The "pink floyd" high five!

Insights and Highlights

We all know that volunteers make sport happen – at both a grassroots level and at major sporting events – the World Para Athletics Championships are no exception. Volunteers (called Runners) share some of the highlights from their volunteering experience at last week’s Championships in London.

Mary O’Leary –  Team Attaché for Team Ireland reflects on her week:

“Well another great volunteering & sporting event has come to an end. It’s amazing how time goes so fast but during the course of the World Para Athletics so many happy memories and experiences to cherish.  Getting selected to be a ‘Runner’ at the Championships was a real honour but then to be offered the role of Team Attaché for Team Ireland – well, just made my heart full of pride.  The atmosphere is unbelievable from the spectators, fellow volunteers, athletes and support staff – it all creates such a positive vibe that it was impossible not to feel happy to be a part of such an event. And when the school children arrive excited and asking for high-fives – their enthusiasm and spirit for the occasion and willingness to cheer every athlete in the stadium was just wonderful and very contagious.

I enjoyed all aspects of my role and loved supporting my team at all their events.  I was lucky to experience Team Ireland winning 7 medals and that meant 7 medal ceremonies. Being with the team and making sure the athletes’ families were allowed close access to the stage was part of my role at ceremonies. Singing the Irish National Anthem wasn’t compulsory, but I was not going to miss the opportunity, so the fact I got to do it four times, and also to wear my Irish flag earrings – was simply amazing. I even got the chance to wear my shamrock ear-rings on other days. The entire experience was just wonderful and my face must have shown just how much as I overheard someone saying how much ‘Mary loves a ceremony!’

The entire experience has given me so many lovely memories but handing the Irish flag to Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop after they won their gold medals, and then being able to watch them on their lap of honour and being interviewed still holding their flags, was just fabulous. Michael surprised me in the Heroes Village by thanking me for all the support I had given him and the team. What a great team and I feel so proud to have played a small part in the success of the World Para Athletics 2017.

What a great team and I feel so proud to have played a small part in the success of the World Para Athletics 2017″.

Lauren Crawley was originally selected to volunteer as a buggy driver, but through her flexibility and ability to learn quickly she directly contributed to a world record .  Following her experience, she is thinking about qualifying as a field official.

If I had finished my volunteering experience at the World Para Athletics Championships on the first night, I would have been very happy. But it turned out that buggy drivers were also part of the wider equipment team, so with too many buggy drivers signed on, I was directed to the training for fixing chairs into place for the women’s (F52) seated discus throw.

I had some quick, basic training (I heard the last sentence of how to use the very technical ratchets!) before being whisked off to eat as we would be on the field of play for the whole session. Interacting with the officials, athletes, coaches and working closely in a team with other volunteers was great fun and I both learnt and improved on the job. I can even say that I directly helped to contribute to a world record – what an inspiring evening!

 

The rest of my shifts were extremely varied. I did get to drive the buggy on a couple of occasions picking up some weights for the training room and stocking up water in the containers out on the field. Other very random tasks included marking up additional lanes for the guides in the blind races, setting up equipment for the high jump and raking the long/triple jump pits, adding plasticine to the long/triple jump boards and transporting equipment (shot, discus, javelin, chairs for the seated throws) to the training sites and field of play. Through being thrown into a bit of everything and anything, I have met some great (patient and flexible) people, I have also discovered that I am capable of turning my hand to more than I thought I could and have developed muscles that I didn’t know existed! I will definitely look into becoming a field official following these championships. I can’t think of any other sport with so much variety (or so much equipment!).”

As part of the Sport Competition Team, Mandeep Chahal spent much of his time on the track supporting the athletes and had a front row seat for the action

“Back at the call room I started my first event by accompanying the athletes out. There were only six high jumpers on the day and two were from India.  The athletes had variations of lower leg impairments and each approached the bar in a different way. I was amazed at their athleticism and determination in finding different ways to get over that bar. It starting raining lightly so there was always a danger of slipping. Unfortunately, one of the athlete slipped as he was about to take off and he fell backwards hitting the back of his head. The medics rushed on and the competition was halted for about 20 minutes while they checked him out. After a while he stood up to a huge applause from the audience. But unfortunately, it ended his competition and he was taken off for further tests.

The crowd were engaged throughout the entire competition when it finally ended with the Americans taking the gold and the 2 Indian athletes taking silver and bronze. I then led the athletes back to the mixed zone with the crowd cheering all along the walk down the finishing straight. It made me feel so proud to be part of the Championships.

It was then off to lead out the 5000m race athletes. The British crowd were incredible with their support, cheering the athletes as they enter the stadium and throughout the competition – even when they are leaving. No wonder there is a call to have the World Para Athletics in London every time.”

If you were lucky enough to have a ticket for the World Para Athletics Championships, you may well have been greeted by Ritchie Parrott and his team of volunteers.

I think my highlight of the World Para Athletics Championship has to be something that was affectionately known by the Spectator Services team as the ‘pink Floyd’.

 

During every shift, just as the crowd was coming towards the stadium and starting to slow down, a call would come through to the team leaders on the radio to come together at one bridge.  These teams would then form an avenue of Runners who were all armed with the branded foam fingers.  We would then encourage the spectators to come through the middle and to be high-fived by everyone.  We had all sorts of people come through: children, adults, grandparents, people in wheelchairs and those on prosthetic legs.  At one point we were also visited by a Channel Four film crew who had heard what was happening.
It was such a simple but hugely effective way of energising the crowds and making the volunteers feel like they had done a brilliant job of giving the crowds the best possible welcome.”
And they certainly did that!  They showed the amazing spirit of volunteering as part of team and many of them will do it all over again later this week as London welcomes the IAAF Word Athletics Championships to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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