15th July – My Old Mate Liam!

Session 2 Seating - not too shabby!I had attended Session 1 on Friday 14th July, and I had tickets to attend Sessions 2, 3, 4 and 5 over the weekend. Although I had only been volunteering for two days, I felt like it was all I had ever done all my life. Normal daily life was a distant memory. Days were merging into one, and I was TIRED – I had walked almost 20,000 steps on the Friday and I think it must have been around midnight when I got to bed and I needed to be up bright and early for Session 2 when doors opened at 10am. I had booked to see that morning session with Stacey – and she rocked up with a hangover as she had celebrated her birthday the night before. It was going to be a LONG day as I had the morning session with her, and then I was booked to see the evening session and doors didn’t open until 7pm. I was going to see Mandy, Vicki, Liz and Kevin in the evening as they were venturing in from Essex to see the Superhumans – it was Liz and Kevin’s first experience of seeing Para sport and they both loved it so much that they decided to come over on the Sunday night as well, when we were all due to be going again.

36176024255_a439b0e40d_o.jpgSession 2 had a lot of qualifying sessions for the rest of the weekend, but it was when Steph Reid won her long jump gold for Team GB and we also saw Rheed McCracken take part in his 100m heat. It wasn’t a very packed session though in terms of spectators and it did lack atmosphere which was a shame after the feeling on Friday night for the opening session – saying that, daytime sessions always do have a different feel to evening sessions. Hark at me, going on like a pro!

My lasting memory of the daytime was actually after that session. Stacey and I had a Stacey and I on our benches after the morning session!wander past the Hero Village – where medal ceremonies took place – and then past the Podium Cafe and took up residence on two of the wooden benches along that path. It was perfect for people watching and we saw lots of stars – Whizbee the mascot came by on the park buggy (and blew me a kiss!), then Steph Reid came by on the way to collect her medal, and also Lord Coe was there, doing an interview just next to The Orbit. Stacey was absolutely hanging and although we had planned to hang about for ages, she had to go home to be hungover in private which left me alone.

I sat on my bench for a good three or four hours after Stacey left me. I was wearing my pink Runner hoodie, and I did feel like I was on duty as I smiled at lots of people walking by, who were enjoying the park. I also think I helped a few people out with directions to the Hero Village and I sat and had a nice chat with a man who needed help with a survey he was doing for uni – I had all the time in the world while I was awaiting my evening session buddies to come, and I just sat there watching the world go by for hours.

Eventually, at around 5 I had a call from Vicki and I wandered up to meet them for a little catch up as I haven’t seen them for a few months. I filled them in on what I had been up to doing my Runner duties, and how tired I was, but how it was totally amazing and I was absolutely loving it. We all said about how excited we were about the evening session, and soon made our way over Bridge 1 and onto the stadium island. We made our way around to the warm up track, to see who we could see, and for Liz and Kevin to see their first real-live Superhumans. I pointed out some of the faces I recognised to them while they were warming up.

Soon it was time to take our seats. I was sitting in the home straight, and the others had seats on the back straight so we said our goodbyes (until the next day!) and made our way in. I always insist on sitting in the most expensive seats, simply to lessen the chance of being sat near irritating families with screeching kids who get bored very quickly of the sport going on in front of them. It still happens, but I was lucky during the games really and only asked to be moved once – and it ended up being to a way better seat anyway.

Liam and me - our second meeting!As I settled myself in my seat, I was unpacking my camera and flag and I spotted my old friend Liam Malone. He was down beside the track with a woman (who I didn’t recognise) getting ready for broadcasting live on Channel 4. Looking very suave in a suit, and different to how he looked when I saw him on Thursday afternoon in his jeans and a t-shirt. I saw people start to go down to speak to him, and to get pictures and I wasn’t going to miss out on that so I looked over to plan my route as he was a couple of blocks over, and then skipped off and down the stairs to the bottom. There was a steward sat at the bottom and he just rolled his eyes at me. I asked him if he could get Liam for me and he said I have to call him over and I did. I was much more nervous this time than I was when I met him on the Thursday, but he came bounding over, opened the gate and came onto my side of it, and off the track area and I asked if he had managed to get to see his mates OK the other day and he said yes. I was so surprised he remembered me! I asked if we could have another photo, and he said of course, and this time he took it.

After I had posted the photo from Thursday in the Facebook group of Liam, a few of the Liam declined our invite to the party.other Runners and Team Waiting members said it would be great if we could get Liam to come to our party. He had said something about wanting to party while in London when he was on The Last Leg the night before (I hadn’t seen it, as I had been spectating). There was a little event planned for the first Saturday of the IAAF event for members of Team Waiting to come and meet up with successful Runners so we could all finally meet after knowing each other via Facebook for months and having been through the whole process together. I said that if I got to meet Liam again, I would definitely ask him and this was my moment. I got quite tongue-tied, but managed it but I couldn’t remember the date, so I said I would Tweet him with it when I had it.

I must have been stood chatting for a while as the woman behind me waiting for her turn for a photo made some comment about me taking up all his time talking – but what can I say? We were having a catch up, which is what old friends do! I made my way back to my seat and let the ladies know who were sitting next to me that he was lovely and tried to encourage them to go and say hello to him as well. London 2017 was the first big event after Rio 2016, so it was the first time that Liam had a captive audience even if he wasn’t able to compete. Less than a year ago, I had absolutely no idea who he was, and during the Paralympic Games he just won the hearts of so many people with his unique interview style and sense of humour and of course his amazing story of getting his blades crowd-funded, and losing his mum to cancer. It was an honor to have met him not once, but twice.

The session was another cracker with great sports and a first from what I believe – 35785742250_684d03a2de_oduring a 5000m race with visually impaired runners and their guides, one of the runners swapped guides half way through the race. This happened on the opposite side of the stadium so my view wasn’t that good, but it was definitely controversial! Richard Whitehead stormed to another gold in the T42 200m race, with Ntando Mahlangu from South Africa getting the silver and Dave Henson winning bronze – the same result from when they were in Rio almost 12 months before. Ntando is certainly a name to watch as he was just 13 when he won silver in Rio! It was also the same result during the Anniversary Games in 2016.

It was another wonderful day at The Park and in one of my favourite places. I made my way home, sorted out my photos and went to bed to get ready for another full day on the Sunday before yet more volunteering – every single day the following week – with Venue Transport at the load zones.

 

 

 

 

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Friday 14th July – Shift 2

35537011850_f67228b606_oI woke up at 5.15am in order to ensure I was at QEOP on time – up and ready, and out of the house at around 6am and it was clear and quiet outside. The first official day of competition and my first morning shift. It looked to be a fine day so I opted to wear pink top and to have my hoodie with me – I decided to leave the rain coat at home.

I felt way more confident about getting to the Park and starting work on this day. I checked in, got my meal vouchers for the day and received my Shift 2 sticker on my check in card and made my way to Workforce to meet the rest of the team for the day.

When I got to the table inside the very empty Workforce – as Venue Transport we were one of the only teams (along with the people who did check in) that needed to be at the park very early in the morning – so it was never hard to find everyone when it was a morning shift. I grabbed one of the amazing Workforce coffees (four spoonfuls of freeze dried good stuff) and sat down. I recognised a couple of faces from the day before, and also recognised Alex who was on my training course. I remembered him as he said that he liked to play wheelchair basketball (he is able bodied) and also did pole dancing at uni. I think that Trish was on that shift as well, and she had also been on my training course and was one of the people I met during the lunch break when I went to sit outside with Jane and Nicola before we were split into specific training groups. I also think that Derm was on that shift, and he was another face I remembered from training.

Alex having a chat with a man I recognised from The Last Leg in Rio in 2016- he was one of the coaches and enjoyed singing!Soon, Sally arrived with a box of high vis tops for us (we were told to take one and then that would be ours for the rest of our shifts, and I realised that the one I had from the day before was very tiny indeed!) and let everyone know where they were going to be for the day. I was allocated to Car Park 1, along with Alex and Kim who hadn’t arrived yet. It was another day, and another load zone with new people and I was really looking forward to it. We were handed out clipboard and radio for the shift and I think we made our own way there.

Within a few minutes of arriving, and having a briefing about what we were meant to be doing for the day from Ryan (pretty much the same as Bridge 4 as this was another load zone where athletes were coming and going from hotels) it started to rain. HARD! We had a little bit of shelter there but to be honest we were more concerned with needing to have somewhere for the Superhumans to wait for their busses. I think the first busses were due to arrive at around 8am so we had some time to sit and chat to each other before the influx began. We managed to find some chairs and arrange them nicely for when the athletes needed them later on.

ACTION STATIONS! The first bus was pulling off the Loop Road and into our load zone – all going well until security tried to tell all athletes to get off the bus there so they could check bags. This wasn’t being safe for wheelchair users and athletes not too steady at walking down steps and onto the road without a raised curb, and was also holding up traffic. Alex and I rushed over to find out what on earth was going on and to tell security that bag checks took place once the athletes were off the coach and were going inside the stadium complex, rather than turfing them out on the road. It was mostly Team Australia that were on the bus, and I apologised profusely to them as they started to get off the bus. Thankfully Ryan came to assist and speak to security and tell them that they weren’t meant to be checking bags there – it wasn’t like it was the first day that athletes were coming and going at the stadium so why they thought they needed to check bags there today was mad.

Once that initial hiccough happened, we were cooking on gas and I soon discovered that Team tents on the warm up track.Car Park 1 was where Team GB were coming into. During that first day I saw a number of our Team GB superhumans; Aled Davies, Dan Greaves and Dave Henson to name but a few and I am able to say that I was able to help each of them get a bus which wasn’t meant to be leaving so they could get back to their hotel. Dan Greaves had to get back to get himself sorted for the opening ceremony – he was one of the athletes chosen to take the Athletes Oath while holding the Para-athletic flag. There weren’t any busses but I had a word with the bus controller and we got him a bus to himself. The same happened to Dave Henson who had just missed a bus and he was hoping to get back to his hotel so he could rest properly after his morning of training. He was quite distressed he had missed the bus, and his coach offered for him to go back to the team tent on the warm up track and take his legs off to have a lay down. I said that wasn’t good enough for one of our stars and so as with Dan Greaves, we got him a coach sorted all to himself back to their hotel.

Up until around 10am, it was just me and Alex there on the load zone with the occasional visit from Ryan. Kim arrived at about ten and irritated me a lot straight off, not because she was late (she was commuting from Stoke Mandeville every day) but because she just moaned about the cold, and that there was no hot water nearby because she wanted a cup of green tea. Alex and I had had a great time up until then, so we had to adapt to the third person. I know she meant well, but she just hit the wrong note with me.

One moment stood out from the day – when she asked Rheed McCracken who is a wheelchair racer from Australia, how many steps his race is. She had been waffling on to us about how many steps she was doing in a day, and while he was waiting for the bus to be ready to board, she asked about what event he does and then how many steps the race was. He turned to me and just looked puzzled – why on earth would you ask someone in a wheelchair how many steps their race is? He asked if she meant how many pushes the race was, and she said no, she wanted to know how many steps it was. I was as baffled as he was and it was just so insensitive to say something like that. I tried to brush over it, and asked when his race was and he said he had qualifying on the Saturday – I said I was watching all those sessions and I will make sure I cheer him on to which he thanked me. He ended up winning the silver which was great – I felt I had done my bit!

The opening ceremony of the Para Athletics - athletes taking the oath.When she went off to get hot water or lunch or some other such rubbish, Ryan came over and beckoned Alex and I into the road that ran under the seating of the stadium in a very cloak and dagger way – he then produced two tickets from his pocket and said that we could have them to spectate that evening. I graciously declined as I was already booked in to see the events but Alex snapped his ticket up and was very excited! I was also pleased he had got a ticket as he is a student and hadn’t bought any tickets to watch the action.

The afternoon passed by quickly, and it even got quite warm after the rain we had earlier on the shift. I think doors for the evening session was due to open at 5pm and stupidly I had thought it would be a good idea to go home, get changed, collect my camera and make my way back in the space of two hours. I managed to do it of course, but instead of a leisurely time at home getting myself ready, I was inside for literally ten minutes before I had to run to get the bus, then get back onto the DLR and skip back to the QEOP. Alex had walked to Westfield with me to do the same, and the changed his mind but I had to go home as I hadn’t brought my camera with me and I wasn’t missing a photo opportunity!

I could make my way home relatively slowly from the evening session as I had a whole weekend of spectating to look forward to and also spectating and catching up with real life friends. All four sessions were booked for a watch and I couldn’t wait.

Hurricane Hannah after winning her first medal and getting her first world record of the champs!