Part 4: “He had me at air hockey”. Our man in Rio’s latest report.
Join In Legacy Volunteer Chris gets to know his new role in the Entertainment Centre at Rio 2016 and compares pins with a veteran of 14 Olympics.
Second day of large delegations arriving into the Village intermittently but I was starting to suffer a case of the munndays.
The arrivals team, accreditation team, baggage and equipment logistics team and village transport team had all improved their processes, which is great for the incoming residents but it meant that our roles in the Welcome Centre team were reduced to being mere trolley boys and girls – up to four of us getting in each other’s way.
My managers Sarah and Henrique were swift to act and reassign me to an area needing help. Vinicius, who I had helped take a picture of posing with Vinicius the mascot, remembered me and said he would give me a tour of the Entertainment Centre. The residents here have air hockey, table tennis, pool tables, Playstations, Wii and xBox, Mario and Sonic arcade games, a music room, chill-out areas, Coca-Cola bar, Powerade stand and virtual reality headsets.
“He had me at air hockey.”
I’m like the Littlest Hobo, maybe tomorrow I’ll want to settle down. Until tomorrow I’ll just keep moving on.
Rest day. Made new friends with Olga and Fiona in the UK volunteers Facebook group also wanting to do something touristy on their day off. We went up Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf mountain) for some pretty amazing views of this vast, beautiful city; Christ the Redeemer on the hilly horizon. A couple of Danes, Mette and Anne, recognised our London 2012 hats in the cable car and said they were also Rio 2016 volunteers, inspired by London’s Games Makers. Tak!
Days 10, 11, 12, 13
Working in the Entertainment Centre is, funnily enough, very entertaining. We’re next to the Welcome Centre, so sometimes receive an entire team having just entered the Village looking around for a few minutes before their DRM (Delegation Registration Meeting) or NOC (National Olympic Committee) welcome meetings.
It’s like watching kids in a sweet shop. People of all ages, genders, nationalities and different sports enjoying their free drink in special, Village golden bottles, running like musical chairs to the seven arcade machines, where three or four people can compete against each other. Or grab a selfie with the Mario hat or Sonic wig (which has since disappeared), doing a virtual 100m race, hurdles, trampolining, swimming or archery.
The games are great for team bonding and relaxation recovery after a hard day’s training.
The games are great for team bonding and relaxation recovery after a hard day’s training. The innate competitive spirit shines through when some people demand immediate rematches, so we encourage them to stretch and make sure they don’t pull a hammy as their Donkey Kong avatar smashes through the last hurdle.
The Powerade stand has a name engraving machine and on the big bottles the athletes receive in their Chef de Mission packs, they can choose their own nickname for a personalised souvenir. Behind the curtain is the photo room for venue big screen headshots. A pair of male Italian volleyball players said “No, haircut tomorrow, photo Friday”.
Our role is to keep everything running smoothly ensuring everyone is happy, helping them find the console they want and the game they want to play. If those machines, discs or tables are currently in use we can offer alternatives they may not be aware of, such as the virtual reality headsets around the corner, the music room through the doors next to the Sugarloaf poster (we have been promised a Karaoke machine at some point!), or the top trumps and packs of playing cards by the Coke bar. The Ace of Spades is not the only card I need.
We replace cracked ping-pong balls when there’s been some over exuberance, keep a beady eye on potential beverage spillages around all the electrical wires and when a console is not responding, turn it off and on again. For anything more technical, computer whizzes James or Aaron are on hand nearby.
Having worked in two other areas and explored the Village on my breaks a fair bit, I can also help with other, general questions that spark up naturally in conversation. Athletes, coaches and other volunteers who get sent to explore the Village after their training, including many internationals just arrived in Brazil. I recognise their kids-in-a-sweet-shop-look, so I can give them the low down.
I am attracting a few queries about my lanyard pins I’ve picked up in two weeks by exchanging most of the London pins donated by Join In. I’m a long way behind volunteer legend Aberra’s collection (below), but this is his 14th Olympics (Summer & Winter), so I have some catching up to do.
But I won’t be exchanging the Legacy pin, or the Koala given to me by one of our entertainment centre regulars I’m now on first name terms with. Like the bar in Cheers, you wanna go where everybody knows your name. “Norm!”
Rest day. I could have gone to the Maracana for the opening ceremony dress rehearsal that 3,000 randomly selected volunteers were invited to, but it’s a long way to go from Barra and I have no sense of style or appreciation for visual flair. Bring on the sport!