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Archive for August 14th, 2012

Odds Blog: Richard’s Gamesmaker Shift No. 7

Posted by indigodream on 14 August, 2012

Rewind to Wednesday 8th August 2012

Another early start, needing 2 shots of Indriya to get me going (Nespresso geeks will know what I mean!). I made the C2C train with 30 seconds to spare, but then missed a DLR train at West Ham so I checked in exactly on time at 6:15am which meant that I got assigned to a team with a bowl duty, “hurrah”, I thought, plenty of people to talk to and lots of sport to watch. Well almost …

When it comes to our final team briefing the Team Leader has a set of cards to give out detailing the team’s duties, these get handed out in priority order and I got a high priority duty: guarding the lift….

This is a silly lift – well, its main aim is to transport goods up from the bowels of the stadium – LOCOG and the catering people having finally worked out that using it to take trolley loads of supplies up to the concessions is far more efficient then supplying them with a box or two at a time. The lift does serve 7 rows of 19 public seats each in the upper tier, so a small number of people can be spared the walk; but under no circumstances are the public allowed to be in the lift by themselves. This means that there has to be a Gamesmaker stationed at the top and another at the bottom of the lift – our role was to ride up and down with a maximum of 4 people, swapping over every so often before the Gamesmaker at the bottom went gaga.

If you are at the top of the lift then that’s great, you get to see the action. Wednesday was fascinating as they were setting up the pole vault, the high jump and the discus. We did swap round later, and I also had a stint in the dreaded buggy store and in the lower tier. Here are my views from the top tier:

8:05am: Empty stadium, tech team setting up the long jump take-off board camera

8:30 Sand has been very carefully raked and now they give the area a good sweep. I have to say that Gamesmakers on the field of play are really diligent.

8:35am: By now all these people and all this gear had appeared.

8:40am: Serious number of people appearing. I can’t remember the correct name for the team dressed in blue but they do the measuring, recording etc. and I think they also are volunteers.

8:45am: Emergency reserve cement mixers being bought in

8:50am: Pole Vaulters appearing, looks like they have a tape to set out their little markers so that they know where to start their run from

Meanwhile on the discus field I think this guy is out there with an old fashioned tape to verify that the Total Station they use for measuring distance is set up correctly.

9:05am: Pole Vaulters warming up – it is quite scary how high they go! Look at the guy on the left and how he pushes himself even higher completely upside down off the top of a thin pole.

And up they go. The name that everybody knows is Sergey Bubka, now retired. The second most famous Pole Vaulter was Cornelius “Dutch” Warmerdam, he was still competing at the time of the last London games and famous for being the first man to clear 15′ or 4.57m in new money. He did not compete in the 1948 games – I don’t know why – and the gold medal was won by a jump of 4.2m, a mere 14′. In 2012, these guys are warming up way over that height, this year’s Olympic Record is at 5.97m or 16′ 4″ in old money

View under the upper tier as spectators arrive

They have a vertical rule that they use to check the height of the bar, you can see it as they raise the bar to the right height. The bar is what, perhaps 2/3rds of the way up but already it is 2½ times the height of the Gamesmaker with his vertical rule. Just to the left of the left hand track you can just make out a guy in white and blue – I think he was the eventual winner.

Moving back to the Long Jump: At the back of the take-off board there is an indicator board with what I thought were plasticine strips but I gather they use something more advanced nowadays which comes in strips. Here they are replacing it whilst someone else diligently rakes the sand.

And here is the guy replacing bits of the marker strips. This year, the long jump was won fantastically a few days earlier by Greg Rutherford from the Milton Keynes Athletics club with a jump of 8.31m. You have seen the photos of people jumping narrow locks? Well they are just over 7′ wide, 8.31m is almost 28′ so close to twice the width of the broad lock at Fenny Stratford. Now that’s a man who does not need walkways across locks!

I bet no one can identify the best building on the park …..

Another quiet day at the park ….

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Odds Blog: Richard’s Gamesmaker Shift No. 6

Posted by indigodream on 14 August, 2012

Rewind to Tuesday 7th August

I was working the early shift again at the Stadium which meant checking in at the stadium at 6:15am ready for the day’s briefings. A combination of the C2C service to West Ham then a DLR train to Stratford is a nice quick route and got me to check-in 5 minutes early.
Roles are given out in supposedly random order, but they do prioritise them. So, for example, they must have Gamesmakers on all bridges checking tickets so this is one of the roles that is given out early – today I got to be a ticket checker at Bridge B. I have to say this was a role that I was dreading, especially as at my role specific training, they had gone on about how much fun it is (translation: This is a terrible role but we will make you feel jolly about it).

I am sure everyone is aware that the Olympic Park is built on a series of islands formed between the Lee Navigation, the Bow Back Rivers and the River Lea. The Stadium is on its own island, formed from the Lee Navigation and the non-tidal bits of the Bow Back Rivers, which we have boated round on numerous occasions. Access to the stadium is across five bridges, bridges A through to E. Bridge E is mainly used by the people in the hospitality area (think up to £4500 for a ticket), bridge D is occasionally closed for athletes so the public tend to be directed in through bridges A to C. Bridge B is the bridge everyone sees first when they come over the Waterworks River from Stratford. You can access the stadium through any bridge so people often ignore the advice on their ticket and come through Bridge B. It must be one of the busiest places to work and is staffed almost entirely by volunteer Gamesmakers.

So there I am standing at Bridge B with 31 other games makers (the India 20 & India 30 teams), armed with a wireless scanner running a version of Windows (sigh) seeing this impressive crowd of people heading towards us. It is quite scary and exhilarating.

8:05am: Don’t those people have beds to stay in? It is a rare experience to stand there, armed simply with a ticket scanner, while a good-natured wall of people marches towards you….

There is a third games maker team (India 10) at the Stratford end of the bridge, their role is to act as a first welcome to people, direct them to the right place, soothe any nerves and, most importantly, look at how the queues are doing. When they ran test events, they found that people tended to queue at a few lanes, leaving other lanes empty.  So the India 10 team circulate at the far end of the bridge and gently guide people to a different part of the bridge where the lanes are less busy. I have not done it but I imagine it is very hard, you are the people’s first contact with the Stadium, they will be a bit anxious and the image you project can make or break their day.

Do we get busy? Not really!

With 32 lanes open I doubt if I ever had more than 8 people in a queue in front of me, and that’s only because most of them were a large group. The norm would be that someone would walk up and get their ticket scanned straight away. Groups would slow you a bit, your scanner deciding to update itself would sometimes lead to a few seconds delay, deciding whether a concession ticket was being carried by someone you could let in takes another second though the norm seemed to be that children had adult tickets, their parents had children’s tickets.

Was this a dreadful role? Not at all, it is fantastic……

People come down the lanes, the India 10 team had already got them into a good mood, their faces light up when you say “Good Morning”;  you ask how they are – most are so excited to be going to see the greatest show on earth that they virtually dance down the lane towards you, we even had people racing each other! We are meant to make people feel welcome, to set them up for a great day; but in fact, people are so ready for the day that all we need to do is give them a smile.

People of all nations are coming in, we even had one lady with an All-Blacks flag so I told the guys in that lane not to let her in as that has to be a prohibited item. Unfortunately they were clearly not rugby followers, so they still let her in (you can’t get the staff!). You see people draped in flags of all nations, face paint of all nations but mostly you see the Union Jack or a GB team logo on t-shirts, on funny hats, on enormous earrings, on scarves, on shoes and on all sorts of face paint. It is a riot of colour, it is somehow tasteful, it is a wonderful sight. You flirt and have a quick chat as they come in, one family recognised me as the person that advocated marsh mallow toasting, they had a £62 family ticket for two adults and two kids, they were great to talk to, explaining that they quite liked having their personal Gamesmaker welcoming them on their visits.

Tuesday was a 10am start with stadium gates opening at 8am, yes there is a small queue at 8am! By 10am most people are in so we close half the lanes and half the people go off for a break (i.e. find a good place to watch the action). As the last few stragglers come in we close all but a few lanes (more people off to watch the action) and take it in turns to see people out and let people in. The record is someone arriving with a £150 ticket five minutes before the session ended. We also get to see some top class athletes coming in via the accreditation lane!
Ah tickets, that is interesting. The lucky few have managed to get last-minute tickets, they were recognisable as having been printed at home. Some people got theirs at 6pm, some at 7:10pm, some at 2:30am, they all look rather pleased with themselves and so they should. They are mostly £150 tickets, which is actually mid-range, but the seats these guys get are fantastic. One couple had row 1 seats, a lot had seats in rows 31 to 33 – the first three rows on the upper tier, perfect seats. I congratulated two rather smug looking guys at getting such fantastic seats, they did not know, so I told them where the seats were (the very front row of the upper tier) – they were so elated after that. You cannot help but be in a good mood after dealing with these people.

Painful early start? So what!

Talking of people being elated, we have a role in getting people out. It is not a difficult job, we come back from our “break”, we clear the barriers, open up all the lanes, stop people coming back against the flow and direct people out. We gently move them on, the paid stewards (black trousers not stone) sometimes help, but they tend to be a bit heavy with people. We Gamesmakers have pockets stuffed with maps so we can direct people to their next event, we wish people a pleasant journey, a good day and occasionally ask have they had a good time. I don’t know why we bother asking the last question, they come out beaming – the comments they make are simply fantastic…. I cannot begin to describe the great mood of these lovely people as they leave the stadium. It is a great stadium – the atmosphere is electric, you are surrounded by nice people, you have these gods doing their stuff on the field of play, there is not a bad seat in the place, people are there to be impressed and enjoy themselves.

I am going to be so gutted if they don’t agree a decent legacy use for the Stadium. Personally I think the Olympics should be staged here every 4 years!

The Games have set me to musing about patriotism…….

At other events, I have seen the stereotypical football skinhead muppets with English flags; once we were asked to join the National Front in Cheshunt – they withdrew their invitation when Sue got them confused by saying she is Welsh and went very quiet when I explained that I am an immigrant’s son. Very often patriotism has come across as unpleasantly tribal, the extremists ( and, sadly, some perfectly ordinary people)  will try to say that “british” actually means “white english”…

The patriotism shown at the Olympics seems to me to be sincere, heart-warming and inclusive – it transcended any differences in race, religion or culture. Like a rugby crowd, the audience will applaud all – if someone clears an impressive height at the high jump,  the spectators will give them a big cheer, irrespective of where the competitor is from. Obviously the mainly British audience will save a special cheer for Team GB – the avalanche of noise at that point is stunning.

Philosophers and politicians may have complicated debates about what it means to be British; the wonderfully multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-faith crowd cut through the debate – wear the Union flag, smile and cheer your team – simples! After all, when your face is painted in the Union’s Red, White and Blue who cares about the the colour of the underlying skin…..

If the Olympics does nothing else then reclaim British Patriotism for all people of this green and pleasant land then that will be a stunning, and I have to say unexpected, achievement.

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