I was there…
An army of volunteers is needed to make any event run smoothly – particularly a major event. Below are some of the experiences in a variety of roles that the Runners, (or ‘pink army’ of volunteers) for the IAAF World Championships 4-13 August in London, had when they joined in to make 2017 “the best world championships ever”.
Alice Martin was part of Competition Delivery Team, which involved putting out the lane markers and blocks for each race. She also helped with jobs such as putting out the steeplechase hurdles and setting up equipment for the field events.
Her highlight of the championships was on the first night when Sir Mo Farah ran his 10,000m race.
“The noise in the stadium was deafening as the crowd cheered and gave the athletes a standing ovation for every one of the 25 laps, and then in the final lap when Mo pulled ahead and won – the atmosphere was just incredible”.
Mei Lin Edwards volunteered at both the World Para Athletics and IAAF World Championships. She was part of the Victory Ceremonies Team making sure that the athletes received their medals on time and that everything looked pristine for all the cameras. For her, every day was a highlight as she had so many opportunities “to meet and serve the medal winners”.
As part of this team, Mei Lin had a variety of duties, including:
“Registration of medal winners, post event control, giving instruction sheets to winners of competitions outlining what day and time they needed to arrive at the stadium for the medals ceremonies. At the end of the shift, many of us stayed behind to roll back the flags onto the poles for storage and use later in the competition.
Above Mei Lin is carrying out one of her tasks – ironing the Polish flag for the medal presentation for the Men’s 4x400m relay on the final evening of the championships.
Simon Barlow was an Athlete Chaperone with the Clean Athletics Team. He worked in the team hotels, pre-competition and in the London Stadium during the competition. His role was to notify the athlete that they had been selected for a drug test and then escort them to the testing station. Post-competition testing could be particularly complex:
“If they had media or medal ceremonies, or wanted to warm down, we had to escort them to these areas and then back to the testing station to make sure the first sample gathered from them was in the station. We had to be aware of their location at all times and complete paperwork to say we had observed them; in addition, we weren’t allowed to hand bottles of water or anything else to them, they had to select these items for themselves – to make sure that that nothing interfered with the test results”.
The Athlete Chaperone Team – on the last night at the stadium.
Carol Matta travelled up from Cornwall to be part of the Off-Track Team (Marathons and Walk Races), undertaking tasks within the Call Room, Technical Information Centre and National Technical Officials Support.
“Amongst other things I was part of chip distribution – where I helped athletes to collect their race timer chips (small gadgets which record an athlete’s times and split times) and attach these to their shoes – one of the final parts in their race preparation.”
“My highlight of the championship was helping to escort a group of the women marathon athletes from the call room, then up the steps and onto Tower Bridge for the start of the race – something in my wildest imagination I would never have seen myself doing when I applied to be a Runner last Autumn!”
Judith Gunion volunteered in the Media Services Team, working in the mixed-zone for both championships. This is the zone where all the competing athletes come through once their competition is over.
“Journalists would let us know in advance if they wanted (to speak to) a particular athlete so we always had to know who had come through and who may still be doing broadcast interviews. Particular athletes would be wanted for interviews by all the waiting Press and thus they could take quite a while to get through to the mixed zone.
At times the mixed zone could be quite hectic, particularly when Justin Gatlin was being interviewed near the front of the zone and at the same time, we had Usain Bolt finishing his interviews up in the broadcast – area almost ready to come to the mixed zone.
It is difficult to zero in on just one highlight. Each day I thought it was the best ever and it couldn’t get better – and then the next day, it did exactly that!”
“But one funny memory comes from the last night. The athletes get quite hungry waiting to speak to the many different journalists however there was never any food available. Well that was until the last night. At dinner that last night, there was food being given away so we (volunteers) loaded up on flapjacks, some salads, cereal bars and on our way out, I grabbed a box of lemon muffins. The flapjacks flew out of the bags and even the salads were gobbled up, despite us forgetting to bring some forks. Then the relays came through and the British women’s 4x400m were famished, but we had run out of everything, until we remembered the lemon muffins! They were brought out and the squeals of delight when we offered them round was special. We thought they would turn them down because of ‘my body is my temple’, but they couldn’t wait to dig in, they said we were a ‘top team’.”
Becki Ellsmore (below, far left) was a Spectator Services volunteer at the London Stadium, which involved helping people find their way in, giving out plenty of smiles and high fives, and generally getting the spectators excited for the amazing athletics they were about to watch!
“My highlights have to be a combination of hearing the cheers from inside the stadium when something good happened, and still managing to make people smile on their way into the very, rainy Wednesday evening session despite the downpour”.
Debbie Allery’s role was vital to the smooth running of the championships, yet it didn’t involve her seeing any sport. She was part of the Accreditation Team based in the athlete hotels and the uniform distribution centre. Every day she was …
“meeting and dealing with everyone who was involved in the event, from volunteers, athletes, security personnel, caterers, broadcasters and media. We had to check their ID, and make sure it matched what was already in the system. A process of different stations for each person, from checking to taking their photograph, and handing over their accreditation”.
We were away from the main event, so did not get any of the atmosphere, but it was lovely to meet all types of people, and work with a great team. The role had both quiet days and some that were quite stressful!!
Highlight was working in the hotel when some of Team GB and Team Jamaica arrived, and getting to meet Sir Mo Farah!”
We hope this has given you a quick glimpse into the many different type of roles volunteering offers, whether it is a big event or at grassroots clubs – there really are many opportunities you can join in with.
If you want to get involved and find a volunteering opportunity near you – simply type your postcode into the opportunity finder and help make a difference in your local community.