Just some of the army of volunteers at the kitting out. Our author Aileen is third from left.
Just some of the army of volunteers at the kitting out. Our author Aileen is third from left.

Behind the scenes at the Team GB Rio 2016 kitting out – Part 2

Continuing our peek behind the scenes of the Team GB Rio 2016 kitting out in Birmingham, Aileen Cronin shares her volunteering experience.

Part 1  |  Part 2 


Day one as a volunteer

I didn’t know what to expect but I wasn’t disappointed. The training the day before set the scene, and it was clear how important the kitting out was by the amount of planning that had taken place.

Each volunteer realised that once the event opened, we would be the first touchpoint for Team GB before they departed on their training camps or competition preparation. This was the first time I realised how close Rio 2016 actually is!

I felt truly excited about our role in making the event a success – and this was heightened when we saw the kit as we walked around the rooms that each athlete would experience. “Wow!” was all I could say.

Behind the scenes

Ever wondered what it would be like to have an unforgettable shopping experience with your own personal shopper? This is what every athlete experienced on day one. By the end of the kitting out, more than 350 athletes will have gone through this process, along with support staff for each sport. Incredible numbers requiring a seamless operation behind the scenes.

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Picture a welcome desk, a waiting area with comfortable sofas, a video room, a media room, shopping rooms, a warehouse stocking over 70,000 items of kit and a checkout area like any supermarket – it looked and felt amazing.

The goal, as we were told, was “performance” – the best shopping experience that any Team GB athlete would experience in their lifetime. Everything, including the clothing, drives and improves performance and this theme was embedded in every room.

The shopping rooms contained the clothing for the opening and closing ceremonies, formal wear and village wear, technical wear and shoes. I didn’t think there would be so much clothing and it all looked amazing.

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Each athlete with their personal shopper went through each room with the athlete trying on the clothing. There were lots of excited volunteers when they recognised athletes who they admired, but perhaps had only ever seen on TV.

The personal shopper logged the sizes of each item on an iPad and the clothing list was sent through to the warehouse. Pickers then selected the items and filled a large shopping trolley ready, for the checkout process.

My role

I had a fantastic role in the checkout area, packing the kit into the Team GB bags for the rowing team. I could not have been more excited as rowing is one of my favourite Olympic sports.

I was in Dorney in 2012 when Olympic super Saturday started with two successive rowing golds. I was also there the following day when Katherine Grainger won her rowing gold at the fourth attempt. It was so good to see Katherine Grainger at the kitting out event and I hope she achieves her fifth medal in Rio.

“I chatted to some of these athletes and packed their bags as they were going through the checkout – how many people get to do that?!”

I also experienced the excitement of those rowers who have never competed in an Olympics before. They loved the total experience, including the media interviews, and it will be something they will remember for a long time.

Learning through the experience

Working with five other volunteers (and the checkout team, who were Aldi staff who had travelled from Scotland) was a very enjoyable part of my role. It was great that we were all able to contribute to the success of the first day and all able to help each other. It also gave me an insight into what it is like to work in a supermarket environment and how important the customer experience is.

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I also enjoyed seeing some familiar faces who were in different volunteer roles. Some of these people I have known since London 2012, others I have met in volunteering experiences since then. I also met some new people who I hope to keep in contact with and see at future events.

Each time I volunteer I find out a little bit more about an organisation or a sport – and there’s usually some new thing to be impressed with. This time it has to be the logistical and warehouse operation behind the scenes: the planning and preparation involved, the care shown by so many people to make this event a success, and a memorable experience for each athlete.

What a fantastic and enriching volunteering experience. I now can’t wait to get to Rio myself [Aileen is a Join In Legacy Volunteer for Rio 2016] and support Team GB.”

See part 1 of our kitting out story, by Andrew Hartopp 

Read our Baku 2015 kitting out blog

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