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Archive for August 6th, 2012

Odds Blog: Richard’s Olympic Experiences (4)

Posted by indigodream on 6 August, 2012

Ah a day off so I can write a bit of a blog!

My volunteer day starts with a two shot latte then a quick walk to Limehouse Station to catch the 5:44 C2C train to West Ham. Well that is the theory…….

The train worked wonderfully on Friday, it is a 6 minute journey to West Ham – a bit of a walk but I was looking good for a check in by 6:10. That was until I got to the Security Check and found it manned by muppets instead of the Military. They were hopeless, one waving me into the security arch, one saying stop whilst the guy on the x-ray machine kept on being distracted by every bit of skirt walking past.

On Saturday I missed the C2C train – I forgot that it is 5 minutes earlier on a Saturday and got to the platform just as the doors closed. No worries, I went via Stratford. Ssecurity was efficient and quick,

Once there we go to workforce check-in, there are notice boards to check as you walk in, then you get issued with a card – at random – telling you which team you will be working in.  My team on Saturday was identical to Friday’s 🙂 so I was rather pleased! 🙂 We then have a briefing – up to now it has been the entire team, but on Saturday it was just the south and east areas together.  We then go out into the stadium to have a brief from our Area Manager, then our Sector Manager gives us a more specific briefing and finally out team leader gives out our individual assignment cards and completes the detailed briefing. We then have a short time after our briefings to get familiar with the area, e.g. where the toilets are, where are water fountain is hidden, where is the pram store etc.

Volunteering at the Olympics is fantastic, let’s face it the Olympics is the greatest show on earth and I get to be in the stadium most days. On Saturday I worked at the south end and spent most of my time at the base of stairs to block 221. That, in theory, is a bum post but actually you get to talk to loads of people and its great. Block 221 is one of the few that is served by a 6 flight staircase, but then you come out just above the cauldron with a fantastic view right down the stadium.  If I had a choice I would want to be on the 100m finish line, but my second choice would be block 221 or 222 – fantastic place. Mind you I have now been in 7 parts of the stadium and I honestly don’t think there is a bad seat. I cannot believe that so many people managed to get their seats for £20.12,  it is a real treat.

Having worked at the top of a 6 flight staircase, I know that so many people came up and the first thing they asked was “where are the toilets”. It is painful telling them that there are no toilets at that level – all facilities are at podium level!  So on Saturday I was welcoming people – it’s no problem smiling at them as they come towards you all eager and excited. I then warned them that there are 6 flights of stairs with no toilets on top, and putting my best Mummy voice on, ladies toilet on the left, ignore the signs for the men’s toilets as there are some much closer hidden behind the “sweets and treats” concession ….

I also tell them they are going to have a fantastic view (no one believes me), that they have the only seats in the house with central heating (again no one believes me), tell them to have their marsh mallows ready (the cauldron is just in front of you at the top of the stairs, but I don’t tell them that) and unlike the posh seats they have a roof, so they won’t get wet when it rains.  Despite my best efforts people still seemed to get to their seats and find they need a wee, so they would come back down, mind you that was good as they would see the looks of disbelief on people’s faces and happily tell them that I am not winding them up (but their plastic flag holder did melt when they tried to make toast, no one believes them). It is fun at the bottom of the stairs.

See, central heating for the lucky guys in the £20.12 seats

One thing that has surprised me is how patriotic people are being, they are coming in with often hand sewn union jack dresses, face paint, alien union jack head gear, flags, scarves, shoes with flags (!!), bowler hats etc. and somehow it is really heart warming rather than football crowd tribal. They also support athletes from other countries and groan with them when they just fail to clear the bar or they don’t quite get the hit on the javelin. They know they are watching exceptional people competing and, for an athlete, yes, there must be immense pressure, but also huge support.  Obviously there is favouritism, you could not hear a certain Ms Ennis being announced as everybody recognised her and the roar just builds and builds!
One local family had Jamaican roots – Grandmother and Grandsons turned up first so we talked for a moment. Grandmother was obviously ecstatic to be coming to watch the 100m men’s heats, not interested in Yohan Blake or Asafa Powell, for her it had to be Usain Bolt as he comes from the same county as she did – obviously does not know him in the same way I don’t know everybody living in London but she used to live opposite his school. She did not believe me that she would have a good view, what can you expect from a £20.12 seat? It was a pleasure to talk to her as she was so eager to climb those 6 flights of stairs (well not really), really enthusiastic about the Olympics, really good person and then she came down later saying what a fantastic view she had. I only regret that when I got rotated (just in time to see Mr Branson Bolt do his stuff) I was at the top of a staircase a few blocks along so did not see her reaction, but I am sure I heard her family appreciate his 10.09! The athletes are obviously super-heroes, but I have to say that the spectators are fantastic, really nice people, in 4 shifts I have only come across thousands of which 2, perhaps 3 were vaguely awkward types and they all seemed to be Mitt Romney’s cousins so easy to forget.

On Saturday we only got one break and mine was a bit late. Workforce catering is a bit, well lets say I opted for a sandwich. I was sitting opposite two girls from the catering concessions and their tale was a little sad.  We know from what spectators tell us that they run out of stuff e.g. the coffee stand opposite where I was working last Friday ran out of milk halfway through the Opening Ceremony but I did not realise the (understandable) pressure they get from the queue. The girls were saying that they come in bright, cheerful and ready for another day at the greatest show on earth but then their company’s logistics fail, for example that morning their delivery was 90 minutes late.  Communications are so poor that they run out of stuff during the day despite calling for supplies in good time.  By lunchtime they were looking very harassed, worse I think they work awfully long days. Be nice to them folks, unless you see their managers or logistics people in which case you can breweries with them! Ah if only the coffee stands were run by us Event Services Volunteers rather than a so called prestigious outside Company. Can I bring my coffee machine in?

When the session ends we have to clear people out of their seats, so that the cleaners can come through and get the stadium ready for the evening session. It is actually very hard to do, people don’t want to leave, they sit there drinking in the stadium, taking photographs, really embedding the memory of having been to the greatest show on earth. Very very hard to move them on but we have to – it would not do for the public to see us Gamesmakers congregating above the cauldron,  getting out our long forks and toasting our marsh mallows.

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