The first day of competition was my last shift for four days. During the afternoon I kept an eye on the men’s cycling road race and was incredibly excited that the riders were going through ‘my part’ of London in an Olympic race! The following day I swapped roles from Games Maker to spectator and went to see the archery women’s team event.
By the time I was back at the Hilton a few days later, the competitions were in full swing and our role had evolved. In addition to selecting images for the gallery, we compiled as much information as possible about the pictured athletes and competitions. This saved valuable time for the caption writers and meant that pictures could be published more quickly. It was quite easy to identify cyclists, swimmers or runners because their names or starting numbers are visible. Other sports like diving, fencing and taekwondo proved much trickier and took a lot of time. Crawling through start lists and statistics is not everyone’s cup of tea, but finding and organising information comes natural to me and I enjoyed it.
The images we worked with were taken by professional photographers working for the IOC and were of very high quality. We often had to discard beautiful pictures in favour of a more balanced coverage of all the Olympic sports. The closeup shots caught the human emotions of high-performance sports perfectly and it was fascinating to learn more about sports that I wasn’t so familiar with. My favourite session was selecting images from the women’s football final at Wembley. I had been at the game the night before and was very pleased that I managed to identify most players without checking the teamsheets.
Although we worked in an office environment away from the venues, I felt very much part of the whole event. With two large TVs in our office we didn’t miss any of the action. Whilst the BBC coverage was obviously very focused on Team GB, we saw the live streams provided by the Olympic Broadcasting Service. There was always someone in the office watching their national medal hopes which made me realise how differently the Olympics are covered in other countries. In my breaks I chatted to other Games Makers in the canteen or around the hotel. It was great to be part of such a diverse group from all walks of life with very different motivations to be there. I met life long volunteers who are involved with their local sports clubs, students, pensioners, full-time mothers, NHS staff and even a Chartered Accountant. One day accreditations at the entrance to our office were checked by a recently retired head teacher who loved the fact that someone else told him what to do!
I didn’t see as much of the IOC members as expected. They were in and around the hotel regularly during the IOC Session but once the competitions started, they were out at the venues most of the time. Early on Prince Albert of Monaco, IOC member and former Olympian, walked around the staff offices to see how things were going. He was very down to earth and it was clear that he appreciated the contribution made by us volunteers and their own staff.
On another day Russian pole vaulter and double Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva, an Ambassador of the Youth Olympic Games, came into the office for an online chat on the website. When she finished, we managed to get a team picture with her.
I worked a total of 10 shifts over 19 days and time went by really quickly. Although I would have been happy with any other Games Maker role, I was particularly keen to look behind the scenes of such a large event and work within an international environment. I absolutely loved what I was doing and felt like a kid in a sweetshop, but I was also aware that not all Games Maker found their roles as exciting and fulfilling. I can’t remember how many times I was asked if we needed any help in our team as the role sounded so interesting!
I felt very sad to leave the Hilton at the end of my last shift on Saturday 11 August and couldn’t believe my luck the next day when I received a phone call from an IOC staff member to invite me to the closing ceremony! It was a mad dash to collect my ticket and get to the Olympic Park in time, but it was the perfect way to round off my Olympic adventure. The show was brilliant and I had tears in my eyes during the athletes’ thank you to Games Makers and when Seb Coe mentioned the volunteers in his speech. I thoroughly enjoyed being an Olympic volunteer and had a fantastic time ‘making the Games’!