‘A summer like no other’ claimed the strap line.
‘A summer like no other’ claimed the strap line. You can say that again: people actually talking to each other on the tube, Londoners smiling on their commute to work because there is no traffic, policeman willing to swop hats and have silly photos taken and tube drivers giving witty comments at every stop and in between. Welcome everyone to London 2012.
I was lucky to be involved with this sport festival as both a Games Maker and a London Ambassador. The former helps the people who run the Games and the latter helps those, both tourists and locals to enjoy them. I think I can safely say both sets of volunteers have been much appreciated by all parties concerned – and that the volunteers themselves have been very proud to be doing their jobs.
When I applied to help at London 2012 I decided to apply for both jobs in the hope that I would get through one of the interviews to help be a part of the Games in London and be able to give something back to this fabulous city. After a PR team from the Olympic Press Operations arrived at university to show us how we could be involved as Games Makers, I was hooked. I nearly didn’t attend the meeting – what a shame that would have been. To cut a long story short I applied, months later had an interview at Excel (where our very own Nicola Adams would be attaining her gold medal in women’s boxing just over a year later) and then found out in the December of 2011 that I had a place working with the Press Operations as a Workroom Team Member in the media centre at North Greenwich Arena (NGA). This was the venue for Artistic Gymnastics and Trampolining, followed by the Basketball finals. I was to be part of a team who would welcome journalists and photographers into the centre, help with their lockers and any questions that needed answering during their time at the Arena. This ranged from “Where can I get something to eat?” or “What time is the last bus back to my hotel?” through to “Where is the press conference and am I entitled to film when I am in there?” In fact the questions came in thick and fast and sorting them was only part of the job. We also got to help in the mixed zone (where the athletes come off the field of play and speak to the press) and in Press Conferences. My job during these was to crawl around on my knees keeping out of the camera shots whilst handing a microphone to enquiring journalists. This was one of my favourite aspects. Not least because we got to get close to the athletes wearing not just their medals but (particularly in relation to our Men’s Gymnastic team) the widest smiles I have seen. I will never forget listening to Louis Smith as he spoke so graciously about his medal wins.
Back in the press room there was never a dull moment. The tables had to be kept tidy, (can you imagine how much coffee and coke gets drunk by journo’s during a two week period?) Lost property needed filing and uniting with its owner and T.V’s were to be keep on the correct screen. Not always easy when hundreds of journalists from different countries are trying to cover separate sports. Although the Gymnastics were at the Arena, being sports journalists they were covering many different parts of the games. My favourite moment regarding the T.V.’s came when a foreign journalist asked me to put the shooting on one of the screens. I was unable to find it and asked my colleague for help. “This gentleman needs shooting.” I said. She looked at me with raised eyebrows and a wry smile and we both tried to hide our grins as we realised what I had said. The poor man looked on confused. Alas not even the BBC were showing the shooting at that time; and even though we had been unable to help him he was appreciative of our efforts. In fact we had many people thank us and tell our Manager that the volunteers had been a huge help throughout the Games. The people I worked with came from diverse backgrounds ranging from students like myself to teachers and broadcasters. We had a great camaraderie and were all there to help deliver an efficient Games. Without exception we had the time of our lives. One evening after the mad rush had died down our manager said we could, barring one person, go home as she didn’t need us all. None of us wanted to leave. In the end we had to draw straws to see who would be going home. I think that sums up how much we were enjoying ourselves. I’ve had a few paid jobs in my time and that has never happened in any of my workplaces. Mind you, I can’t remember being told I could ever leave early.
Half way through my Games Maker role I was shifted to work as a London Ambassador. These volunteers were part of Team London, rallied together by Boris ‘dangling’ Johnson and I had been offered these shifts back in September 2011. It was a shame that the rotas clashed but I was able to work at both, one evening hanging up my pink and purple Ambassador uniform at nine o’clock, getting changed into my purple and poppy one and travelling onto a late shift at the NGA.
The Ambassador role was at Victoria Park, Hackney and involved being available to answer any question put our way. We had pink ‘pods’ where the public could come in and find out anything they wanted to about the Olympics and beyond! We also moved around the park answering questions and pointing people in the right direction to trains and busses as well as the correct big screen to watch the Olympics on. The team were fun to work with and we all had our own skills that we brought to the job. The atmosphere in the park was incredible. There were people from all countries, including thousands of locals, enjoying London and what it had to offer. My favourite moment was when a woman spoke to me about how she would like to bottle the occasion; all the different nationalities brought together in the park watching the sport and cheering each other on. No racism, no trouble, all being as one. She wanted to show the world how wonderful London can be.
And that really was the reason I volunteered in the first place. To give something back to one of my favourite cities and help show it off to the world. It comes in for stick most of the time. I’d like to think local and globally London has been seen as the city it deserves to be. This Olympic spirit needn’t go away just because the athletes have returned home. For a start we have the Paralympics – and I for one cannot wait. I shall be back in my role at NGA media centre and wearing my uniform with immense pride. Go GB- all over again! Let’s make every summer like this summer.