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An Olympic medallist who works for Cumbria County Council played a starring role in Friday’s London 2012 Opening Ceremony. In front of 80,000 people in the Olympic Stadium and a global audience of billions watching on television, Neil Eckersley, a Kendal-based family worker in Children’s Services, took part in a parade of past British Olympic medal winners as the 2012 Games got underway in style.
Neil, 48, represented Great Britain at Judo in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympics, winning a bronze medal in LA.
With the Olympics taking place in the UK, past British medal winners were honoured by parading into the Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony, with Neil being one of those asked to attend.
Neil, who lives in Lancaster and has worked for Cumbria County Council since 2005, said: “It was very emotional to be involved in something so big and so special – it was a fantastic feeling.
"I already knew what it was like to compete and even win a medal in the Olympics with having taken part as a competitor in Los Angeles and Seoul but being involved with an opening ceremony in my own country in front of a British crowd was something I’ll never forget.
"It was also great to be alongside some of the best Olympians of all time from Great Britain teams past and present.
"The atmosphere inside and around the Olympic Stadium was just electric and words cannot describe the pride I felt in being part of this once in a lifetime event."
While his days as an Olympic competitor are now over, Neil is still heavily involved in the sport he loves and has been a key figure in the development and growth of Judo in the UK.
He combines his work at Cumbria County Council with his role as the Assistant Area Technical Director for the North West Judo Association where he updates and modifies coaching standards as well as being a member of the British Schools Judo Commission contributing to the strategic direction of Judo in schools.
Apart from a trip to watch the Judo at Athens 2004 though, London 2012 will be the first Olympic Games Neil has been involved in since competing in Seoul 1988.
“I’m still just as involved with Judo now as I was when I was competing internationally so my passion for the sport is as strong as ever and I loved feeling part of an Olympic Games again,” said Neil.
"I’m actually going to be away on holiday for most of the Olympics but as a massive supporter of Team GB’s Judo players and Team GB in general I can guarantee I’ll be absolutely glued to the television cheering on our boys and girls.”