Volunteering Wins Gold: Volume 6

And so we come to the end – our last Olympic- and Paralympic-related blog post. I hope you have enjoyed reading them and have perhaps been inspired by the stories of volunteering. Again, there are two stories this week. The first comes from Daniel Musikant, who volunteered at both sets of Games and, as you will see, he had a variety of roles…

I have previously volunteered for the Jewish community through Jewish Radio, Limmud and fundraising committees for different charities. When London won the bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games (I was in Trafalgar Square in 2005 when this was announced) I realised I wanted to be involved.

I had a number of roles before and during the Games and have been volunteering for the past 6 months, mostly at weekends but also took 3 weeks off work. I was truly inspired by the Games and my whole 2012 experience was enhanced through volunteering.

I started my first role in March 2012 as Training Event Host at the training colleges for Gamesmakers in Hackney and at McDonalds Headquarters in East Finchley. I welcomed and helped with registration of the Gamesmakers (there were days when over 600 Gamesmakers attended training courses in Hackney) and also assisted in the classroom for the training of those involved in Events Services. I could sense the enthusiasm from those Gamesmakers in the run up to London 2012.

Daniel with Mayor of London Boris Johnson

I was also a volunteer performer in three of the Ceremonies. I initially attended two auditions in November/December 2011 with 250 other potential performers at 3 Mills Studios. These were great fun and I was offered a ‘character/movement and utility role’ in the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Even though I did not really know what this meant (and would not find out until the third rehearsal), I wanted to be part of the Greatest Show on Earth and immediately accepted. At the first rehearsal Danny Boyle described his vision for the segment (the Industrial Revolution) in which I cleared fences and turf as part of the transformation from the Green & Pleasant Land, did choreography and was a smelter. There was always such a good atmosphere in the rehearsals (I attended 25). The Stadium became like a second home as we were there 2 or 3 times a week from late June. Being in the Opening Ceremony was an incredible experience and I will never forget being on stage for the first time in front of an audience of over 70,000.

As I enjoyed the experience so much and the organisers were looking for more volunteers for the Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies, I jumped at the chance to take part again. For the Paralympics, I was an athlete’s marshal which included lots of choreography and escorting athletes to their seats.

During the Olympics I was one of 8,000 London Ambassadors, based in Hyde Park. The triathlon and swimming marathons took place during my shifts and Hyde Park and the Live Site were busier than normal. The Ambassadors were there to help visitors with any questions they had on London and the Olympics in general so we never knew what we were going to be asked next! I helped hundreds of people during this time, answering their questions including how best to spend their time in London during the Olympics and shared with them my passion for and knowledge of London.

My final role was being part of a 1000 strong team at Heathrow where our role was to meet and greet the athletes and the wider Games families and to give them a warm welcome to London. We would meet the athletes, officials and representatives from the National Olympic and Paralympic Committees at the gate, escort them through the airport to Accreditation and then through Immigration procedures to their ongoing transport to the Olympic/Paralympic Village. I also volunteered in the Games Terminal to bid a fond farewell to the Olympic athletes. The most rewarding aspect of this role was spending time with world champion athletes and I was lucky to meet many of them again in the Stadium during the Ceremonies or in the Olympic Park.

I loved every moment of London 2012 and being involved in so many different aspects as a volunteer and also as a spectator at several events. Everyone was so friendly and the atmosphere in London, especially in the Olympic Park, was amazing.  I was very sad when it all came to an end but the memories from 2012 will last forever.

And our final story comes from our youngest volunteer, university student Rebecca Heller, a Games Maker at both Games…

I started to get excited about the London 2012 Games as soon as we won the bid back in 2005 and I knew instantly that I wanted to be involved.  This summer I finally took my place as a Games Maker volunteer at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  I was lucky enough to have Sport roles for both competitions: during the Olympic Games I was in the Field of Play (FOP) team for the Handball Competition; and for the Paralympic Games I was the Team Liaison for the Belgian Men’s Goalball team.  I know I’m extremely lucky to have been a part of it. By putting on my purple and poppy uniform every day, I became instantly recognisable as one of 70,000 Games Maker volunteers.  Other Games Makers I spoke to agree that putting on that uniform automatically put us on our best behaviour and got us excited about going to work.  In many ways, I was not so much a volunteer as an Ambassador for London 2012.

Every day I’d get to the Copper Box or the Athletes’ Village, stop, and just soak up the atmosphere.  I have never been surrounded by that much talent and determination in my life, just being there was inspiring.  These athletes have trained for so long to be there and it was an honour to be surrounded by them.  I got to watch elite athletes train and play and I got to know the Belgian Men’s Goalball team.  I saw the excitement, the hunger to win, the pride when they did and the frustration and disappointment if they didn’t play to their potential.  The athletes were always friendly, whether they won or not; they asked me how I was and thanked me for bringing them extra water – this might all seem trivial but given that these athletes were playing in the biggest, most important tournament of their lives, those small gestures could easily have been forgotten.  I looked forward to going to work, I was willing to get up at 4.45am (on occasion!) and I was more than willing to go the extra mile to make their time at London 2012 the best it could possibly be.

Rebecca poses with the Belgian Men’s Goalball Team

Both my roles had responsibility attached to them, but it never felt like a burden.  After all, I volunteered for this role.  Every Games Maker brought something to the team, be it prior experience of Olympic/Paralympic Games, Handball/Goalball or international work experience.  I was new to both sports but now I understand rules and intricacies of the games, I want to see more of both when possible.  By volunteering, I became an ambassador for LOCOG, Team GB and Paralympics GB, Handball and the Belgian Men’s Goalball team just by wearing the uniform each day.  We delivered successful tournaments which athletes, spectators and workers alike enjoyed.   We showcased both Handball and Goalball to Great Britain where, prior to 27th July 2012, the majority of the population had never heard of either game.  We showcased Great Britain to the world, to both international workers and spectators.  It was worth flying back from my year abroad in Madrid for training sessions and test events.  I am proud and privileged to have been a part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

This summer completely re-affirmed for me that whatever you put into a volunteer role, you get so much more out of it.  Every athlete, athlete support staff, Games Maker, stranger that high fived me, chatted and laughed with me on the train, took pictures of/with me with or without asking, the brass bands, the train drivers, the Armed Forces and Police made it incredibly special.  Everything I do from now will have to live up to this experience.  As a final year university student I am thinking a lot about my future.  The challenge is to find something else worth getting up at 4.45am for.  Wish me luck!

We do wish you luck, Rebecca – as we do to all our London 2012 volunteers, and all those who have been inspired to volunteer in the future. Happy volunteering!

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Categories: Olympics, Uncategorized, Volunteering

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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