I didn’t know I volunteered!
Colin Hicklin is one of those community spirited people who regularly helps out in his community – but didn’t actually think of it as volunteering. He has volunteered for the local Cub group, the Judo club and spent many years organising the Pagham Pram Race.
He has always loved sport and, after moving to the south coast, he became involved in the local sailing club. He is a fully qualified RYA sailing instructor allowing him to operate the VHS radio, Power Boat, and Rescue Boat. He has been issued with a certificate of competence from the RYA which stood him in good stead when he was persuaded to apply to help at the Rio 2016 Olympics by his wife Jenny.
We asked Colin about his experiences in Rio and why he decided volunteer at a major sporting event for the first time in his 70s.
What made you decide to volunteer for Rio 2016?
Firstly, after Jenny’s experiences in London 2012 and Sochi 2014, I thought she may need me to look after her! I’ve always enjoyed volunteering and thought it was about time I found out what it’s like to volunteer at an Olympic Games. I had never been to Rio and now that I am in my 70s, I thought the opportunity just had to be taken.
What role did you have?
I was so lucky to be given a Field of Play role, Pilot Boat Team member at Marina da Gloria. I have always sailed and couldn’t believe I would be on the water in Guanabara Bay as part of the Rescue boat crew for Olympic sailors. Even now 4 months later, I still have to pinch myself. The Bay is overlooked by the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugar Loaf Mountain. It was a completely surreal experience amidst the sailors, with helicopters filming overhead and alongside.
How did you find the whole experience?
Quite an overwhelming adventure to be part of an Olympic Games especially being able to share this experience with my wife, who was also volunteering at the same venue. It has given us joint memories which we will always treasure and we are excited to be able to pass these truly memorable memories of volunteering onto our grandchildren.
What were the highlights for you?
Every day was a highlight and every day was different – for example, facing an 8-foot wave when we came out of the harbour mouth was a surprise! We were soaked before we even started and it was at this point, we decided to don our top- of-the range sailing wet gear on every occasion. That particular day, I remained chilly and damp all day and when we finally boarded the ‘hang on for dear life’ bus home, the air conditioning was on full pelt – the one time I definitely wanted some heat!
Another momentous moment was when my son text me while I was in the midst of the finals and said he could see me on TV. He said, he couldn’t believe he was watching the Olympic Sailing with his Dad in the middle of the fleet!
Was there anything that surprised you volunteering at a major sporting event?
Just like any day of anyone’s working lives, we made our journey into work, which never took less than 2 hours, but our ‘hang on for dear life!’ bus took us through beautiful coastal scenery, past Leblon Beach, Ipanema and Copacabana beach. The bus went through built up areas shaded by huge trees, past Favelas, Flamenco Beach and finally Gloria. We constantly said, how this was all part of the experience and how lucky we were. Sometimes, we took the train, and because of the distance from where we stayed in Recreio to the Marina, we often needed help with directions. We were surprised at the miles we walked each day. Average was around 6 and over 9 miles was the most. No wonder we slept so well! We never felt alone or threatened as the Brazilians were so helpful, friendly and respectful. Several times, they even came with us on a leg of our journey to make sure we didn’t get lost. Anyone over the age of 60 was given preferential treatment, even by British Airways in San Paulo airport. Finally, the enjoyment and camaraderie with other volunteers from all over the world was something I will never forget
Has this experience inspired you to continue to volunteer?
I have volunteered all my life, but never for such a huge sporting event. I feel totally inspired to encourage others to do the same. Some people will say ‘so how do you start the journey?’ With the Internet, you only need to Google for information on volunteering either in your area, or contact Join In. After that you turn up at an event, meet new friends, have fun and enrich yours and other lives. Being able to volunteer at a Olympics Games was really the icing on the cake.
Would you encourage others to volunteer in sport and why?
Sport helps provide a healthy lifestyle and participating should be encouraged from an early age. It’s exciting, competitive and lots of fun. You don’t have to be sporty to be a sports volunteer but the rewards of helping can really change and enhance your life no matter what age you are.
Colin and Jenny are now planning to go to the Tokyo Games in 2020 and this time it looks like it could be a family affair with their eldest son inspired to apply too!