I know that at least three other women from Chorley went to the Olympics or Paralympics to be Gamesmakers. This was done completely at their own expense. They had to fund their own travel and accommodation although some meals were provided at the venue once the games had begun. We had to travel to London for “Orientation”, for “Role Specific” training, “Venue Specific” training, collection of uniform and accreditation and then to the games themselves, each on separate occasions incurring travelling expenses and sometimes accommodation. There were a lot of teenagers and retired volunteers as it was easier for them to give their time but there were Gamesmakers from Australia, Greece and China that I know of.
I was assigned to Work Force Operations for the Paralympics at The ExCel Stadium where Judo, Wheelchair Fencing, Boccia, Wheelchair and Standing Table Tennis, Powerlifting and, my favourite, Sitting Volleyball took place. I was lucky enough to have some hospitable friends living only 5 miles away in Woolwich, which is well served by the Docklands Light Railway and we were provided with an Oyster travel card for the duration of the games.
We were all checked in through Airport style security and then it was our job to provide meal vouchers and bottles of water to the other volunteers. There were buckets of Cadbury’s chocolates or Sainsbury’s chocolate brownies in the entrance and we regularly toured the venue giving them out to all and sundry. My shifts were 6 am to 2.15 pm or 1.45pm to 11 pm. The morning shift was busiest and the time flew by and we could go into the arena to watch some sport when our shift was over.
The athletes were so impressive with their keen competitiveness and their ability to overcome their difficulties. The Sitting Volleyball really captured my imagination. The team members removed their prosthetic legs for the game, some hopping on and off court when substitutions were made, and others crawling or moving on their stumps remaining. After the final handshakes their prosthetics were retrieved from a large container and refitted so that they could walk from the arena.
A highlight of the Volleyball was, whenever there was a break in play, four teenagers from a local school – two at each side of the court - dressed smartly in shorts and the Gamesmaker uniform, would clean the floor with broad cedar mops, skipping over them at one end and doing a circle at the other, all in complete unison and winning the applause of the crowd.
The events were well attended and the atmosphere throughout the venue was relaxed, cheerful and light-hearted. Fans from different countries dressed in stereotypical costumes of their country – the Dutch in orange from head to toe including the young woman in her wheelchair topped off by a huge orange bow in her hair; the French in striped jumpers, berets and draped in the tricolour – and then there was Sponge Bob Square Pants, Superwoman, Spiderman etc, etc, etc all actively supporting their teams.
Mealtimes saw the Gamesmakers, Security Staff, Police and Military uniforms mingling and a wide variety of accents and languages spoken. Because we were working, we probably saw less of the games than you at home but felt we had made a contribution to the success of the event and were rewarded by a replica of a relay baton at the end, and the youngsters’ can add the experience to their CVs. The athletes applauded us at the Closing Ceremony and from the floats at Monday’s parade and I had my photograph taken with Eddie Izzard! What a dream!
London was abuzz with excitement and camaraderie, which we all hope will continue