So that’s it then, my final day. The end of the Olympic Volunteer experience. No more travel on the crowded Jubilee line, getting hotter all the time, no more DLR, no more security check into the venue. No more spasmodic meal breaks or small portions for lunch, no more dealing with the great, funny, delightful public.
These are of course my initial thoughts, there are more positive things to say about the two weeks I spent being part of London 2012. I can now sit back and watch the rest of the day’s events, and tomorrow’s, and enjoy the closing ceremony. On Friday it was a very early start time, 06:45 and caught, for the last time, the 05:14 from Guildford. I know a ridiculous time to be up and about but no worse than a lot of people coming from further afield, in some cases a 3.30 train; that’s dedication for you. The trouble is, I might have been up early, 04:25, but that was after the worst sleep, or lack of, ever. I saw 02.50, and still had not got any sleep by then. I must have nodded off a bit because the next thing I remember was the invasive honk, honk of my iPod Touch alarm. It does the job though. No breakfast, just tea, clamber into Games Maker uniform for the last time and get into the car, for Fran to take me to the station. Not much traffic about at five to five in the morning, but still white van man speeding past on the dual carriageway. I feel like the proverbial death warmed up and hope that the feeling will improve when I get there. Train is on time, change at Woking for the faster Waterloo train, and into that station at 06:12, dead on time. Down the escalator for the Jubilee line, loads of commuters about, dashing for their train or tube. On the Jubilee west, change at Canning Town, DLR, two stops, Custom House, through the staff entrance at the station/Excel entrance, through security, through the car park and into Workforce check in, accreditation scanned, ‘Oh it’s your last day, come and see us before you go’. I already know why, leaving gifts from LOCOG. Up into the ‘Boulevard’ the main thoroughfare through the middle of Excel and report to where I am supposed to be today, South Arena 1, Taeknowdo. I was looking forward to seeing a different sport, but was intercepted by a Team Leader and told that they had enough people, please report back to the Workforce allocation desk. Getting there, ‘Please wait in the break room’,:
Wait for 5 minutes and then, ‘OK, we’re on Boulevard today’. Inwardly groan, I had heard about this particular duty from other GMs and was not looking forward to it, especially given my parlous physical state. It is a wholly ‘customer facing’ job, dealing with those wondering around the Excel looking for, well, anything really. Part of today’s team:
Yes that is a cup of coffee in my hand, needed something to wake me up!
So the team leader takes us away and gets us into positions. The gates open at 07:30 so the punters can get in the Excel, the first event, TKDo, starts at 09:00. My first job is on a restricted access doorway into the arena, for those engaged in setting up the ‘spectator zone’ for when the ticket gates open. This is not a public entrance but some of them do ask if the toilets are through there or where can I get in (err.. that big entrance back there with ‘Taekwondo’ signs fifteen feet tall outside it). Luckily no real issues, quick break for coffee, back on another doorway, and then stood in the middle of the main boulevard, with the hordes coming towards you, asking the same questions, where are the water fountains (in the spectator zone) , where is the retail shop (round the corner), what time does the boxing start (1.30) and so on. Due to having had 9 days experience at this, you know most of answers by now. Everyone is in good humour, and smiley, very smiley. I think they enjoy being part of the Olympic experience as much as any of the GMs. An hour of this and then lunch, quite tasty, but as usual, tiny portions, (of chilli), and loads of rice which I couldn’t finish. Back on the boulevard for an hour or so, and then guarding another door. The good news is we’re going to be relieved a bit early, so that is great for me, still feeling like I need a good sleep. Back down to the Workforce check-in, after saying good by to the people I’ve been working with that day. I’ve made some instant friends over the nine days, but in no cases, have taken their details to get in touch. There is a reason for this, I suspect most of the younger GMs exchange Facebook names or Twitter account details, but if I’m honest I doubt whether if I did this I would contact any of them again. Not to say I didn’t get on well with them, I did, it’s just that I’m probably too old and too crochety to keep up with their lives post Olympics. It was nice to know them whilst I was there, but that’s it for me. The ‘gifts’ for being a GM are a regulation relay baton engraved with Games Maker emblems and a certificate thanking us for our efforts. Over the course of the two weeks, we have also been given momentos of our time, provided by McDonalds, in the shape of Games Maker pins in Bronze and Silver and on leaving a Gold one, along with a Thank You pin, from Jacques Rogge himself. And we get to keep all the uniforms and accessories.
The Games Maker gifts
Looking on eBay it’s a pity to see many of the gifts and uniform items for sale, at it must be said, ridiculously inflated prices. A sign of the times I suspect, some people not wanting to have keepsakes of their time as a Games Maker, just wanting to make a profit. Very sad.
So end of the day, I decided to walk around the Royal Victoria Dock side of the Excel, since I had only gone out of the Eastern end towards the DLR Prince Regent. Here’s some views from that side:
The whole area has been transformed from when it was the docklands. The building in the middle picture is a listed warehouse, and sticks out a bit from the rest of the modern buildings surrounding it. This is the statue at the entrance of the Excel depicting its past:
Apparently the dockers, and their union, made a rod for their backs by refusing to move with the times, and keep restrictive practices. You couldn’t get a job there unless you a had family member who worked there, and they didn’t embrace the modern movement to ISO containers, so cargo ships went to Lowestoft instead where they were assured of a welcome. Hence the London docks in this area fell into disuse and were eventually remodelled into the Excel and other riverside buildings. The Excel itself is owned by an Abu Dhabi company. A gratuitous shot of me being posing in front of the Excel as I bid it farewell:
So that, as all the good old cliched writers put it, is that. I shall never be a Games Maker Volunteer again, well not in the UK at least. It’s a journey that started nearly two years ago, went through many days of training, uniform collection, motivation, hundreds of e-mails and finally getting started with the Games proper. Despite all the media gainsaying and doom-mongering, it has been a success, especially for the medal winners, but also for anyone involved, including anyone involved with the organisation, the supporters and members of the public, and last but by no means least, The Games Makers, without whom to quote Seb Coe, ‘The Games simply would not happen’. I personally thank all my colleagues, leaders and anyone who was involved with the process of turning me into a Games Maker, and leave you with this final thought:
‘I WAS THERE’.