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Odds Blog: Our Olympic journey….

Posted by indigodream on 16 February, 2012

Sunday 5th February

A long time ago we both applied to be volunteers at the Olympic games – this has astounded our friends and family, who think we’re mad, but it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so we went for it.

I heard back from the Olympics relatively quickly because they put my application forward for the ‘medical’ team. Unfortunately I had an extra application form to fill in – I completed it in a rush and made a mess of it so I was equally quickly rejected! But my application was put back into the general pool and I heard no more for around 6 months…..

Iconic olympics - the cedar-clad velodrome - magnificent.....

Richard, in the meantime, heard nothing for months, but back in November he was invited for an interview to be part of the “Events Team” – the largest team of volunteers in the games. He seemed to manage to answer most questions by referring to beer in some form or other – he judged that he had a very successful interview and is now a “Games Maker” (the official name for Olympic volunteers). During his interview he was offered a range of roles and, if all goes well, he will be showing people round the park and helping people to their seats in the stadium – great! Or possibly cleaning toilets, it is a bit haphazard.

This weekend he attended his first training event – a half-day orientation in Wembley Arena. There were thousands of people there (maybe as many as 10,000) – it’s a huge operation, over 70,000 volunteers will be needed in total to make the Games happen.

Now, comedian and actor Eddie Izzard has been much involved in the “Games Maker” programme – the videos has has made in support of the  recruitment drive are funny and entertaining. I’d assumed that Richard would see more of Eddie’s videos during the training but in fact, Eddie Izzard was there IN PERSON. Richard said he was charming and was ‘working the crowd’ while everyone was congregating, well queueing, outside, as they had done less then well in organising that bit. The organisers really pushed the boat out – Seb Coe and Jonathan Edwards were also there in person.

The training itself was a “sheepdip” – it couldn’t be anything else with 10,000 people in the room, but the training workbook that Richard brought home was good quality. He has his “role-specific” training in March – he’ll be very interested to hear his exact role and place in the team (“you hold the loo brush at the handle end…”). I hope that he does get to spend time working with people around the Olympic Park….

I finally heard back from the recruiters in January and attended my “Games Maker” interview on January 22nd. It is an interesting process – the interviews are conducted by volunteers and it is a slick operation with groups of around 25 applicants being processed to a split-second schedule. Now, when I was invited to interview, the team wasn’t specified, so I had assumed that I would be offered a menial role like emptying bins or cleaning the toilets (gives a boater something to talk about). On the day, my group found out that we were being interviewed for a role with the security team as “loaders” and “pacers”.

“Loaders” tell people to put their metal items and whatnot into trays before being passed through the x-ray machines; “pacers” move the people along once they’ve put their bits into the trays – technical eh? I wasn’t the only one of the group to look appalled – I’d hoped that we would have some choice in what we did (as Richard did), however I did resist the urge to leave and attended my interview.

Richard, being further on in the process, had coached me on the interview – “the answer to every question is beer” he wisely told me! Did I follow his advice? Well, no…..

As the interview proceeded, I realised that I would rather spend an 8-hour shift emptying bins than standing at an x-ray machine – at least I’d be outdoors! I’ve since spoken to a friend who works for an airport security team – they only do 15 minute stints of ‘loading’ and ‘pacing’ before rotating to other duties – apparently it’s the most mind-numbingly dull job available!

Nonetheless I thought that my interview went well, though the question of “what skills do you have that are specific to this role” floored me – I have many and varied skills but ‘loading’ and ‘pacing’ people through security is not a job I’ve ever contemplated! In desperation, I emailed the recruitment team following the interview to appeal for a different role or maybe a variety of roles – after all, my “Games Maker” commitment would be over 80 hours! Ed. Unwisely Sue, yet again, did not mention beer…..

I got a somewhat dismissive reply – they’ve simply got too many applicants to be able to accommodate everyone’s individual preferences. So, that may be the end of my Olympic journey – I don’t know whether I’ve been selected to be a “Games maker” but if I am, do I accept the job of “loading” or “pacing” at the x-ray machines? It doesn’t appeal…..

Whatever happens in my Olympic journey, I will cheer Richard on his – I think he will have a great time and will relish being part of the “greatest show on earth” while I do the equally important job of looking after such hounds as we have in our pack at the time….

2 Responses to “Odds Blog: Our Olympic journey….”

  1. Tracey Thornborrow said

    Hallo there! I’ve been reading your lovely blog page, and I would like to meet you, because I’m making a film this summer about local people and their perspectives / experiences / feelings about the olympic park’s construction and presence in their lives. I’m an anthropology postgraduate student currently at the University of Manchester, but I live in Leyton.
    I know this seems a bit ‘out of the blue’ but I’m really struggling trying to ‘find’ people who might be interested in sharing their experiences with me. I have been along the canal at Hackney Wick, looking for boating people, but they must have all been out at work!
    I won’t write too much more, incase you’re not at all interested! BUT if you would like to know more, please drop me a line, and I’ll fill you in a bit more about my project!!
    Thanks for listening
    Tracey Thornborrow 🙂

  2. indigodream said

    Hi Tracey

    Ah tricky.

    Most of the boats at Hackney Wick were not there when London won the olympic bid, they are relatively recent. There is a whole big discussion that could be had in whatever terminology you want to use eg “continuous cruisers” or “continuous moorers”, they could be good value in a film as they are a well organised group but is that relevant to a film about changes caused by the Olympics? I can’t see it.

    As a small business the Olympics have been good for us but we bound by pages of contractual stuff so very limited as to what we can say, many will be in a similar position which is a shame. It is probably well worth talking to the like of Foremans as that is a really good story and I suspect they are not bound by the same confidentiality rules but will still be bound by the ambush marketing rules.

    Boating wise I will email one of the moorers at Three Mills, they may have a story for you and will come back to you off-line. I did wonder if it is worth talking to Lenny and Annie, the lock keepers at Three Mills. Both very knowledgeable, Annie is also involved in the cinema / trip boat and has starred on Radio 4 (Womens Hour I think).

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