CANDI teacher set to carry the Queen’s Baton and officiate at Commonwealth Games

When former Team GB weightlifter Dyana Altenor received a call inviting her to carry the Queen’s Baton for the Commonwealth Games as part of the Platinum Jubilee, the memories of her career in what was considered a male-dominated sport at the time came flooding back.

Unfortunately, Dyana was judging a weightlifting a competition in Albania and was unable to join the royal celebrations, but to her surprise the opportunity presented itself again when she was invited to carry the baton at Tonbridge Castle in Kent on 7 July ahead of the Games, where she will be officiating in the weightlifting later this month.

Dyana, from Tower Hamlets, is a Lecturer in Public Services at City and Islington College (CANDI), which includes providing fitness training to students looking to get into the Armed Forces, emergency services, security, prison service and other related careers.  It’s not too a far cry from her start in sports development, supporting teams of boys to take part in the London Youth Games.

Determined to prove that she too could excel as a weightlifter, she sought advice from coach George Manners, who represented Great Britain at the 1960 Tokyo Olympics in the light-heavyweight category. After speaking with him, he told her, “Go for it, give it a go.”  

In 1962 and 1966, George had won silver medals at what was then called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Having the backing of someone who had competed at the highest level was a huge boost and Dyana wanted to emulate George’s success and bring home the medals.

Forty years ago, weightlifting was a predominantly male environment, and any female donning a weightlifting belt was often called a body builder. They were simply not recognised as a weightlifter, let alone a potential Olympic contender. Official forms of female strength sports didn’t come to the fore until powerlifting started in 1978. Women were only allowed to compete at the World Weightlifting Championships for the first time in 1987.

Undeterred, Dyana stepped forward to make her mark in the sport, and prove she was ready for the big stage. At times it was psychologically challenging, and the training was relentless, six days a week, whilst holding down a day job.

When Dyana competed in the Commonwealth Games in 2002, it was the first time women had competed in weightlifting in the Games. Now, 20 years later, she is heading back to officiate in Birmingham where 72 nations will be hoping to take home a clutch of medals.

After Dyana retired from competing she naturally progressed into officiating. Several colleagues, coaches and even the team doctor often suggested she do the training, which takes five years to become an international referee.

Armed with the weapons to succeed, not least her vast experience and knowledge, it was the obvious next step. Her passion, dedication and love of the sport never waned, and she knew her life would always feature weightlifting in one way or another.

“Officiating is incredibly exciting, from the moment you arrive at the venue you can sense the anticipation hanging in the air, and the atmosphere when the crowds get involved is something I will never forget,” she said.

“Each competitor has three attempts at the snatch, and the clean and jerk for each of the weight divisions. If their arms are bent, and not fully locked out, it’s a no-lift.  Any overruling must be decided by a jury to ultimately make the final decision.”

Dyana is looking forward to refereeing in Birmingham later this month, the third Commonwealth Games to be hosted in England following London in 1934 and Manchester in 2002. Team GB have some impressive female talent in the weightlifting, and Dyana is hoping to see the likes of Emily Campbell, Fraer Morrow, Zoe Smith and Deborah Alawode on the podium.

“They’re a young team, but we have Emily leading the pack, I think they will do well for us,” she said.

Being back at the Commonwealth Games will be an emotional occasion for Dyana, a flashback to her first Games in 2002 when she couldn’t quite understand how she had got to that stage. She recalls that she had an overwhelming feeling of doubt – could she do it and was she good enough? She remembers realigning her mindset, telling herself she could do it, she had put in the hours, done the brutal training regime, and deserved to be there.

On being invited to carry the Queen’s Baton, Dyana said: “I was surprised when I received the call. I had been nominated, although the nomination was anonymous, I will never know who put my name forward, but it’s such an honour and I will carry the baton with pride.”

After a couple of challenging years enduring the pandemic, Dyana is ready to snatch the chance to be back in front of the weightlifting stage, doing what she does best.

Dyana is also a proud member of our Public Services lecturing team – helping students learn the skills to secure well-paid jobs in the public services. These are some of society’s most essential roles, including the police, ambulance, paramedics, the fire service, the prison service and the Armed Forces. 

Our courses provide a comprehensive overview of how these services are run, giving you the knowledge and skills needed to work in the sector.

Find out more about Public Services courses and apply here.

From royal visits to punk: Celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at Capital City College Group

To mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee we’ve trawled the Capital City College Group (CCCG) archives to uncover our many connections to Her Majesty at our colleges.

Here’s some royal highlights, memories and trivia from City and Islington College (CANDI), Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing) and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

The Queen visits CANDI’s Centre for Applied Sciences

Pictures courtesy of Islington Tribune.

Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited the college’s Centre for Applied Sciences in 2011. During the visit the Queen unveiled two plaques marking the official opening of the college’s Animal Care Centre and an accreditation by the National Skills Academy Process Industries which recognised the college as a Centre of Excellence for Biotechnology. Her Majesty got up close to some of the animals at the care centre and was given a tour of the college’s forensics, optics and sports science provision, which included a mock crime scene being investigated by students.

In 2007, CANDI received theQueen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for creating Pathways to Employment and Higher Education in the Sciences, the only college at the time to have received this accolade twice. The college previously received the award for widening access and progression to higher education in 1994.

Royal seal of approval for WestKing

WestKing was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for collaboration and innovation in the culinary arts in 2015.

The awards are presented every two years to universities and colleges that have shown excellence in quality and innovation in providing real benefits to the world through education and training.

At the time, then Principal Andy Wilson said: “The award of the prize to Westminster Kingsway College is one of the greatest moments in the college’s long history. It is recognition of many staff, students and employers who have been involved with the college over the years.”

In 2016 a plaque commemorating the award was unveiled at the college’s Victoria Centre.

Queen’s New Year and Birthday Honours

Here are some of our staff and alumni who have been honoured by The Queen over the years:

  • Jamie Oliver – The celebrity chef and restauranteur trained at WestKing and made an MBE in 2003 for services to the hospitality industry.
  • Trevor Nelson – The DJ and radio presenter on BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Radio 2 who attended WestKing, was awarded an MBE in 2002.
  • Timothy Spall – The Bafta-nominated actor, known for his many screen roles including five Harry Potter films, attended WestKing and received an OBE in 2000.
  • Garth Crooks – The former Tottenham Hotspur striker and BBC football pundit studied at CONEL and was awarded an OBE in 1999.
  • Audley Harrison – The British former super-heavyweight boxer and Olympic gold medallist attended CONEL and was awarded an MBE in 2001 
  • Pablo Lloyd – The CEO of Visionnaires, a programme started within CCCG, to help aspiring entrepreneurs start new businesses, was made an OBE in 2019.

God Save The Queen

Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Lydon, better known by his stage name Johnny Rotten, and bassist Sid Vicious, real name John Ritchie, attended WestKing before finding fame with their anti-royal punk anthem God Save The Queen. Released during the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, the song was banned at the time by the BBC and several commercial radio stations.

Actress and former WestKing student Kathy Burke, perhaps best known for her TV appearances on French and Saunders, and Harry Enfield and Chums, appeared briefly in the 1986 biopic Sid and Nancy about Sid Vicious’s turbulent relationship with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. She has also played a queen on the big screen, portraying Mary Tudor in Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett in the title role.

Artist and fashion designer Tony Mott, who also attended WestKing, is also a punk historian famous for his Mott collection, an archive of UK punk rock and political ephemera that includes over 1,000 posters, flyers, and fanzines featuring bands including the Sex Pistols, The Slits and The Damned.

Many congratulations Your Majesty from everyone at CCCG.

Queen's Award for Enterprise