More than 80 past and present Olympians gathered at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on Friday evening for the largest edition yet of the British Olympic Association’s Gold Ball.
But the glamorous entrance to the event was unusually marred by more than 20 anti-war protesters, who turned up unannounced on the hotel’s doorstep, around 30 minutes after the first guests arrived.
Police eventually marshalled the group off the street, but allowed them to continue their protest, featuring chanting and drumming, which some guests mistook for part of the entertainment.
The sportsmen and women – including five-time Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave and world champion heptathlete Jessica Ennis – joined more than 1,000 guests at the BOA’s annual gala.
The event was hosted by TV stars Amanda Holden and Ben Shephard and featured entertainment by Jamie Cullum and Mark Ronson.
The fundraiser saw the auction of training sessions with cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, gymnast Beth Tweddle and rugby union star Jonny Wilkinson.
Olympic gold medalist Amy Williams remarked: ”I was looking forward to the Sugababes, but they’re not coming – but it’s still a great event and great to be involved.”
Ennis said: ”2008 was a little bit of a bad year for me with my injury, so I kind of had a bit of down time away from the sport, so it’s nice to be here .125this time.375.”
Skier Chemmy Alcott added: ”I think the ball’s great, just because it’s a big fundraiser. It’s nice having a nice dinner and listening to some nice music is good too.”
England women’s hockey captain Crista Cullen said: ”I don’t think I have the money to bid on anything. I’ll just be taking it all in and I’m just really looking forward to the entertainment.”
Dual Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell said: ”It’s quite a special night for a lot of us who raced in Sydney, yesterday was a decade since we won there.”
Smith added: ”It’s nice, it’s not very often I get to wear a tuxedo, I’m usually wearing a leotard flipping around bars.”
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