Faster, Higher and Stronger – Recapturing the Spirit of 2012

This week we handed our blog over to JonFreedman, a volunteer and former London 2012 Games Maker. We asked him to give us his thoughts on how we can rekindle the spirit of London 2012, one year after the Games captured the giving disposition of a jon gm head shotnation. This is what he had to say…

My name is Jon, and I am a recovering Games Maker.

For the past year, I have struggled to overcome a strange sense of grief. Twelve months ago, my home city became an explosion of optimism, inspiration, colours and excellence. To use the words of the Olympic Movement’s motto, life just seemed to be a little bit faster, higher and stronger than it had ever seemed before. I felt it, you probably felt it, most of London felt it, and the rest of the world could see it.

And then the Games came to an end, the flame was extinguished, and normal life resumed – for most of us. Except inside of me there was a desperate hunger, straining and grasping to be fed with the experiences that last summer gave me, and to find a way to share those experiences with others.

Dr. Justin Davis-Smith delivers a public lecture to JVN's volunteers

Dr. Justin Davis-Smith delivers a public lecture to JVN’s volunteers

I was privileged to be volunteering at the Games, meeting and greeting spectators at the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony and the athletics finals. I experienced first-hand what Dr. Justin Davis-Smith, Director of Volunteering Development at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), described as the “epic nature” of last summer’s volunteering. In the same week that I began my final Games Maker training, I also began working at Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS), with a remit to develop partnerships between the synagogue’s professionals and volunteers, creating programmes that will help the community’s members to move along on their Jewish journeys. My first task at FRS was to work with some volunteers to find a suitable for way for our community to greet the Olympic Torch Relay as it passed by the end of our road.

In the 12 months since the Olympics, I have spent much time struggling to figure out how to translate my epic experiences into something tangible and beneficial that I can apply in my own community. Games Making felt like one of the most important volunteering moments I had ever experienced. But how on earth could it be applied back in the ‘real world’?

In the light of Dr. Davis-Smith’s lecture, I have begun to formulate my own answer to that question. The truth is, I initially applied for

London 2012 Games Makers, Ambassadors and volunteers at the JVN-Mitzvah Day reception in January 2013

London 2012 Games Makers, Ambassadors and volunteers at the JVN-Mitzvah Day reception in January 2013

the Games Maker programme because at the time it seemed to me it might be my best opportunity to get as close as possible to being part of the Olympics. In previous years, I was impressed by how crucial the volunteers were at the Sydney Olympics and the Manchester Commonwealth Games. Volunteers featured prominently on TV coverage of those events. I have no doubt that I was initially motivated by wanting to be one of the people who took the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be involved in making these Games happen.

On the flip-side, once I had been offered a place, I weighed that up against the fact that I would be giving up 3 weeks of my annual leave, that I would see very little of my wife over that time, and that I would, in all likelihood, be spending my own time on very menial, uninspiring tasks. Although it sounds snobby to say so, the fact that the recruitment was being organised by McDonald’s was not an attractive factor to me. Did I really want to be a glorified unpaid McDonald’s worker for 3 weeks?

So I went ahead with the application process, then the interviews, and then the induction, always with a voice in my head that if I changed my mind, I could always choose to drop out later in the process; safe in the knowledge that there was bound to be someone else who would want to fill my place.

As soon as I attended the induction training on a bitter winter’s day at Wembley Arena, my attitude changed completely – and in my opinion, it was LOCOG’s leadership, investment, support and recognition of its volunteers that encouraged me to stay involved through to the end. Not only because they did an excellent job of making me feel good about the volunteering, but also because in the good practice I was experiencing, there would be lessons for me to take away for my own professional work. If I were to translate my Games Making into CV language, I would describe it as one of the most valuable internships I have experienced.

Will we be as enthusiastic when it comes to supporting our communities?

Will we be as enthusiastic when it comes to supporting our communities?

Our Jewish communal organisations are not able to re-create the epic sense of awe and amazement which accompanied the summer of 2012. But smaller moments of awe and amazement are just as important, and are certainly within the reach of our synagogues, youth movements, and other institutions. And more than that, we are capable of holding volunteering in the same esteem as it was given at the Olympics and Paralympics. We can, and should, ensure that our leaders never miss an opportunity to emphasise the central role that volunteers play. We can, and should, invest in providing the best training and support for volunteer. We can, and should, find relevant and inspiring ways to reward and recognise the volunteers’ contributions. We are not in the business of providing one-off, epic moments. We are in this for the long-game, and if we do it right, we can all play our part in making our Jewish communities that little bit “faster, higher and stronger.”

To find out how to get involved in your community, get in touch with JVN – 8203 6427 opt.2.



Categories: Guest Blog, Olympics, Volunteering Perspectives


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 and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.


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