My London 2012. 4 years on
Along with a lot of people, I genuinely cannot believe how quickly the last 4 years have passed by. My own Olympic journey began nearly 2 years before the Opening Ceremony, when I sent my application in to be a Gamesmaker. I had no idea if I’d even be accepted let alone what I would actually end up doing.
Looking back I think I pushed my work skills a little too much during the interview process. I didn’t forces enough on the me outside of work and what I could do. Hence why for 10 days during the Paralympics I worked at Eton Manor as a Venue Communications Team member as part of the wider Command Control and Communications team. I wrote about my time there over on my other blog.
This is just a quick post to ‘check in’ really. I am so tired after having my second shift today. I finished my first at 5 last night and started again at seven this morning. Add to that very little sleep because I just haven’t gotten used to this bed yet, the bags around my eyes are more like suitcases by the second.
So yes, I’m alive, having fun and eating well. Which is pretty good considering I’m a ‘Gluten Free Gamesmaker’. So no Nature Valley Bars, no McDonalds and as I’m still not too sure about dairy products, no Cadbury’s chocolate. If Wholebake Ltd could have also sponsored the Olympics and Paralympics, I’d be well away. Catering do provide a gluten free choice at each meal so I don’t go without. The two so far have been pretty nice. Mainly vegetables in vegetables, with extra vegetables. So it’s all counting toward my ‘5 a day’. And my nicotine intake is also down.
My fellow Gamesmakers within the team I’m on (and further afield too!) are all lovely. Even at stupid o Clock in the morning. Uniform is comfy, the trainers still nip a little but it’s getting better. I think I’m understanding the role more and trying not to fret about it too much. Another girl I was on shift with this morning also felt the same, so we helped each other out and kept one another positive about it all.
To top it all off, after worrying I wouldn’t get to see a single event, bar a bit of sneaking into Centre Court to see the Wheelchair Tennis, I have managed to get tickets to watch the Athletics in the Olympic Stadium next Saturday morning. Am on shift in the afternoon so my last proper day in the Park will be pretty amazing.
I only have one shift left. As of Saturday afternoon (hopefully, there’s only the final tennis matches happening), I will no longer be a Gamesmaker. This week has flown by. I’ve hardly stopped and am completely exhausted. I’ve done far too many sudoku puzzles to keep my mind alert too.
It seems like five minutes ago that I arrived at the Olympic Park on Thursday night to see how long the journey would take me from where I’m staying, to Eton Manor. Only half an hour! About as long as it takes me to walk to normal work in a morning. This time I’ve been using the tube from Leytonstone to Leyton and then walking from Leyton Station to Eton Manor Gate which is always quiet so no massive queues to get through security and onto Venue.
I walked round for a while and went into the Beat Box which is the big red and white monument near World Square on the Park. It’s run by Coca Cola and goes through how the Mark Ronson song ‘Anywhere in the World’ was put together. Through the sounds of 5 different sports from 5 different countries. I had my first photo with the Paralympic Torch that night. The photo had the stadium in the back ground and even though my hair is a mess because I’d travelled across the country and it was quite windy up there, it’s a decent photo. I walked around for a bit longer before deciding to head home after seeing my friend, Fiona.
Friday morning was my first shift and it began at 7am as it did again on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Getting up at 5am was a bit of a struggle and it was quite chilly in the morning. Thankfully the uniform jacket for us Gamesmakers is quite snug.
I’ve had shifts with pretty much everyone on our team and made some friends for life from doing so. I haven’t been the youngest nor have I been the eldest and there have been people from all walks of life on our team. From those who travelled from America to England at the age of 23 and have lived here for the past 50 odd years, to those who in two weeks will be starting University. We’ve all been able to find things to talk about and everyone is interesting in their own way. I’ve seen myself in certain members of the team and I think I’ve also changed in doing so. I’ve been able to act calmly in what can be quite stressful situations. No kicking off for Jayne from now on!! It’s just not worth it. There have been lessons in Spanish words, Portuguese words. Food from those countries. Discussions about the Sports we are watching. I’ve learnt so much in 7 days. All for the better.
On Tuesday, I had my first afternoon shift. It lasted from 2.30pm to 9.10pm because of a match between Japan and Thailand having to be delayed due to long matched previously. When it was over, three of the team, including myself, decided to take the walk from Eton Manor through the Park and out the Stratford Gate. It’s so lovely doing this at night. It wasn’t too busy, there were plenty of people around to make it lively though. We ended up doing some impromptu front of house work. I finally got my hands on a megaphone.
If you were one of the people I barked at to do a ‘Bolt’, ‘Mobot; or ‘Weirwolf’ pose, thank you for obliging. Also, if anyone sees me photobombing any spectators photos from outside the Stadium, let me know! I think I would have enjoyed being outside in the main park area a lot, though I don’t wish to take anything away from the great time I’ve had in the office of Eton Manor, communicating with all the teams using the radios.
One of the good friends I’ve made from my time as a Gamesmaker is Abbie. Abbie is brilliant and just the nicest person I’ve ever met. She understands my humour and banter and I am very grateful to her for putting up with me, letting me tag along and inviting me to use her spare ticket for the Athletics in the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night. Even if I was late! I had a fabulous time and when I go in again on Saturday I just don’t think it will be the same for me, not having a friend sat next to me. However, if you do end up being my neighbour on Saturday morning, I’m really friendly and will shout louder than you!
We got to see Oscar Pistorius and the rest of the South African relay win Gold and also saw the heartbreak of the Spanish team dropping the baton right in front of our stand. Seeing an athlete laying on the floor in utter defeat, is heartbreaking. The hush and reverence will stay with me forever, as will the applause the athlete got when he left the track to seek solace from his fellow teammates. I never imagined I’d be so lucky as to be in there and I will keep those memories in my mind for as long as my body will let me.
This afternoon after our shift, Abbie and I went on the Beatbox, the first time for her. We then drifted through the spectators, round the wildlife gardens and under the bridges. After heading into Westfields Shopping Centre, she then left to meet friends in Central London. I had something to eat, wandered round for a bit and found myself going back into the Park. It just seems to draw me like a magnet. I’m trapped in this whole Paralympic bubble and I never want it to pop.
Celebrations will be going on at home I’m sure. Oliver Hynd, who comes from our town, won a gold medal last night in the swimming. Thanks to the power of Twitter, I was able to see the postbox across the road from the house I grew up in, being painted Gold. Isn’t technology amazing?! Oliver and his brother Sam have won 4 medals between them. We are so proud of Team Hynd! I cannot wait to go to the celebrations in Mansfield when I’m home. I’m tempted to go in my Gamesmaker Uniform but I worry that will look a bit sad. I do love it though!
I also have a little collection of pins attached to my accreditation strap. Some of them I’ve received during the course of the week when I’ve turned up for my shits, others I’ve bought in the store on the Park to remember my time a little more.
I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me and sent me messages this week. Those who’ve retweeted my blog links. I’m so lucky to be doing this and like I said, I don’t want it to end. I get a bit teary just thinking about leaving for the last time. It’s been a blast.
What I have reflected on since is how different my fellow Gamesmakers were. How varied in age and background we were. And that is exactly what it was all about. Everyone was experiencing it together and bringing something of themselves to the role. I saw a lot of myself in others and learned from them too.
Yeah. Pistorius. Huh.
I remember where I watched the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Three quarters of it was spent at my brother’s house with his girlfriend at the time and her daughter. Then when they went to bed I darted back to my parents’ house around the corner to watch the final part. Tweeting along and just feeling so excited by it all. Chomping at the bit to get to London and join in for myself.
Those memories are bittersweet though. My best friend (he called me ‘sis’ and I called him ‘bro) was part of the props team for the Ceremonies. He was there in the midst of the stadium ready to cut Voldemort down and in the weeks leading up had made so so many of the props used by volunteers and performers.
He is no longer with us. Less than 9 months later he died suddenly. And his stories that he had not shared with us went with him.
Thankfully in the 10 days that I was in London in the September, I managed to see him often and we would talk about the aspects of the Games that we had each seen. (As well as seeing two theatre shows and eating vast amounts of pizza).
Seeing the footage of the Opening Ceremony leaves a bit of a lump in my throat knowing that he’s not here to be excited about it with us. But I do swell with pride about it too. It was just so good. BRITAIN WAS GREAT.
I was lucky enough because of my ‘bro’ to see the Imagine Special about the Opening Ceremony before it aired on TV. At a special premiere in Dalston at the beginning of July. All the way through watching it my eyes were darting around the screen trying to spot him in the footage whilst also feeling a mix of emotions about how bloody marvellous London 2012 was.
It showed Britain can be great. It can be creative. It can come together and celebrate humans for just being humans.
We were told to ‘Look to the stars, not at your feet’.
However the volunteers were given an unofficial slogan of ‘ Fly like arrows, fall like rain’. Which we could all stand to learn from. Right now Britain is in a total shit storm. One of hate, prejudice and alienation. How can we fall like rain when we can’t even fly like arrows? Because only love cures hate.
I’m still in touch with a number of those that I worked with at Eton Manor. I see them now and again. Including at the most unexpected times. I saw one in the hospital where my friend died. In the few days I was there before they switched him off. It was just bizarre.
Our shared experience made us all friends for life no matter how often we see each other. All 70000 of us.
I’m so glad I did it. I’m so glad my ‘bro’ did too.