The road to London 2012 starts at Wembley

Wembley Park station

On this very cold Saturday in February London was preparing for the first snow of the winter. Despite the expected problems with roads and transport, I was one of thousands of Games Makers who attended the first orientation training in preparation for our role at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Wearing three jumpers, I made my way to Wembley Arena for an 8.30am start! In the invitation there was a choice of six sessions over the weekend. As my way to Wembley isn’t that far, I decided to go for the early Saturday option. This turned out to be a good choice as the snow didn’t arrive until Saturday night. The cold weather only caused some minor transport issues on Saturday whilst on Sunday morning a lot of people had trouble getting to their session.

The tubes were really quiet, but once I got out of Wembley Park tube station, there were hundreds of people with tired eyes walking towards Wembley Stadium. Given the temperatures, I was rather glad that the event was held at Wembley Arena next door!

The actual programme didn’t start until 10am but we had been urged to arrive in good time. I wondered if they would take measurements for the uniforms or if there would be any other administration tasks which would take some time to go through. In the end all I needed was my ticket and I was in my seat with 45 minutes to spare. Inside the arena there was the inevitable merchandising stand which seemed very popular. It didn’t interest me much as I had already browsed the London 2012 store at Heathrow airport some weeks ago.

Everyone was given a Games Maker Workbook which includes all sorts of practical information to read and has space for further brochures to be filed during future training sessions. One of the sections gave more details on the uniforms, which apparently will be fitted at a London distribution centre at a later stage. As part of the uniform we will get some unique adidas trainers made from recycled materials which won’t be available to buy anywhere!

Expectant crowd

A lot of people got there early and we started to talk about the areas we would work in and our motivations to be involved. This was really interesting and I was impressed by the colourful mix of people that will make up the Games Makers. There was someone who had come in from Bristol that morning and I heard a Canadian woman who now lives in London talking of her astonishment at the choas caused by the smallest amount of snow in London. The woman next to me told me that she is a teacher due to retire after this school year which means volunteering at the Olympics would be her first retirement activity!

The session started with a welcome from our host and former Olympian Jonathan Edwards and comedian Eddie Izzard who was involved in the advertising campaign. The more informative interviews were conducted by newsreader Huw Edwards and there were several sequences of a Games Maker TV programme which showed short videos of what life as a Games Maker at different venues could look like.

Throughout the event I felt that it represented a huge milestone for the people involved in organising the Games. There were interviews with the chair of the organising committee and former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, the head of human resources, people involved in the security operation and a rower who will compete in the Games. For all of them it was the first time that they had seen such a large crowd of Games Makers and their feelings seemed to range from being very impressed to being almost overwhelmed by seeing the fruits of their work. Of course this was the first of these events held and I guess they got used to it a bit more throughout the weekend.  I felt it was a nice touch as it made us aware of the individual efforts that have already gone into managing this huge operation.

I certainly enjoyed the event, got a better idea of how the training will proceed and it was great to meet other Games Makers for the first time. I didn’t meet anyone who will work in my team which isn’t surprising given the large number of people and the huge variety of roles we will have.

During the event we were reminded of the social media guidelines which we all had to agree to when we accepted our role. We have been asked not to disclose our specific location during the Games, give away any sensitive information relating to venue operations and the presence of athletes or VIPs and not to discuss our roles in detail online. I understand where they are coming from and think it is a reasonable request in the interest of safety and security. When I got home I saw several news reports about this event so I don’t see a reason not to write about it. I’ll write a bit more about the forthcoming training sessions, but they get more specific to our roles and venues and I’ll be careful with the amount of detail I include. I guess that’s all they expect.

When I left the Arena it almost felt like a match day at Wembley Stadium as there were thousands of people around who were either leaving the venue or had just arrived for the next session. Despite the freezing temparatures it was a very inspiring atmosphere!

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