Posts Tagged ‘Athletes Parade’

A link to my web album with the accompanying story below:
London 2012
Aug 9, 2012
by Gareth James
It caught my imagination from the moment Jacques Rogge said ‘the games of the 30th Olympiad are awarded to the city of London’. I’m not really a sports fan, but I adore my adopted city and welcoming the world seemed very exciting.

Six years later I was still excited and enthused, applying for Games Maker and London Ambassador roles and Olympics & Paralympics tickets. After impressive interview processes and less impressive ticket application processes, I got roles and tickets for both – a London Ambassador on the South Bank during the last weekend of the Olympics, a morning of Olympic athletics in the stadium, a Games Maker in the Olympic Park for 10 days during the Paralympics and three Paralympics sessions – cycling in the Velodrome, goalball in the copper box and swimming in the Aqua Centre. Turned on to the Orbit by a BBC4 documentary, I added a ticket to go up to complete my London 2012 plans.

There were two sets of training and two sets of uniform and accreditations to collect, but the first perk came before I’d done anything – an invitation to the rehearsal of the Olympic opening ceremony. We didn’t get it all but we got most of it. My front row seat probably wasn’t the best for such a spectacle, but my eyes stayed wide and my mouth stayed open for the whole thing. Brilliantly British and brilliantly bonkers. What a privilege. I even managed to ‘keep the secret’ for four days.

Ten days later I entered the Olympic Park for the second time for the athletics. There were no finals or medals but the atmosphere was terrific and when Team GB ran in the Men’s 4 x 400 relay the place erupted as if it was the final. It was a beautiful day and my walk through the park was glorious. Three iconic permanent buildings – the Stadium, the Velodrome & the Aqua Centre (well, when they take the seating ‘wings’ away) – with The Orbit, superb landscaping, sculptures, gorgeous ‘wild’ flowers everywhere, the River Lea running right through, the copper box with its giant RUN outside and six temporary venues wrapped in pink and blue.

Three days on the South Bank followed, giving advice and information to visitors in a ridiculous pink and plum uniform! A little uneasy at first, I got into my stride as the sun brought out the crowds and people asked questions and stopped to say thanks. Three sunny days and a great spot helped and on the third day we could see and hear the marathon as it made it’s way along the north embankment of the Thames opposite us a few times.

My next view of the Olympic Park was from the air as the flight returning me from ten days in Scotland approached CityAirport with the park on the left. The following morning I was walking through the gates in a more fetching maroon and orange uniform to begin my 10 days in Workforce Operations (a sort of HR) at the north of the park where the Velodrome, BMX Track and Basketball Arena are grouped. The BMX track was not used in the Paralympics and the Velodrome only for four days, but the BBA was busy with basketball then wheelchair rugby. This first day was during ‘the transition’ and walking through the park with no spectators was a unique experience and later, on the way home, full of anticipation and a little bit emotional.

We were ‘behind the scenes’ checking in Games Makers and dishing out meal vouchers, newsletters, quizzes, water and chocolates and answering questions. We got out though, as we researched and wrote stories for the daily newsletter and took it in turns to do ‘chocolate runs’ keeping other volunteers happy whilst catching some of the action. With 8-9 hour shifts and a 3-hour round-trip journey, it was quite exhausting and the social life was shot to pieces, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The atmosphere in the park was terrific with lots of excited families and school groups, almost everyone with some red white & blue – some outrageously funny.

At the end of the last session in the BBA we were led into the Arena for photos and thanks from the managers and, in a lovely gesture, the losing Canadian wheelchair rugby team stayed on to add their thanks. As we walked out of the park after this, the audience for the closing ceremony was walking in; another emotional moment.

The following afternoon, having persuaded a client to bring forward meeting times, I made it to The Mall to join other volunteers watching the final stage of the Athletes Parade. Another great atmosphere, with us congratulating them and them thanking us.

I think in the end I was glad I was at the Paralympics; it suited my values more. Watching the cool British wheelchair rugby team (a man with a blue mohican and a woman with red hair!) mobbed by kids wanting autographs and photos, crowds in the Velodrome making as much noise as they did in the Olympics and bucketloads of goodwill and warmth all over the place. They crowds were partisan, but they’d cheer the opponents loudly too and if there was no GB presence they’d just adopt another country altogether. They were really cheering the spirit of it all.

When you were in uniform, people would spontaneously come up and say thanks – on the bus, in the theatre and just before the Athletes Parade, a Waterloo station worker came up and asked if he could shake my hand. I can’t remember whether it was the Olympics or the Paralympics now, but that Sydney Eric the Eel moment 12 years ago was repeated in London 2012 as a man from Djibouti came in 7 minutes after the previous runner because he had to finish as he was the only competitor from Djibouti. 80,000 people rose to their feet and cheered as if he was Usain Bolt breaking the world record in the 100 metres.

That was us. GB at its best. Very proud.

Read Full Post »