Behind the scenes with Rosemary, Malcolm, Victoria and Sarah-Jane

Behind the scenes at the IAAF World Athletics Championships

In the aftermath of the successful IAAF World Athletics Championships, we thought it would be a great idea to catch up with a few volunteers who helped make the Championships such a great success.

We wanted to find out their motivations for volunteering, their experiences during the Championships and, of course, their highlights.  This is what they told us.

Rosemary Head has four children and six grandchildren and spends much of her spare time volunteering in her community.  Having already volunteered at London 2012 and Rio 2016, she didn’t hesitate to put her name forward for London 2017.  Her role was in Spectator Services – meeting the public and dealing with their every need.

Rosemary loved meeting people from all over the world and felt very proud to represent her country. She was surprised at the number of questions she was asked every day, but loved the buzz in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  From questions about lost property to one little boy who wanted to know…

“Are you here to make people laugh?  Yes, indeed I am, if I can put a smile on people’s faces!”

One of her highlights was to be given a free ticket for the final Saturday evening session, but decided to give it away to a very grateful lady with a young baby whose husband was already in the stadium.

Rosemary has already booked her place at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and always encourages other people to get involved in volunteering.  Having recovered from breast cancer 10 years ago, she feels she was given a second chance and now makes the most of every opportunity, and at the age of 77, intends to “keep going“.

Malcolm Chevin’s first experience of volunteering was at the Olympic Stadium in 2012 as a Team Leader with Event Services.  Now, as a regular volunteer, he wanted to return to the stadium to relive his initial experiences.  This time he was given the role of Team Attaché for Trinidad and Tobago.

“As an Attaché you never know what you might end up doing, but I was quickly given a few jobs to sort out including getting a Javelin Case through Customs at Gatwick airport and organising getting the laundry done. It’s important to gain the trust of the team members and I was soon integrated and became one of the Team. I chose to work every day as there was always a need to help, and I wanted to make sure that once the Championships were over that I didn’t regret not doing something!”

Malcolm had many highlights at the Championships which included accompanying Jereem Richards, Bronze medallist in the men’s 200 metres, to his medal presentation. But this moment was eclipsed on the final day of the Championships, as Malcolm explains:

“We had a Team debriefing at midday on the final day to discuss how everyone felt things had gone. It was a sombre meeting as we all reflected on the past week. The big issue was the lack of funding and support for the athletes. The team only had a bronze medal to show for all the hard work the athletes had put in; however, there was just one last race left to run, the men’s 4x400m relay – the last race of the Championships. We formed a circle and held hands and one of the Team said a prayer thanking God for the past week and wishing the relay team success in the final. Our prayers were answered that night, the Trinidad and Tobago team won the gold medal in the relay beating the USA. Amazing scenes that capped off an unbelievable 14 days.”

“I would seriously encourage others to volunteer. I have done many major sporting events and they are all different, so expect to be surprised. You never quite know what role you will end up doing, but the camaraderie with fellow volunteers and the whole experience is one that you will never forget.”

Victoria Osibodu also volunteered at London 2012 and Rio 2016 and the timing was perfect for her to volunteer at London 2017.  She was working with the Clean Athletics Team which is responsible for making sure that the drug testing programme is enforced both before and during the Championships.  Victoria relished the challenge it would bring as it was an area she hadn’t worked in before.  She was surprised that the “athletes were still enthusiastic and happy to help even when you wake them up at 7am for dope testing”.  

Victoria was lucky to be in the London Stadium the night that Sir Mo Farah won his gold medal in the 10,000m, but says her absolute highlight was “being present at the first world record in the 50km women’s walk”.

As a keen supporter of grass roots sport, Victoria has already been back helping at her local athletics club at an open competition and urges others to get involved in their community:

“I would encourage others to volunteer especially at a grassroots level because there isn’t a better feeling when you see the kids develop and go on to compete on a bigger stage. You feel like you are a proud parent.”

Sarah-Jane O’Brien couldn’t wait to get involved in London 2017.  Having volunteered for the first time at the London 2012 Olympics, she became an interviewer for London 2017.  She helped interview some of the thousands of people who applied to be part of the IAAF World Athletics Championships.  She then got involved in supporting the training of the volunteers before taking up a role with the Ticketing Team in the London Stadium as a Stand Support Volunteer.

“We resolved ticket queries and showed spectators to their seats. We were in the Stadium to answer questions, take photos for them and make sure they enjoyed their experience. A lot of tickets were sold a year ago so it’s been a long wait but it was amazing to see how excited people were when they came in and first saw the track. I also made an appearance on BBC1 as Ore Oduba and Greg Rutherford were discussing the Long Jump final!”

Sarah-Jane loved talking to the public and making sure everyone had a great time. She had two stand out highlights from her time in the stadium.

“I met an 87-year-old spectator who had been a sprinter and competed in the 1952 Olympics. She came to watch 3 events and looked so happy to be there. Sport wise hearing the roar from the crowd as Mo Farah won gold on the first evening was something I will never forget. It was deafening!”

One of things which surprised Sarah-Jane the most was the number of familiar faces she met every day.

“When I volunteered at the London 2012 Olympics five years ago I didn’t know anyone else who volunteered. Now five years later, not a day went by when I didn’t see several friends as I walked through the park to start my shifts. Volunteering is like a family, you get to see the same faces at all the different events and you become friends. I was also pleased to see so many first-time volunteers who were too young to do it five years ago but saw the Games Makers and that inspired them.

And that is why Sarah-Jane would recommend volunteering and encourages people to get involved.

“I am always meeting new people and telling them about my experiences. There are so many opportunities out there and you get to meet people from all different backgrounds and locations. I have even travelled abroad to volunteer – in Amsterdam at the European Athletics Championships 2016 and Rio Olympics 2016. Some of my closest friends are volunteers, we meet up and go to see the ballet or a theatre show together. Volunteering has enhanced my life more than I ever thought possible and I would recommend it to anyone.”

Sarah-Jane is now aiming to volunteer at Tokyo 2020.

We hope this blog has given you an insight into what it is like to volunteer at an event and the many different volunteering roles that you can get involved with. There really is something for everyone.

Check out the opportunities on the Join In website today and get involved!

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