Part 2: Rio 2016 volunteer Chris settles into the Olympic Village
Chris Thorn is a Join In Legacy Volunteer. Having been a Games Maker at London 2012 he’s now able to share what he learned with the team at the Rio Olympic Village. But we’re not sure he can help the Canadians with their moose mascot…
I finally found out what my role of Village Workforce Operations team member meant – it was operating the workforce.
By that I mean scanning their accreditation after they come through the airport-style security, to ensure they are scheduled to work that day, how long their shift is and therefore to determine whether they get one or two meal vouchers. I distribute a few handy information sheets about the village and for their first shift give them a gift. (Hint – the tick tock is not quite as loud as the London 2012 ones).
When a volunteer or paid member of staff turn up to work, they often have questions. They’re often a little bit flustered by the busy buses, traffic and sun. They’re sometimes in a half-dressed state, as the uniform belts given to us have metal buckles which must be removed when going through security checks. Plus they have the anxiety, hope, enthusiasm, fear and trepidation about what they are about to face. With all the building work still going on and OTT negative scare stories in the media about zika, riots, crime, budgets and pollution.
As volunteers, we offer a kind, smiling face to calm them and send them on their way, to make a positive contribution in the Village. This is where the athletes and coaches will need to call home for the next month or so, before their quests to make the last four years’ work (in many cases, their lifetime) worthwhile.
“As volunteers, we offer a kind, smiling face to calm them and send them on their way”
I made my own extra tag on the front of my scanner: “Desculpe, sò Inglês” – I only speak English. My two managers, Monique and Gabriel, speak English quite well, but only two of the other ten volunteers have some broken English, so they passed on a few people to me if there was a breakdown in communication.
When zapping the accreditation barcode, I couldn’t help but look at all the details that came up on screen – partly so I would have something to talk to the volunteer about while I filled out a form to attach to their accreditation, and to put them at ease (that they were in the right place and that the systems had the correct information) – but also because I am a bit nosey (I mean curious!).
I usually made a note of their nationality, avoiding any Caroline Aherne-like ‘Fast Show’ supermarket checkout sketch rudeness! The Danish man appreciated me thanking him for Sarah Lund and Saga Noren [from the Scandi TV dramas] and when I said to the German girl “guten tag, ich spreche einen bißen Deutsch”, she said one sentence and I drew a complete blank! She laughed. 🙂
I also got a big laugh when introducing myself to the team: “Hi, my name is Chris, 33, from just outside London, where I worked at the last Olympics, and I am very single.” The two managers laughed, and when they translated the rest of the team laughed, too. I’m surprised more stand up comics don’t do gigs to multi-language audiences – double the laughs and only need half the material to fill the contracted stage time!
“I explained what legacy was and I asked them lots of questions about how things might change in my role, and the Village in general.”
During my first two days, both managers asked me about what I did in London and why I came all the way to Rio. So I explained what legacy was and I asked them lots of questions about how things might change in my role, and the Village in general. How it would affect the volunteers, paid staff and athletes and coaches, drawing comparisons and differences to all the other volunteering I’ve done since – at the Rugby World Cup, Tour de France, The Ashes, supervising at ICC Champions Trophy, London Anniversary Games, Six Day London and UCI Track World Champs, right in the middle of the action with the cyclists.
They were concerned I would get bored on the check-in desk and that with all my varied experience I might be able to help much more elsewhere in the Village. So I was taken around four other departments to see what the best fit would be.
Village Transport, arrivals/departures and workforce services were all a bit vague and didn’t seem to know what to do with me, but then Felipe heard there was an experienced, English-speaking volunteer being offered around and he swooped in for the kill.
“My transfer fee will remain undisclosed, but media sources understand that with the current weak pound, it will break Bale’s £85m world record.”
So from tomorrow I will be working in the Welcome Centre: coordinating national teams athletes and coaches, delegates, press and media arrivals from the airport, exact number of people, bags, equipment, spare socks – the whole shebang – to make sure the accreditation team are ready, the Village transport is available and the apartment building is ready. There may even be a chance to give the English-speaking national teams the Village welcome speech as I show them to their homes for the next month.
My transfer fee will remain undisclosed, but media sources understand that with the current weak pound, it will break Bale’s £85m world record.
I will also be able to get variety in my shift times to see the Village buzz at all hours. And maybe more days off to do some Rio sightseeing – Ilha Grande overnight or just a visit to the beach/water park. Even in their winter, it reached well over 30 degrees last week when I was in Jericoacoara, but down to 20 recently and rain forecast for next two days. Starting to feel like home.