Olympic Volunteering – Part3

Now I have finished my volunteering experince, people ask – “Was it worth it?”

I’ll answer this question in this, the final part of my Olympic blog…

Personal Highlights

London 2012 has been universally lauded and declared a rousing success by many people. But for me, being involved in an Olympic Games in my home town was a unique privilege. Here are some of the memories that stand out:

1. Watching the Opening Ceremony rehearsal live and in the flesh before the world got to see it. Danny Boyle did Great Britain proud. That experience in itself was worth going through the protracted application process. Here are a  few snaps:

Stratford Station:

Heading to the Olympic Park (lots of mobile phones!):

Great seats, watching the country-side scene unfold:

Audience participation, holding up the sea:

Industrial Revolution:

NHS scene:

Music scene:

2. Testing commentator headsets during Tom Daley’s 10m synchro final – and being caught on the BBC coverage in the process.

Here’s me caught live on TV:

And here’s a photo I took from that very spot:

3. Being on the Olympic park on Super Saturday and listening to the crowd in the Olympic Stadium roaring Jess Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah on to their Gold Medal wins (albeit from outside the stadium). That same evening I witnessed Michael Phelps win his 22nd and final Olympic medal in the 4*100m relay. He was also awarded The Greatest Olympian trophy.

Phelps’ Final Medal Ceremony:

Greatest Olympian:

4. The unconditional, deafening support for every single British swimmer and diver, whether they won or lost.

5. Watching the eventual Olympic Water Polo champions, Croatia, demolish their opposition, it was the first match I’d ever been to and it was a bit of master-class. The physicality of the sport certainly appealed to the rugby player in me.

6. Watching “Our Greatest Team” Parade come close by our Accenture office in London along with thousands of other city workers:

London lunchtime skivers:

Sir Chris Hoy and his medals:

Mobot:

Unexpected Recognition 

Quite a few people have come up to me in the office to ask me how it went. Even the Prime Minister sent me a personal thank-you letter!

In summary, I got so much more out of this experience than I was ever expected to put in. Not a bad return on a few days unpaid leave!  I wonder how I go about volunteering for the Rugby World Cup in 2015… it’s in my home town after all.

Olympic Volunteering – Part2

This is the second part of my Olympic volunteer blog,  it will cover the second most common question that I’ve been asked. That is – “what did you actually have to do as a volunteer in the technology team?”

I’ve included some of the pictures I took in the hope that this part is a more interesting read…

Logistics

First, I’ll cover off the logistics of the whole thing. As I was contacted so close to the start of the Games, I wasn’t expected to commit to a minimum of ten shifts like most other volunteers. My mobility coordinator offered me the pick of the remaining shifts, so I signed up for all the available weekend slots and then a couple of other week days.

Training?

As my volunteer role was to work in the Aquatic Centre technology team, I was invited attend venue-specific training on Saturday 7th July. Luckily I didn’t have much to rearrange even though it was all very last minute, but I had to cram in a visit to pick up my accreditation and uniform in the morning and head to the Olympic Park that afternoon. The queues were fairly long – but I only waited in line for an hour or so before I was security screened, photographed, measured and fitted for my uniform in quick succession.

I quickly jumped on the DLR to Stratford and made my way through the gate and walked to the designated meeting point where I joined a venue tour with many other eager volunteers.

I think nearly 3000 people were inducted and shown around that weekend, quite a feat. This was the first time most of us had been in the Olympic Park so many thousands of photos were snapped as we toured around, it was suitably impressive to see in the flesh. Here are some I took.

Entrance to the Aquatics Centre:

Behind the scenes, just outside the Media Centre:

The starting blocks:

The diving boards:

After the venue tour, I met the technology team leadership team and we discussed the types of activities we’d need to help with during the games, but in truth they could only be vague – because they expected it to be a fairly reactive issue resolution type scenario. The main aim though, was to ensure the smooth operation of the live sporting events taking place. It would be vital that each competition is accurately recorded, judged and broadcast. As volunteers we would have to help the venue technology manager coordinate the implementation and operation of technology services and support all key user groups of the aquatics parks—the media team, games officials, timekeeping teams, athletes, coaches and other Games Maker volunteers—with any audio/visual, networking or computing problems. So in reality, I could be doing anything!

My First Shift

My first volunteer shift was the morning before the Olympic Opening Ceremony, so there were thousands of volunteers scurrying around finishing last minute tasks. As far as I could tell, all the major setup had been done way beforehand, so most of what was left was just freshening the place up. I spent most of my day working in the Aquatics Media Centre, tidying cables, re-tuning TVs and re-testing competition information screens. It was a nice easy warm up for things to come, although I did get to say hello to Sharon Davies, swimming medallist from the ’76 games in Moscow.

Normal Service

In the quiet periods between live events, most of our time was spend sat sitting comfortably in the Technology Operations Centre porta-cabin, watching the excellent BBC Olympic coverage until a trouble ticket was raised, then we eagerly sprang into action.

During live sporting events, the technology volunteers like myself, were stationed amongst the media tribunes, with the remit of providing immediate hands-on support to hundreds of the World’s media. These were generally either TV or radio presenters, commentators, translators or journalists. Here’s where I was sat during a Water Polo match:

I was impressed by the level of engagement of my fellow volunteers, which was no doubt helped by the number of initiatives put in place to make Games Makers feel welcome, useful and part of a much wider team. Unsurprisingly there were some common demographic groups represented, i.e. retired folks, housewives and students.  There were lots of daily opportunities to get involved with competitions and we were each given a brief communication newsletter on shift check-in. It helped that there were well structured team rotas, free lunch vouchers, a very friendly atmosphere and that we were continually treated with respect by the fee paying public.

Now I have finished my volunteering experince, people ask – “Was it worth it? Would you do it again?” I’ll answer this question in the final part of this blog… likely to be published next week.

Olympic Volunteering – Part1

I always planned to blog about some of my London2012 Olympic volunteering experiences, but knew it would take me ages to get around to it. So, rather than keep putting it off, I’m going to split it into three parts and get the ball rolling straight away:

  1. I’ll start with the most common question I was asked – “How and why did I decide to get involved with the London2012 Olympics?
  2. The second most common question I’ve been asked is – “What did you actually have to do as volunteer in the technology team?
  3. Now that my volunteering responsibilities have finished, people ask – “Was it worth it? Would you do it again?

How and why did I decide to get involved with the London2012 Olypmics?

I signed up to a ticket application newsletter back in early 2010, just to keep up to date with news on the Olympic ticket application process and schedule etc. I was keen to try and get tickets for myself and my extended family for any event, I didn’t care what! Ideally, I’d like to see some rowing at Eton Dorney because my wife was a very keen and successful cox in her formative years, plus it’s only a couple of miles from where I grew up and where my parents still live. Excavation began on the rowing lake when I was at secondary school, so as you can imagine we based a lot of our geography projects on it at the time! I thought it would be pretty special to see something so close to home being used for Olympic events many years on.

Anyway, because I was signed up to this newsletter I received an email invitation from Lord Coe in April 2010 to apply to become a Games Maker; he said 70,000 volunteers would be required to help support the Games. After limited success in the initial ticket ballots I suspected I might struggle with getting to see any Olympic action, but I knew that being part of an Olympic Games in my home town would be literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So if possible, I wanted the chance to experience it both from behind the scenes if I couldn’t be in the stands like everyone else. Being a Games Maker looked like a good way in, and at the time I had a gut-feeling that it might be fun too.

A waiting game

So much time had passed that I forgot that I’d actually applied for a volunteer role until I was reminded 18 months later, in November 2011,  when out of the blue I received an email was offering me an interview to become a Games Maker. I immediately logged on and used the scheduling tool to book myself a slot at a Selection Event at London Excel on 16th December.

There was no real preparation required for the interview. I had applied for a role in the Technology Team, so I hoped that my day job as a Accenture Senior Technical Architect would qualify me! Apparently the process was simple, I just had to be there on the day and show proof of my identity. If I passed it, I would be put on a waiting list where I could get cherry-picked for a role by one of the full-time Games Maker staff. My interviewer was also a volunteer, so once she’d ticked all the relevant HR-type boxes she was happy just talk about why I wanted to volunteer. I mentioned my avid interest in sport and my tenuous history with the rowing lake, but this point I’d become a father for the first time so I also explained how when she grew up, I’d like to be able to tell my daughter about how I helped with staging The Greatest Show on Earth

More waiting (but a silver lining)

I waited to hear back for the Games Maker recruitment team for a long time, but I had no response. It’s no wonder, over 240,000 people had been through the recruitment process – that’s impressive even by Accenture’s recruiting standards! But, whilst on holiday in June 2012 I received an email thanking me for my patience and offering me the chance to enter a ballot to win a ticket to one of the technical rehearsals for the Opening Ceremony. I couldn’t believe my luck! I didn’t care whether I’d actually get offered a Games Maker role if I at least got the chance to visit the Olympic Stadium, so I entered the ballot straight away.

Still more waiting.

Seven months after my interview, I was offered a Games Maker role in the Venue Technology Team for the Aquatics Centre. This offer came just three weeks before the Games were due to begin so I presumed there must have been some last minute volunteer drop outs, but I didn’t care, again I accepted straight away.

… and the silver lining? I won a ticket to the Opening Ceremony rehearsal!