Experiences of an Olympics volunteer
Why have you volunteered for the Olympics?
At the beginning of every Volunteer, or Gamesmaker as we are now known, role training session, we are asked to share with each other, “what inspired you to volunteer?” So I thought I’d first explain why I volunteered; I guess I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, I was a school governor when my children were at Grange Park Primary, and am currently Vice Chair at Paddington Green Primary school. I also volunteer locally in Grange Park for the Conservation Area group and help with a small group of volunteer gardeners looking after our local Grange Park station. So when the opportunity to volunteer for the Olympics came along in 2010 I was one of the 260,000 who originally signed up.
I started as a SEV (Selection event volunteer) at Excel in February 2011, and by the time we finished in March 2012 we had interviewed some 100,000 potential volunteers. Selection and assignment to roles is still going on. In October last year I also started as a Trailblazer volunteer at Event Services Training & Communications team for LOCOG at Canary Wharf. Then in February this year I started as a TEV (Training event volunteer), helping to deliver just a bit of the 1.2 million hours of training! For me this incredible journey continued last week helping as a Workforce Ops Team Leader at the Shooting Test Event at the Royal Artillery Barracks (RAB), but more about that in a minute. My Gamestime roles will be a Workforce Ops Team leader at the Aquatics Centre for the Olympics and also at RAB for the Paralympic Shooting and Archery, helping to look after the many other categories of Olympic volunteers, of which there are 75,000 in all!
I also wanted to be part of the Olympics because I used to row a lot on the Thames at Putney, but my competitive and active days are long over so this is a good way of giving something back, and also because living in London I want everyone to have the best possible experience whether they are lucky enough to be spectators, are athletes and officials taking part, are out and about in London or like many of us are watching the Games at home on TV. In addition I wanted a new experience myself, to learn new things and to meet new people. So far, most those ‘boxes’ have been ticked and there are still another few months to go until it’s all over at the end of the Paralympics on the 9th September!
I’ve done 17 training sessions so far, mostly at Hackney College and City Edge in Hackney. I am enjoying the experience of meeting so many other volunteer Gamesmakers and helping them on their journey. I’m learning so much about the numerous different departments or Functional Areas as they are known, including medical, transport, logistics, security, anti doping, event services, technology and catering, to name just a few.
I enjoy chatting with as many Gamesmakers as I can before starting a training session, and finding out as much about them as possible, particularly how far they’ve travelled. I know we’ve had volunteers travelling from Australia and Philadelphia USA for their training, as well as Helsinki, Amsterdam, and Barcelona, but for me the two young women who impressed me the most were the ones who travelled down from Glasgow on the overnight bus for 10 hours for £5, making sure they would be back for work and college the next day! That’s real dedication for you!
I was also very amused when running a training session at the UDAC, or Uniform and Accreditation Centre, where we will all go to collect our gear, when talking to the volunteers about the importance of being honest with others, and a lady gave me the example of helping someone to try on their uniform – if a volunteer asks the all important question “Does my bum look big in this!”, then you should tell them the truth!
What advice do you give to those volunteer Gamesmakers going through their 2012 journey now?
Simple, between now and their next event, which could be their role training, their venue training or their first shift for their assigned role, they should keep in contact with the London2012 website; read up as much as they can about the 36 different sports and over 30 sporting venues. As Gamesmakers will be in their uniform from the time they leave home, any of them could be asked any question by anyone, anywhere at any time – so be prepared and make sure you are ready to give your best and perform the job of a lifetime, and finally to have some fun!
Volunteering at the Shooting Test Event, RAB
As I write this we’ve just finished 10 days of competition at the Shooting Test Event at the Royal Artillery Barracks (RAB) Woolwich; officially it’s the ISSF (International Sport Shooting Federation) World Cup and it’s the first time ever a combined Shooting World Cup has taken place in the UK. It wasn’t a ticketed event open to the public, but there were over 800 athletes on the venue from 70 countries around the world, competing in the three main disciplines of Pistol, Rifle and Shotgun. Shooting has been part of the Olympic Games since Athens in 1896, and this is the first time the venue will be in the hosting City and that all disciplines have been on one site. 75,000 clay targets were used during the test event; and the last time live pigeons were used was in Paris in 1900!
The original Royal Artillery Barracks were built in 1776 and it’s been their headquarters for over 200 years until its relocation in 2007. The ODA obtained planning consent in February 2010 to construct a new temporary venue for the Olympic Shooting, Paralympic Shooting and Archery events. After the Games the 10/50m and 25m ranges and shot net will go to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games; the large final hall is likely to remain in Greenwich. The dramatic temporary halls have been nick named ‘Teletubby Land’ and the site will be returned to Woolwich Common once the Games are finished.
Although the site isn’t fully ready for Gamestime, it is nevertheless amazing with the huge modern sporting halls and all the essential facilities and functional areas in place. There are twice as many shooting athletes on venue over the ten days of competition, with over 800 compared to the 390 there will be during the Olympics and 140 for the Paralympics.
It was very wet and cold for the volunteers during much of the competition and we were soon handing out ponchos for the worst weather conditions; as with earlier winter test events, getting used to coping with the wet and cold was a key aspect for most volunteers, learning to “layer up”. I had six layers on most days but at least I was dry and warm! Also learning to cope with long shifts of up to ten and twelve hours, sometimes busy, sometimes slack, often on your feet all day sometimes with delayed lunch breaks at 3pm, were all part of the challenge and the fun!
As this wasn’t a ticketed event, with just a few spectators from family and friends and a few local residents from Woolwich, there wasn’t quite the atmosphere that I had experienced at other Test Events I’d been to as a spectator, but nevertheless the venue was very busy particularly with athletes which is what it was all about really.
On Sunday 22nd April it was Marathon day, and I’d like to say it dawned bright and sunny, but for me it ‘dawned’ at 3.30am as I had to get two night buses from Masons Corner to Manor House then to Aldgate, and then the DLR to Woolwich, as there were no early trains, so I could get to the RAB by 6.30am. The night buses were a new experience for me and I must say I was impressed; they were clean and very fast with no other traffic on the roads. At least I know now I’ll be able to get to my first Paralympic shifts for 5.15am at RAB!
After my tasks were finished I went to watch the marathon runners; they ran on a roadway right through the middle of the Shooting venue, so we had our own ringside seats! First the women elite runners and then the wheelchairs then the men elites, they were all so fast. Then the thousands and thousands of runners, they were very impressive, all with big hearts and some with aching limbs already, and they’d only done a couple of miles! It was an amazing spectacle and I’m glad I saw it, and even though it was pre planned it still had some athletes from around the world scratching their heads in bewilderment that this could be allowed to happen in their sporting venue!
It was a great experience and I look forward to the real thing in just under three months time! If there any other N21 volunteers out there, then do get in touch, and maybe we can help to line the roadway, as the Olympic Torch comes through N21 on the afternoon of 25th July?