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"Our man at the Games" - "On the last lap"
9th August 2012 – “...On the last lap...”
“I can’t believe we only have a few days to go ---I have so enjoyed the last two weeks...I feel really sad ...I have to go back to my boring life” – said the volunteer who lives about two hours on the train from the Park – had left late the night before – had two hours sleep and returned the next day. I replied by saying something like “you don’t really mean that” – she probably did not, but as the days now hours ebb away the end very much in sight the experience of spending eleven shifts in the East End of London was going to stay with her for the rest of her life. A group of us had congregated near the smaller of the McDonalds for some quick “refreshment” before dispersing – trading memories, future plans, including whether we should meet up again?
What was a completely unknown quantity – several people from a huge variety of backgrounds, ages, life stories brought together for the single purpose of doing something for London 2012 – all confused and a bit wary at the outset were now seeking to find a way of keeping in touch. The retired man from Kent who with another colleague from his Golf Club had agreed to wear the uniform one more time if others bought the drinks all evening and donated cash to charity – to the Architect from Belgium who had come over for the specific purpose of volunteering and was going back as soon as the games finished – to the young Hungarian who was starting a new job in September – now working in “Transport”, who we slipped into the venue to see his beloved country play and win – all these lives, and countless more, united but now soon to be scattered was always going to be the inevitable consequence of such an occasion. Yes I am sure that those who genuinely want to keep in touch will do so with many others drifting apart. I suppose what I was unprepared for, was the extent of the impact this “coming together” would have on so many.
The duties at the venue were now “old hat” - the teams approached them as “veterans” getting on with the various jobs often without supervision or instruction. The “team leaders”, including the venue boss, were now more relaxed. The anxious wait for the next important member of the “Olympic Family” to turn up without advanced notice was managed calmly when the “convoy” of cars with protection officers came pouring in. One was another European Royal who was assigned a language speaker to keep him company – when he turned up he was dressed very casually carrying a bag over his shoulder and spoke English with refinement. But - the “language volunteer” continued to do her duty, to which he responded with charm – the two chatted away in his native tongue for what seemed to be hours. This episode certainly made an impact on this colleague, as she commented the next day about having a “dream” about this Royal visitor!
The “team leaders” are also an interesting group – none seemed to know each other on the first day – all thrown in to the “deep end”. One responded by producing an impressive rota designed to go like clockwork – I think he runs his own Management Consultancy business – practice soon found this a bit over complex – but someone had to do it and get us organised . As the days went by it was “tweaked” and then quietly abandoned – but it had done its task. As it turned out the chap in question is a generous very amiable fellow with a great sense of fun. Other team leaders varied from the retired gent who openly expressed his exasperation about being “left to get on with it” – certainly at the start of the Games the more senior colleague did seem to want to “micro-manage” every detail – I guess this was essential at the outset – but as time went on with everyone growing in confidence that became less crucial . In fairness to the senior team they quickly recognised this and “backed off”. Another “team leader” was a young energetic woman who seemed to “buzz” around – on her watch we were all “rotated” , were offered regular breaks and knew when we had to go for lunch or dinner – a character. The real test of all this, was that the “shifts” seemed to go very smoothly, time passing quickly, in fact speeding up furiously as the days went by – well done “NCO” “Gamesmakers”.
Today I also received my Gold medal in recognition of surviving the course – all three medals are a nice memento - some already wearing them with pride. I have two days off now with one more shift on Sunday the day of the final – after which it is all over................. Or is it?
Yinnon Ezra MBE