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This is a guest post by my friend Ann, an account of her experience as a Games Maker at the London Olympics 2012
August 14th 2012, was the day my role as a Games Maker at the Paralympics became a reality. August 14th was the day I collected my uniform and accreditation. It was official ... I was official!
It has to be said, the uniform didn’t do me any favours. I only had to touch the material of the shirt and the jacket, and it was enough to bring on ‘the vapours’. Not a good start to an average 8 - 10 hour shift each day. Add to that the glorious late summer heat wave we had while the Paralympics were on, combined with travelling on hot, busy tube trains and the danger of a complete meltdown was a very real possibility!
I was a volunteer at The North Greenwich Arena, the venue for wheelchair basketball, on the Protocol Team. The NGA is normally known as the 02 Arena, but was re-named for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics, due to sponsorship reasons I believe. The last time I was there was in 2000, then it was known as The Millennium Dome!
The Protocol Team were designated to look after the members of the Paralympic Family. This could be anybody from participating countries’ Paralympic committee members to Royalty, Chefs de Mission for Athletics and Sports bodies, Sports Ministers, Heads of State etc. Normally I think they would be referred to as VIP’s!
There were about 40-50 Games Makers in the team, divided between two shifts. All my shifts started in mid to late afternoon, finishing between 11pm and 12.30am. This suited me, especially as I got to see the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal matches, and the medal ceremonies. The Women’s final was won by Germany and the Men’s by Canada.
Historically, wheelchair basketball is one of the best supported events at the Paralympics. It is an extremely fast sport, resulting in wheelchairs often tipping over, but athlete’s just right themselves and speed off again. Great to watch, especially with the volume of noise created by the spectators. During every time out period and half time there were presenters court side urging the crowd on.
I will never be able to listen to ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen again, without instantly being transported back inside the North Greenwich Arena ... the atmosphere was electric.
As to all those well known VIP’s? Sadly they were a bit thin on the ground. The only people I encountered whom I recognised were Ian Duncan Smith and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Apparently Matthew Pinsent and Boris Johnson made an appearance when I was off shift!
The working day consisted of long shifts, and if you weren’t lucky enough to have a chair handy, standing on your feet for all that time is very tiring. However the whole experience was one of sheer joy. The volunteers were happy to be there, giving freely of their time, and although you didn’t always get to see any sporting action, just that fact alone and being part of the Paralympics made it ok! One of the comments made afterwards by our team leader, was about how remarkable it was that although none of us knew each other beforehand, we all helped one another as and when it was required.
Finally I was lucky enough to be standing on The Mall which was reserved for Games Makers only, for the Athletes Parade through London on September 10th. This was a real treat, and we were able to see close up those athletes and their medals, who had made this such a memorable summer in London. I won’t forget it in a hurry.
I may volunteer for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 ... watch this space!