Part 3: From a Canadian moose to Team GB HQ
Our Join In Legacy Volunteer Chris Thorn begins welcoming teams, delegations and officials – plus gets a sneak peak of where Team GB will be holed up during Rio 2016.
After Felipe’s transfer last night, today I started working in the Welcome Centre, just a couple of big tents along from the workforce check in area. It’s a big hub of baggage trolleys, accommodation check-in help desks, lots of people scuttling around to get the correct authorisation and using the right entrance or exit doors and some bean bags for a comfortable respite.
The village isn’t officially open for residents until this Sunday, but there is still a fairly large footfall of sports officials and national team delegates. The athletes are checking out their apartment buildings, the games centre, the plaza shops and performance sound stage and getting a few selfies with the mascot or the Olympic rings while things are relatively quiet.
In the Welcome Centre team, we will coordinate with the delegations regarding flight arrivals, exactly how many people they are bringing, how much luggage and any special sports equipment or big decorations they are bringing to make their condo home. I have already seen a few massive Union Jacks for Team GB balconies, and Canada have a new moose, still coated in bubble wrap!
“Canada have a new moose, still coated in bubble wrap!”
Our team will then jump on the Village transport buses as they arrive from the airport, give a little speech explaining who needs to go where (depending on what accreditation they have or need), guide them through the check-in process, assist with baggage trolleys – and try to answer any urgent questions while they watch the information video.
Some people may take longer than others to get all the necessary security, so those of us in the Welcome Centre team will be on hand to keep those waiting comfortable – making conversation on the bean bags, directing them to bathrooms or vending machines (which are always being moved as the building work is finalised), keeping an eye on their luggage. Basically giving them the best possible welcome.
“When [the athletes] first see the scaffolding, building work in progress and increased military presence, they may be worried that any of this may affect four year’s training.”
Many of them will be jetlagged, frustrated if their barcodes haven’t worked, or are worried about the media’s OTT scaremongering (which happens at this time for every big event). When they first see the scaffolding, building work in progress and increased military presence, they may be worried that any of this may affect four year’s training (or their lifetime’s) to be an Olympic champion. So for them to see a familiar face (the Italian medical team all shouted “hey Luchi!” to my Kazakhstani colleague who worked in Sochi) and to see newer, local and foreign, as well as more experienced volunteers working together – hopefully those worries will dissipate as they are welcomed into the Village community.
Once they progress through security, we will pass them onto the Village transport team, who will have the correct number of baggage trucks and buses ready to take the new residents to their assigned building. who will be ready to unload the luggage and get them all settled into their rooms.
The big countries have already cherry picked their location. Time Brazil have the biggest banner, stretching the entire length of the eighteen-storey condo and are next to the departure gates, so no waiting around when going to their events. ‘Time’ is Portuguese for ‘team’ so I don’t know how their coaches manage to motivate their competitors – they can’t use the classic line “there’s no I in team!”.
USA seem to be nearest the dining hall and entertainment plaza, while Team GB are in the ideal towel-on-a-sunbed spot by the cosy swimming pools, raised up a level overlooking the fountains, pergolas, green walking trails and mini playground. There are what look like barstools in the pool, with a serving hatch and empty space with plug points which would be ideal for a fridge full of Antarctica cerveja or Capirinhas, to celebrate all the gold medals they are going to win.
I hope, years from now, to be able to say to my family, friends or sporting teammates, “Oh yeah, she/he is a Knight/Dame now? Lovely guy, very thankful when I helped them get off of the see-saw without spilling their celebratory beverage”. ?
Day 4 – rest day
Adding (hopefully) helpful comments to the Facebook groups with questions from volunteers yet to arrive in Brazil. There are a few people having trouble contacting their Village team leaders by email, and some translation/communication issues with just the written word, so I can talk face-to-face with them on shift or on break tomorrow and hopefully get them sorted. We will need reinforcements when things get really busy!
Answered a few emails and WhatsApp calls from some British press, now interested in positive news stories and how they can help us spread the awareness and profile for Join In legacy, and volunteering in general.
Clothes washing, shopping, trying to find crunchy peanut butter and celery. It’s funny the things you miss after two weeks outside the UK. Obviously my two cats, but extra hot Nando’s is a close second. Brazilian food is nice, meaty, but I love spice and am starting to get peri peri withdrawal shakes!
The residencies opens tomorrow, so I had a look around today in Team GB HQ after helping a couple of guys unload a yucka-type plant in their homely picnic front garden, and asking permission from the British lady in GB kit doing a bit of painting in the lobby. I explained the Join In charity legacy blog and she said go ahead and take pics, so I did!
18 storeys up tested my vertigo! I wonder who will be staying in those rooms??
Last night my Airbnb host and flatmate took me to a local community Fest in Barra. Like a small Glastonbury-cum-village fête springing up in the condominium’s tennis courts. Food and market stalls and an entertainment stage for all the family. The only song they played I could sing along to was the Macarena. Heyyyyyyyy, Aiiiiiiiii!
At last the clouds have dispersed. Sun’s out, trousers unzipped to shorts. Village landmarks and picture spots look even more amazing. The Rio 2016 big letters can also be used as an impromptu sit up support. With the limited food options and being on my feet six hours a day, I’ll soon have an Olympian’s six pack (or crate of twenty cerveja, as a few delegations have started bringing in their own supplies!).
“I had to ask one of the throng of people following them who they were. Only Kevin Durand and Lebron James – the most famous basketballers in the world.”
One of the groups we welcomed today was the Brazilian women’s football team. Loads of volunteers (and the security and military guys) got very excited and some were very naughty and took pics of Marta. Like in London when two tall guys in USA kit walked past me asking “Yo, where the train station at?”. I had to ask one of the throng of people following them who they were. Only Kevin Durand and Lebron James – the most famous basketballers in the world. My aloof obliviousness enables me to carry out my job, regardless!