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London 2012 – How I Became a Games Maker

On July 6th 2005 I was flying back from a conference in Germany and as the flight crossed east London I could see a sign supporting the London bid for the 2012 Olympics painted of the roof of a building.  This was the day that the host city for the 2012 Olympic Games would be announced.  Seeing the sign reminded me of two things; firstly, a year or so earlier, Seb Coe had visited my company – an established Olympics’ sponsor – as part of a campaign to call on support for the London bid, and somewhere in my archives, I had a picture of myself with the great man.  Secondly, the decision for 2012 would have been announce while I was airborne, but as London was thought to be a weaker bid than Paris, then there was no need to get too hyped.  However, when we landed, the surprising news was that London had won the bid and consequently, the excitement level was soaring!  Very sadly, everything came crashing down the next morning with the bombings in the transport network in London – a dramatic change of mood, which shifted the attention away from Olympics euphoria to far more sinister matters.

Sometime in 2010 the call for volunteers went out; allegedly a quarter of a million people applied, including me.  After a long wait. I was invited to attend a selection event at the Excel Centre in London on 18th May 2011 as a candidate for the ‘Technology Team’.  On 18th October I received confirmation that I had been selected for the Technology Team at Wembley Stadium, the hub for the Men’s and Women’s Football Tournaments.

Due to business commitments I never made an Orientation Training event – some hoopla just to whip up the excitement levels, but the main training event came on 14th April 2012 at the LOCOG Centre in Canary Wharf.  This was a full, but strangely back-to-front day!  The morning was spent learning about walkie-talkie radios – it turned out that I never needed to use one – and the afternoon session covered more general techie stuff, i.e. who all the suppliers were, and the first shameless hints of the acronym hell that awaited us.


Next up was notification of my shift pattern.  Somewhat surprisingly, I was due to start on 9th July, over two weeks before the Opening Ceremony.  In total, I was assigned to 24 shifts, adding up to 216 hours of voluntary work!

In the midst of this period there was an online Health & Safety training course to negotiate, and then came ‘uniform collection’ day, 25th June.  An efficient, production line process had every volunteer checked in, given their accreditation, sized for shoes, trousers, jackets and shirts, and then through to the collection point where everything was packed into a big bag, along with a shoulder bag, a watch, and a number of guide books on behaviour, caring for the uniform, etc.  The final step was to unload everything from the bag to read the barcode of each item and assign it to the owner’s Volunteer ID, then pack it all back into the bag, collect an Oyster card for travel on the London network, and tote it all home.

Next stop Wembley Stadium!

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