#110 – Volunteer at the Olympics/Paralympics

‘Long hours, no pay and a mandatory cheery smile…
why do people want to be London 2012 volunteers?’
Jenny Minard

Back in 2010, before I had even celebrated my 16th birthday, my Dad spoke to me one weekend about applying to be a London 2012 Games Maker. He had seen an article in the local newspaper about it and had done all the research for me – obviously he was very aware that 15yo me wouldn’t really have done anything about it – and all that was needed to be done was to fill out the application form.

Fast forward to January 2012 and I was invited to have both a first and second interview at the London 2012 HQ as part of the 100,000+ strong candidacy search that had been whittled down from an initial 200,000+.

A couple of months later the news then came through, I was one of the luck 70,000 volunteers to be selected to be involved at London 2012!

The wait to find out what my role would be, and when I would be volunteering was frustrating. Training days came and went, including an invitation to Wembley Arena where I – along with some others – ended up singing ‘Final Countdown’ whilst wearing silly wigs and holding inflatable musical instruments, however I still didn’t know where I would be based. In fact, there were several weeks where I thought that LOCOG – the organising committee – would withdraw my application!

That was, however, until they invited me back down to London to be measured for my volunteering uniform. Then, as July creeped ever nearer, I was informed that I would be a ‘wayfinder’, one of the many Games Maker volunteers with the pink sponge hands guiding the crowds through Stratford up to the gates of the Olympic Park (also known as the ‘Last Mile’).

Although I was not rostered for the Olympics, I was fortunate enough to be involved for the entire duration of the Paralympics. Despite the commute, hot days, and long hours, the experience was absolutely incredible, filled with memories that I cling too tightly, even today.

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My team for working ‘The Last Mile’ during my last few days as a London 2012 volunteer

Volunteering at the Paralympics left me with so many amazing memories that it is hard to discuss them all without going on about it for hours on end. For one thing, I worked the night shift during the Paralympic closing ceremony. Although our team was outside the gates of the Olympic Park, we had first class seats for the fireworks the celebrated the games end. Once the crowds were dispersed, our evening didn’t stop as we headed to the Games Makers after-party, celebrating until way after the sun had come up.

There was also the day that I was relieved of my duties and given a ticket to watch the track and field events inside the Olympic Stadium, an absolutely breath-takingly magical event!

However, my dearest memory will forever belong to the Kazakh-born German Paralympian Heinrich Popow. Probably an unfamiliar name to those outside of Germany, Popow won the T-42 100m gold medal at London 2012. However, it was a gesture once he had exited Olympic Park that has resulted in his name being etched into my brain.

On the day he won gold I was working one of the high chairs with a megaphone. A member of his entourage came up to my station and asked if I would announce that Popow had won gold when he passed me, as it would mean a great deal to the athlete. Without hesitation I obliged, and the smile that beamed from his face as I announced his presence spoke a thousand words. People flocked towards him to offer their congratulations and take a photo with him. After 5 or so minutes his entourage tried to move him on, however he refused to leave until he had had the chance to thank me, and for me to get a photo with him.

It was the cherry on top of an already overwhelming experience that I am saddened ever had to come to an end.

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Myself and Heinrich Popow, T-42 100m Gold Medallist

 

To see my complete bucket list, click here

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