Sri Lanka's actions. I hope Sri Lanka will never be allowed to participate in any global event until justice has been served."

Dancers Navadini and Kapilan in costume ahead of the opening ceremony

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