Rio 2016 volunteers share their stories
Have you ever wondered what the volunteers do at the Olympic Games? The roles and responsibilities are many and varied, so here we introduce a flavour of what some of our Legacy Volunteers have been up to in Rio.
Vin Patel was a Games Maker for the Olympics and Paralympics in London with the event services team in the Olympic Park. In Rio he is seeing a very different side of the action. He is volunteering in Press Operations in the Press conference room.
“The first week was amazing! Plenty of time to work, rest and play.”
My role in the press conference centre gives me an opportunity to meet so many people from journalists, athletes, coaches and more, but the best bit is meeting so many volunteers from around the world. We are a small and close team and all get on really well.
My job involves welcoming the athletes and delegates, escorting them to the press conferences, holding the microphone for those wanting to ask questions, sound checking, setting the table with name tags and drinks and manning the doors to make sure only journalists get into the room.
In between my shifts I am getting a chance to watch some sport too and plenty of socialising. The whole place is buzzing. It reminds me of London 2012 but more colourful and vibrant.
“I’ve met so many people I know from back in the UK and made so many new friends. What an experience!”
The second week has flown by and it has been packed with lots of sporting events watched and some work done too. The press conferences are picking up and lots of well known sports people and gold medalists are coming through – but the one I remember the most is meeting Yusra Mardini and Rami Anis, the Syrian swimmers representing the Olympic refugee team↑.
They didn’t win gold medals but they are everything which represents the Olympic spirit – they are an inspiration.
The buzz around the Olympic park and venues is amazing. The Brazilians are truly warming to this and they are hooked.”
Judith Gunion has been in the heart of the action in Rio too. In London 2012 she was a first responder in Spectators Medical Team at the Olympic Stadium. She reprised this role for the Paralympics in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
In Rio her role as a photo assistant has been completely different and very exciting including a magnificent day at the woman’s marathon.
“It was extremely hot for them and at the finish line at least four athletes had to be helped by the medical team – wrapped in wet towels and stretchered to the medical centre.
“It was extremely hot for them and at the finish line at least four athletes had to be helped by the medical team.”
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience as photo assistant on the photographers open-backed truck with tiers of seats. I had a radio to keep in contact with the photo manager, but because there were constantly three helicopters circling above us, it was difficult to hear. I found myself repeatedly scrunching down to try and block out the noise.
The photographers were great as I had been working with a lot of them over the past nine days. Only one forgot the ‘no standing’ rule and he was so apologetic when I reminded him to sit.
– Read Judith’s blog from the Champions League final in Milan.
There was also an NBC presenter actually doing a few on-air broadcasts beside me. He was quite tall and probably felt a bit cramped in the seat so he stood to stretch and I jokingly told him there were two reasons why I wanted him to sit: ‘Firstly you are blocking the view of the countdown clock that the runners have to see. And secondly, if we go over another bump you are going to fall and land on top of me!’ – that got him seated.
Toward the end, I and one of the race referees didn’t think we were leaving the photographers enough time to get them back to the finish, so I was almost yelling down to the driver to ‘go faster, faster’. The poor guy knocked down a traffic cone trying to turn the truck back to the start/finish at Sambodromo.
But even with that I didn’t like it as the truck had to pull off the finishing straight a lot further back than at the dress rehearsal two weeks ago – the photographers had to clamber out and sprint down the finishing straight with all their cameras.
Next Sunday, I am turning the truck back when the runners go around the Museum of Tomorrow and start our race back to the finish line from there. But it was a magnificent day and an experience I will never forget.”
“It was a magnificent day and an experience I will never forget.”
As Judith’s role with the Marathon is spread over two days a week apart, she opted to help out in a very different – and much less glamorous – role, in between her usual role.
“Today I saw a totally different role as a volunteer. I helped a Fleet Transport team at the Media Transport Hub at Carioca.
Here all the buses ferry the media (and some volunteers) to the MPC and some venues. It is the type of role that you make of it as you want.
Some may choose to just sit on the bus steps until it is ready to go or you go and talk to the press guys and see if they need any help. I think the first option would make it boring, while the second makes the slow time pass a bit quicker.
I had never taken much notice of these teams to be honest, so it was a new experience. I have always worked in a venue and today I was in a portacabin when I wasn’t out on the pavement.
The team is fun and they accepted me as a late comer who will only be around a few days. Then I am back on my photo truck for the men’s marathon.
It gave me an insight into a team which never sees the inside of a venue and whose ‘home’ is a street corner.”
At London 2012, Andrew Hartopp didn’t even make it into the Olympic Park, as was true for many volunteers. He was part of the Last Mile Team outside the park.
“My role was a staff support officer. We helped to sign in the last mile volunteers and assign them to teams, then also helped with lunches, changing batteries on team leader radios, collating incident reports and handing them to workforce operations at end of day and making sure the volunteers had water, sunscreen and taking breaks.”
In Rio, he was part of probably the most glamorous of Olympic sports and venues, the Beach Volleyball on Copacabana Beach.
“Last shift completed in beach volleyball for me, seven shifts in total – a wonderful experience doing statistics.
This entailed working with the Omega official scorers, sitting on high, watching the matches and scoring each point and errors the teams made.
This is an important role as these stats are shown to the world on the scoreboard at the end of each set and match, and also for players of the tournament too.
This was a new role for me as I had no technical knowledge of beach volleyball – now I have new skills.”
In London, Ruth was an Accreditation Team Leader at Heathrow Airport.
“Today I start my final five shifts at the X-Park: three days of BMX competition followed by 2 days of mountain biking.
I am in the Language Services team (which is part of media services). My role so far has been to act as an interpreter in the mixed zone with the media, after the athletes have completed their event.
I think I am one of the only non-locals to continue at the X-Park after the six day break in competition from when the canoe slalom finished – a lot of my team from those first days of competition have gone back home.
I’m looking forward to seeing the two new tracks for BMX and mountain biking – I’ve only seen the former from a distance and not yet seen the latter.”
Ann Davis’ role is Assistant to the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Bermuda. A far cry from her role at London 2012 where she worked for Event Services in the Common Domain (the area outside the venues in the Olympic Park). In the above image, Ann, left, is pictured with Join In trustee (and the woman behind the London 2012 Games Maker programme) Jean Tomlin OBE, as well as Legacy Volunteer Steve.
In London, Ann could hear the action from outside the stadium, but couldn’t get inside to watch any. This time, as an NOC Assistant, she has an ‘access all areas’ pass to enable her to carry out her role – to support the Bermudan delegation wherever they may need her.
As such, Ann’s role is very varied. In such a sensitive, responsible role, Ann is unable to take photos, but she told us some of the things she has helped the delegation with.
“It’s been a day of extremes in the Athletes Village today. I started by sorting out transport for my NOC (the bane of every NOC assistant’s life), delivering paper, sorting out an incoming physio’s accreditation, finding, collecting and delivering an iron and ironing board for one of our team; then welcoming and helping my Chef de Mission show the Bermudan Minister for Sport and his private Secretary around the village.
Which was the most important? Probably getting the accreditation sorted, closely followed by the iron that Donna needed so she will be all spruced up for her IAAF dinner tonight!
A new member of the Bermudan delegation, Jen, arrived a couple of days ago. She is the president of their Triathalon Association. Yesterday I took her to see water polo in the morning (we saw Montenegro beat Hungary in the quarter finals) then off to see beach volleyball for the late afternoon session. What a treat!
The bus was late (don’t we love the Rio traffic?) so we only saw the last point of Germany beating Brazil in the ladies semi-final. That was followed by the men’s semi in which Brazil beat Holland. Well, the place exploded!! I’ve been at footy matches in England where Brazil have played and I always thought they were a great bunch of really lively, happy supporters, but when it comes to beach volleyball they were ecstatic!
Then on the walk back to the Metro I met a group of girls from North London (needed a photo taken – Games Maker-style!!) and a lady working as a feature writer for the US Olympic Committee. I ended up showing her where the USA house was. Taekwondo tonight!”