My road to London 2017 began in early 2016 when I registered for pre-sale tickets. There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity of seeing Usain Bolt – the fastest man on earth and legend in his own lifetime – run his last ever races. Especially as they were being run on my own doorstep at the iconic London Stadium (which I still call the Olympic Stadium).
Of course, it isn’t just Usain that is the draw as I have been OBSESSED by anything Olympic related since I was in my teens, and moreso since London 2012. Since the games in London, I have made it my mission to see as many of the atheltes with my own eyes, competing in their sport. I have been to athletics, track cycling, swimming, diving, power lifting, weight lifting, basketball, wheelchair basketball and gymnastics in the last five years. I have taken in the Commonwealth Games, the Invictus Games, the FINA Diving World Series, The Anniversary Games (not missed one yet!), the UCI Track Cycling World Cup and the Rugby World Cup to name but a few. It has been a rollercoast. Not quite the legacy that London meant to leave, but at least it gets me out of the house.
I think it was towards the end of May that I made my first session purchases. As always when I am buying tickets, my pulse was racing and I was anxious because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out. The fact that I was on one of the earliest pre-sales, and the general release for tickets wasn’t until August didn’t stop me feeling this way – I am very serious when ticket purchasing, and there is an art to it.
I got the tickets that I initially wanted. I think there were about 5 sessions I purchased at first, and that has since grown with the ballot and the other sales since that first one. I have 13 sessions now booked in for spectating over the IPC and IAAF events and all on top-tier tickets.
A couple of weeks later, there was an email I think to ask about registering interest in becoming a Runner – essentially the Games Makers of London 2017. I was in awe of the Games Makers at London, and also the Clydesiders at Glasgow 2014 and I knew that I wanted to apply so I signed up for updates and thought nothing more of it. I also encouraged my friend at work to do so, and she caved eventually. She works part time so I thought it would be ideal.
The main ticket ballot opened in August and I registered for more sessions – I wanted to ensure I saw ALL of my favourites and I needed to make sure I was there to see both Mo Farah and Usain Bolt’s last ever track races before they retire. I also wanted to make sure I saw all my Para-athletic favourites, so sessions where I would see Jonnie Peacock, Hannah Cockroft and Dave Weir. I added them to my basket and rolled the dice.
A few weeks later – BINGO, I had been given most of the sessions I had wanted. I then took advantage of the £9 tickets after the Rio Paralympics, where I had decided that Liam Malone was a new favourite and booked for his 400m race, so I then had all three of his races booked.
Then came the big one – the email with a link to apply to become a Runner! I was SO excited, I clicked the link and completed the form online. With an excited squeal I hit the Submit button and my work was done. Now the LONG wait!
Winter arrived, and the euphoria of Rio died down – I spent money on all the Team GB stuff in the post-Rio sale, purchased some fake Rio mascots off Amazon, watched my London 2012 and Rio 2016 DVDs, ordered and received the amazing flashing red, white and blue Closing Ceremony Team GB shoes. Christmas then came and went, along with a trip home to Cornwall. Then 2017 arrived – THE YEAR OF THE GAMES.
It was February 14th that I received an email eventually, inviting me to come for a selection day event for the Runner role. I was SO excited! I booked in for Sunday 19th and told everyone I know. I had my chance to shine now.
I got to The Crystal about an hour early and saw people leaving from the previous session. I had donned my bright red Team GB hoodie and looked the part. I also had on my Bring On The Great wrist bands from Rio (they are still on today!) and the Team GB band that I bought during London 2012 when I went to the gymnastics.
I went inside and joined the other people; because of the type of people who apply to volunteer there was a lot of friendly chatting and laughter. Hearing where some of the others had travelled from, seeing some Games Makers in their kit, and listening to their stories from other major events they had volunteered at made me so excited.
We were taken upstairs in groups of about 5 or 6. Had our passports scanned in, confirmed name details, given a name and number sticker and posed for our headshot which would eventually be used for our accreditation if we were successful. I had to have a straight face, like a passport photo, but as I was so excited I just kept giggling which held up the line but gave the volunteers taking the photo no end of amusement.
I walked into the main room, where we were sat at tables of 8 people, with a leader. We watched a video which overwhelmed me to say the least – seeing footage from London 2012 and Rio made a tear roll down my cheek as it always does. Remembering those great times and seeing the amazing athletes. Hearing Dina Asher-Smith tell her story of being a Games Maker in London, and a medal winner in Rio. She also said that there were 15,000 people who applied to become a Runner, and we were some of the 10,000 that were selected for the next stage. It was wonderful to hear.
Next were the tasks where we were observed. Firstly, we were given a number of cards to arrange. A picture of an athlete, their name, their discipline and lastly their World Record mark. Usain was one of the people, along with Jonnie Peacock, Richard Whitehead, Stef McLeod and then two that I didn’t know. I was the only girl on my table, and I lead that task, ensuring some order in the sorting of cards, rather than the willy-nilly way that the men wanted to do! I think I made my mark with that one, and also knew all the Para-athletes whereas the boys seemed only to know Usain!
Then we were split into two groups, where we were given a scenario and had to plan a trip across London to suit. Our group had “a mother and her children are at Kings Cross, and want to get to the London Stadium and also go to a McDonalds in Westfield on the way” and I was right on it – this was MY thing. People come to me for tube guidance all the time. I definitely led this one too, I assumed she had a buggy so made sure the route was step-free with the least number of changes. We read back our route, while the leader made her notes.
That ended the tasks, next was the “interview” and the lady that took me was the same lady who had just taken my photo. I HATE interviews, even though I am a talker as anyone that knows me will vouch for. The poor lady was writing down as I was waffling on, and I just kept worrying that she wasn’t listening to me properly and might miss out something important. I reeled off the answers and sighed. She thanked me and showed me the way out. I couldn’t do any more now. I had given my all, and done my best on the day. Now the LONG wait began.
We were told that roles would start to be confirmed in March and April. I checked my inbox ALL the time, along with the Volunteer portal. Time went on, and nothing. I joined a Volunteer group on Facebook and realised that there were a lot of people who were also waiting, and that was nice. A community of Team Waiting as we became known. People posted their success stories, and shared their role. We were all very happy for them.
May arrived and Team Waiting was still quite substantial, but we all remained positive and kept hoping. Speculation became rife in the group about news. Successful people were now saying they received a call, rather than just the email that had been going out at the beginning. Someone posted the number, and then some Team Waiting members were ringing to find out. Not a good idea.
I’d all but given up, and on 30th May I received an email to say thanks but no thanks. I was gutted. I really had hoped they would pick me after that successful selection event. I seemed to have gotten my email at the same time as a number of other Team Waiting members in the group and we all consoled each other. Again, it was nice not to feel alone after being rejected. I vowed there to ensure I got down to the front at the events to get my chance to meet Usain Bolt.
I put the Runner role to the back of my mind, and wasn’t as active in the group anymore. I saw posts about training sessions and shift booking. Also uniform collection and people moaning a lot about things. I didn’t really care anymore. It wasn’t something I was going to be part of. Stick your role, London 2017. I don’t need you anyway.
Monday 19th June at 10.15am – my phone starts ringing. I don’t answer, as it is a number I didn’t recognise. I let it ring out, no message was left, and as always (as I am a nosebag) I Googled the number and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park came up. I started shaking. Did they want me? I called the number back, but the lady on the switchboard said I couldn’t be put through as I hadn’t had a message left.
Immidiately, I went to the group and posted. I hadn’t seen any other posts about people being offered over the phone at this late stage. I asked for help, support, reassurance, guidance from the group. Someone said to email them and that was a genius idea – I got straight on it and sent.
I clicked into the Volunteer portal for the first time in days, and refreshed it continually for what seemed hours. I did the same with my inbox – WHERE ARE THEY? The phone eventually rang again at 13.19 with the same number. I cleared my throat and answered as cooly as I could.
He said he had seen my email, and knew that I had tried to call them back – and confirmed that it was to offer me a role. I had to keep composed but during the 10 minute call, at no point was I told which role it was, and I didn’t think to even ask. He reeled off shifts, and I had to open up my Google calendar on my computer to see what I had booked in to spectate. I agreed to everything. Shift times were sometimes starting at 6am and sometimes finishing at midnight but I lapped it up. We said our goodbyes and I hung up.
I WAS IN!!! THEY WANTED ME!! I am officially a Venue Transport Team Member –
“Role Description: Venue Transport Team Members will meet and greet Athletes, IAAF/IPC Family, Media, Sponsors and Spectators with a friendly welcome and provide clients with way finding and general assistance. They will ensure transport services at London Stadium and Load Zone areas around park are functioning in a timely and efficient manner ensuring that transport is in the right place and available at the right time. Team Members will communicate with functional areas within London Stadium to inform when transport is ready for each client group (where appropriate), escalate any transport issues to Venue Transport Manager. This role will take place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.”
That was 10 days ago. I have my training session on 1st July, then I am collecting my uniform and accreditation on 8th July and I have my first shift on 13th July. I spent time putting my shifts vs my spectating into a spreadsheet with all the times. Then I checked on the ticketing portal for the events I would be working, and I saw my chance – Saturday 12th August I am working from 6am until 3pm and that is the session where the heats are taking place for the men’s 4x100m . This is my one chance to be “backstage” to meet Usain. All the other times he is running, I am there spectating so chances will be low.
I need to seize my opportunity, and get to meet the greatest of all time – MEET ME, USAIN!