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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.

One Response to “Odds Blog: Richard’s Gamesmaker Shift No. 6”

  1. Kevin said

    Well said Richard.
    I couldn’t agree more with your final two paragraphs:)
    Stand up GB and wave the flag from this day forward!

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