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Black Brit gets ready to perform in Olympic opening ceremony

FLYING HIGH:Phil Francis shows his karate skills

A GRENADIAN-born karate instructor hopes to inspire black Britons by taking part in the Olympics opening ceremony later tonight (July 27).

Philip Francis volunteered as one of the main opening acts in the Olympics in the aim of giving give back to Britain and the black community.

Like other performers, Francis is keeping secret what he will do during the ceremony.

But he told The Voice : “The last thing I did for Britain was when I used to compete in Karate. I enjoyed representing my country and I thought that this would be a great opportunity to do that again.


IN OLYMPIC OPENING CEREMONY: Phil Francis

"From a West Indian perspective, sometimes we get stuck between two loyalties. Being British doesn’t mean I should ignore my heritage but it is in my benefit to have the country progress and have a better feeling of myself.

"I also believe I have to be an example because everybody is always looking for the negative aspects of the black character therefore whatever I do should be seen in a positive light,” he added.

The 50-year-old teacher emphasises the importance of the Olympics in tackling ignorance towards Britain’s black community.

“The Olympics is a reflection on British culture. People will be able to watch the event from other countries and see that there are different types of people in England.

"Our contribution to British society, as black people, has been massive but we tend to get stereotyped and It’s important to me to get the black community to realise that we can be black in many different and positive ways, you don’t have to be listening to rap music and wearing a chain,” he said.

Asked what he thought the Olympics meant for Britain’s wider community, the 50-year-old said: “I grew up in the East end. It has been massive regeneration of the area. I doubt Westfield shopping centre would have been built there if the Olympics weren’t on. It gives local people an opportunity to have a space around them that’s useable and hopefully can bring communities together."

He added: "I also think that with the recession, terrorism, the riots last year and stop and search people are under pressure. Hopefully, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks, the Olympics may lift peoples' spirits.”

Francis, who lives in Essex with his family, applied to participate in the opening ceremony in November last year. Organisers shortlisted then selected him to perform just before Christmas.

He recalled: “There were hundreds, probably a couple of thousand of people at rehearsal near Bromley by Bow. It was a three hour session. I was invited back for a second audition and before Christmas, they said I was accepted. It’s been fantastic. I even got to meet Danny Boyle.

"It’s also been a lot of hard work but the staff have been fantastic. I haven’t seen a miserable person and as a sportsman that has competed before, I’m excited and proud of the people that said they were proud to be British."

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