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Diary of an Olympics Volunteer, final!

Posted by admin on August 24, 2012

Shenanigans behind the Torch

The best way to finish my Olympic Blog as a volunteer Head PA for the Irish Team, is to describe the final day (of 9 in a row!).

The Irish offices and accommodation had to be stripped down ready for the new facilities and branding for the Para Olympic team. Then we were treated to lunch in the athletes dining hall. There was seating for 6000 and market stalls with foods of the world (Asia and Pacific, Europe, UK, the America’s, Africa, and the Middle East), though I noted the medal wearers were hitting McDonalds. The food was delicious and I now understand why our food in the Workers Canteen was that bad – every day we got the leftovers from the UK section only.

We placed several hundred bottles of beer in one of the physio baths and packed them with ice, then confirmed with caterers that great food for 100 would arrive at 12 midnight for the final party.

I spent the afternoon supporting the Modern Pentathlon Team at Greenwich. Natalya, the Irish athlete, finished 9th - which was a great result.

I then had Natalya and her four coaches in the back of our official car stuffing McDonalds and swigging beer as I steered us back to the Olympic Village at high speed (I ignored my defensive driver training and drove like a Londoner!) so we could catch the Closing Ceremony. I lagged behind at security as I was still carrying bags – but Chris Hoy helped me load them through the scanners – star-spotting has become a habit!

I organised team photos on the lawn before they marched off for the Closing Ceremony; try managing 95 distracted Irish athletes, especially the boxers, who are an excitable bunch.

Sonia O’Sullivan gave a closing speech on the lawn and we the volunteers were smothered in gifts, cheers and thanks. Then came a complete surprise: tickets to join the Irish delegation watching the closing ceremony. OMG - row 9 behind the Torch! We love the Irish team - so generous of spirit and heart.

As I’m sure you all saw, it was spectacular – gasps and tears all round.

Back to the all-night party in the Irish Office and returned on the 1st tube of the morning, feeling somewhat depressed…

The final ‘coach’ learnings:

Take the chance to be the ‘undercover boss’ if you can. I re-learned the support role and it will me remind to suspend judgment and see things from a different point of view.
Teams may come together with enthusiasm and a great spirit, but it’s important not to neglect the key steps. Communication, honesty, praise, review of why things go wrong and finally get a balance of types in your team. As volunteers we were a good team but if we had continued to work together, there would have been more to do to become great.
Treat others as you want to be treated yourself. Every day I smiled and gave support and with exception of the rude and untrained G4S team I got the same back from my team, the athletes, the general public and the amazing Army guys and girls (they truly are heroes – OK?!

Simon Laws simon.laws@impronta.co.uk