I have just finished working in the, now famous, purple Games Maker uniform as the unofficial ‘face of the games’ (Event Services) at the Olympic Park. It is now time for me to share with you some of my memorable moments that I will never forget.
My role was full of smiles, high fives, and as Boris Johnson said, in his speech during the Victory Parade, causing “tube train passengers to break into spontaneous conversation”. I have been honoured and blessed to have been given such a fantastic opportunity, at what was undoubtedly one of the best Olympic and Paralympic Games ever and I am hugely proud to have been a part of it.
I do not remember hearing the news that we had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (as I was just 16 then) and did not give it much thought until I started my Event Management degree at The University of Winchester 3 years ago.
After securing a place on the Paralympics Event Services team at the Olympic Park I then started on the journey through the training sessions; orientation, role and venue specific. When the day came for me to pick up my uniform, the Olympics had already started and London was buzzing with excitement with the bonus of the summer sun.
In the days leading up to the Paralympics I headed back to London for my venue specific training, giving me my first glimpse of the Park which was to become my home in 2 weeks. My Manager was a bundle of enthusiasm, which was incredibly infectious, and by the end of the tour I couldn’t wait for it all to begin. Impatiently I waited for day 1; the new friends, the spectators and the opening ceremony.
Day 1 began with me feeling slightly nervous but I put on my uniform with pride and headed for Stratford. On arrival the park was eerily quiet but that soon changed as the gates finally opened and spectators made their way down the bridge towards the stadium. The fun was just beginning; the ticket scanning, the spectator interaction with directions, questions and taking their photograph. Once the spectators had taken their seats teams of Games Makers lined the route the athletes took for the parade into the Stadium. There was certainly excitement in the air with the anticipation of Paralympics GB.
With the Olympic Park Common Domain area covering 2.5 square kilometres it was split into different areas and thankfully we were moved around daily so we got the chance to see the entire park. One of the busiest areas, a lot of people’s favourite, was Stratford Gate as it involved using the ticket scanners as spectators came through security. I enjoyed working there but felt I thrived more in the open areas such as Orbit Circus and Britannia Row. However, a huge highlight of working on Stratford Gate was during the evening egress as the Games Makers would form a high five line and the spectators loved it on their way out of the park. It really kept a buzz in the air all the way down the bridge. Everyone joined in from children running, being pushed in buggies and from their parents shoulders, along with adults, spectators on mobility scooters, wheelchairs and the Army. It seemed we had become a tourist attraction as spectators wanted to have photos with us, it was like a group of Games Makers were celebrities.
One issue we passed on to the organisers was that the spectators knew the areas by their names, e.g. Orbit Circus, the Games Makers spoke in colours, and the management knew the areas as numbers, e.g. Sector 3. This did confuse us all a bit but also amused us matching all the names together.
I felt really well looked after by the staff as we were given two meal vouchers for lunch and dinner, as well as a lot of free Cadbury’s Heroes chocolate, plenty of water, plastic rain poncho’s and sun cream. We were also given rewards as the days went along; a journal, four Games Maker pins and a Games Maker relay baton. It was all really well thought out, with the relay baton representing team work and trust.
Some of us had the opportunity to see some of the sporting action as generous spectators had handed in their spare tickets wishing them to go to the volunteers. This enabled me to get the chance to see a glimpse of Goalball, Wheelchair Basketballand Wheelchair Rugby. I was lucky enough to be able to get a ticket from a friend to the Athletics in the Stadium where I was there to experience Richard Whitehead win Gold for Great Britain.
I was not scheduled to work the Closing Ceremony shift so I watched it on the TV with a well deserved glass of wine. I cheered from the sofa and felt quite emotional at the standing ovation from the stadium when Seb Coe mentioned the Games Makers and volunteers that made the games happen. Again it was an honour to be able to say I was a part of London 2012, high five.