Wednesday, 15 August 2012

London 2012 (part 2 - a volunteer's story)

Long (ish) ago - must be a couple of years at least - when I saw that they were looking for volunteers to help out at London 2012 I applied without thinking. I'd helped out at Euro 96 at Wembley - and the chance to be part of the biggest sporting event on the planet was something I leapt at in an instant.  Conveniently ignoring logistical issues such as work and childcare I sent off my form and waited to hear. Many months, one interview and lots of training later and I was ready to go.

Things I learned before the Games:

1)  That beige polyester slacks are extremely unforgiving.
2) An awful lot about gymnastics, given the bulk of my time was to be spent at the North Greenwich Arena (aka The O2 - or, if you are as slow to adapt to change as I am, the Dome) with a lot of extremely bendy and talented athletes.

With a media background it made sense to be doing a media role - in my case working with the Olympic News Service to get quotes from the gymnasts after their performances.

Nerve-wracking? Without a doubt, especially when many didn't speak English so it meant working with translators to get what we needed in the short time we had. There were plenty of occasions when I rued not keeping up my Russian - though at least I managed greetings and thank yous (in Italian, Japanese and Hebrew too...I'm a regular polyglot as long as you require nothing more than hello, goodbye, thank you and the numbers 1-10)

Highlights? Where do I start?! Walking out in my uniform every day and feeling so, so proud to be a part of it all. Getting to see amazing action that I would never have had the privilege of seeing otherwise.

Learning about gymnastics - artistic and rhythmic - and trampolining. Meeting fantastic people - from the team I worked with... medallists galore including Gaby Douglas (USA - gold in team and individual all-around), Beth Tweddle and Dmitry Ushakov (Russia - silver in trampoline). And oh the excitement of being only centimetres from that silver medal as he talked about his performance.

My uniform marked me out as a games maker wherever I was - be it at the arena, or en route on the tube or in the street. I had my photo taken with Brazilian football fans who wanted a souvenir of their trip (bless - trousers and all)...

...directed countless people on the underground and found myself answering all manner of queries.

(My favourite was at a suburban bus stop when an 80-something woman beckoned me over...then asked me could I find out what time the boxing started.)

The infectious enthusiasm of everyone from toddlers to pensioners was one of the best things of all.

But now my stint is over, my uniform laundered and stored away. I'm missing all of it (yes, even the slacks).

It was hard work, often tiring, sometimes stressful. It meant using up most of my holiday and begging countless favours from friends and family to look after small girl ("Oh mummy, are you Olympic-ing again?")

But was it worth it? Without a doubt. It was an honour and a privilege to be part of it - and I'd do the whole thing again in a heartbeat.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

London 2012 (part 1 - a spectator's view)

And so, bar the rest of the after show party, it's all over. I'm gutted.

There were lots of funny looks when we announced that this year we were having an Olympics staycation.

Not so many funny looks now.

Two amazing weeks. Watching history being made - on the telly and in the stadium. Hey, the sun even shone. I'll take that over a fortnight on a beach any day.

But this is only part of what the Olympics has been for me. As a volunteer (aka gamesmaker) I got to be part of it all as well - an incredible experience that will stay with me forever. That, however, is another story (to be told in part 2)

But first my highlights as a spectator:

First up watching Tom Daley in the synchronised 10m diving. He may have just been pipped to a medal but the crowd were amazing.

Just being in the Olympic Park was brilliant too. Superb organisation. Brilliant atmosphere. Every flag you can imagine with Union Jacks everywhere you looked. Some more, er, prominent than others.

The luck - oh the luck - of finding three £20 tickets on the Olympic website just a week before the Games opened and being able to take our girl to see the swimming heats. 

Small girl: (excitedly on the phone to my mum that night) "I went to watch the swimming at the Olympics."

Grandma: How exciting - where was it?

Small girl: Next to the toilets

Nonetheless, I think it's safe to say the occasion left its mark. When I found her howling at 3 o' clock this morning, it was apparently because "I can't decide if I'm going to be an Olympic swimmer or an Olympic gymnast when I grow up."

And it got even better. Lucky husband had got athletics tickets in the first ballot and to say he'd picked a good night is possibly something of an understatement.

I'd dressed the part...

...which was just as well because first we got this:

And then, rather unexpectedly, this:

And then the joy of cheering the magnificent Mo Farrah to victory in the 10,000m. 

Despite a sore throat from yelling and a nasty case of flag waver's shoulder it truly was a Super Saturday. Three gold medals for Team GB in 44 minutes and I was there. 

Even if I still can't quite believe it.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Silent Sunday (5th August)

One photo. Truly no words needed : )