Home   Bury St Edmunds   News   Article

Subscribe Now

London 2012 Olympics 10-year anniversary: My experience of being a Games Maker



More news, no ads

LEARN MORE


For as long as I can remember, I was - like many - completely obsessed by the Olympics.

I was glued to the screen for the 2000 games in Sydney, and by the time it was Beijing's turn to host in 2008, I was so entranced with it all, that I went so far as to record each day's highlights on VHS (and even later got those converted to DVD...).

And I remember so clearly the feeling of pure excitement when it was announced in 2005 that London was to host the Olympics in 2012.

The Olympic park during the London 2012 Games
The Olympic park during the London 2012 Games

So when adverts announced that people could apply to become volunteers in the run up to 2012, I did not hesitate in putting my name forward.

What came next resulted in what turned out to be one of the best summers of my life...

But before all of that was an interview in an imposing Canary Wharf building in January of that year.

It turned out that having to get my photo taken - as an awkward and nervous 18-year-old - and the ensuing questions were all worth it, as a couple of weeks later I was offered the position of one of the 70,000 Games Makers.

At the time, I was in my first year as a student at the University of Kent in Canterbury and so had to work the next few trips to London for training events at Wembley Arena and the Olympic Park around my uni schedule.

There was also a journey to West Ham to pick up my accreditation and uniform, which included tops, trousers, trainers, a cap, a watch, a bag, a bottle and an umbrella - a necessity in the UK!

Although I felt so privileged to be given these and to be able to keep them as mementos of my time as a Games Maker, the experiences themselves were what will stick with me forever.

Trying out my Games Maker uniform in my university room
Trying out my Games Maker uniform in my university room

Before the Games got underway, I was lucky enough to go to the Olympic Stadium and watch a technical rehearsal for the opening ceremony, which was absolutely amazing! It was 100 per cent one of the highlights for me.

Of course, some parts of the show were saved for the day, but we experienced what I would estimate was 75 per cent of the show a few days before it was seen by millions of people around the world.

Show director Danny Boyle told us to #savethesurprise of what we had seen, as we enjoyed performances from singer Frank Turner and actor Kenneth Branagh.

Here I am at the technical rehearsal for the opening ceremony
Here I am at the technical rehearsal for the opening ceremony
Actor Kenneth Branagh played a part in the ceremony
Actor Kenneth Branagh played a part in the ceremony
A stunning end to one part of the show
A stunning end to one part of the show

So, there was quite a lot of responsibility on us Games Makers' shoulders before we'd even got to volunteering!

By the time the end of July/beginning of August came around, I was back home in Norfolk for the uni holidays, which was not all that ideal when I was going to be working at the Olympic Park in Stratford.

Thankfully, I was able to stay at my relative's house near Watford to commute in every day I was working, with my first shift on August 3 towards the end of the first week of the action.

There were around 800 different roles Games Makers could do, from nursing to judges, and drivers to guides.

I took a picture in my uniform every day before each of my seven shifts
I took a picture in my uniform every day before each of my seven shifts

The job I was assigned may come as a surprise, as it did to me. I was a security team member... but before you picture big puffer jackets and black sunglasses, it wasn't quite like that.

Across the seven days of volunteering, I mostly checked tickets at the first entry point to the Olympic Park, helped to put people's bags on a conveyor belt to be scanned, and pointed guests in the right direction.

A surprising number of people had come to the park when they were supposed to be at a completely different venue, which of course caused a fair amount of stress for everyone!

For us Games Makers, each day started with checking in with our team and then going to our designated spot for the day's work, before taking our break (near what was the world's largest McDonald's) and checking out as much of the park as we could.

Queues to enter the Olympic park
Queues to enter the Olympic park
Me with one of the teams I worked with as a Games Maker at London 2012
Me with one of the teams I worked with as a Games Maker at London 2012

It was scorching hot throughout most of the Games, and I can recall the constant cycle of hearing Emeli Sandé's Read All About It and Calvin Harris & Florence and the Machine's Spectrum (Say My Name) over the tannoys.

There was also a little bit of celeb spotting (no Usain Bolts or Mo Farahs but I did see Susanna Reid...) and pin badge collecting for our lanyards too.

By the time my week of volunteering was complete, I was beyond shattered but was so happy to have been a minute cog in a huge machine that made London 2012 happen.

But it didn't quite finish there...

I also got to witness the parade of athletes through The Mall in London (where I spotted a fair few more of our famous names including track cyclist Victoria Pendleton and the Brownlee brothers), and an anniversary event for volunteers in 2013 called 'Go Local' at the Olympic Park, with special guests including McFly and Eddie Izzard, as well as then-London mayor and future prime minister Boris Johnson...

Here I am holding an Olympic torch!
Here I am holding an Olympic torch!
Olympic track cyclist Victoria Pendleton with her medals
Olympic track cyclist Victoria Pendleton with her medals
Future prime minister and then-London mayor Boris Johnson at the Go Local event at the Olympic Park. Picture: Rebekah Chilvers
Future prime minister and then-London mayor Boris Johnson at the Go Local event at the Olympic Park. Picture: Rebekah Chilvers
Eddie Izzard at the 'Go Local' event at the Olympic park
Eddie Izzard at the 'Go Local' event at the Olympic park

Being a Games Maker also gave me the opportunity to buy tickets to see the England football team play Ukraine at Wembley in 2012. That is of course more poignant now than it seemed at the time.

Obviously not having spent enough time at the Olympic Park, I decided this time I wanted to be a spectator and got tickets to watch the wheelchair basketball during the Paralympics.

Sporting Team GB colours at the park to watch the Paralympics
Sporting Team GB colours at the park to watch the Paralympics

A decade has now gone by since I volunteered at the Olympics, and with the Commonwealth Games 2022 in full swing as part of the legacy of 2012, I can't help but think back on the time when I was involved in an event that brought the whole country together while the world's eyes were firmly on our capital.

If you ever get the opportunity to volunteer for something you are passionate about, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.