Life · London Olympics

On Being A Games Maker at London 2012

Well it’s all over and done with. The London Olympics 2012 are finished – the Closing Ceremony complete, medals won and handed out, anthems played, races run, shot-puts thrown and show jumps cleared.

And I made it happen.

Well, I helped.

My shifts were out on the road for the Cycling Road Races and Marathons – a place where I feel quite at home from all my years helping to marshal at the London Marathon and other London road races. So even though my specific roles were different to what I was used to and the locations were new to me, I was in a familiar environment.

The Road Cycling events were first and I was thrown in at the deep end by starting my Games Maker journey as a Team Leader on a section of the course. This meant I suddenly had to drag up people skills and learn how not to sound like an idiot when using a radio. (When they took my radio back off me at the end of the weekend I felt a bit lost without my earpiece and not starting every third conversation with ‘Sector Two, Sector Two this is Team Leader Five’)

Despite Road Cycling being an entirely new sport to me the basics of the system are the same when you are a marshal on the field of play – ‘keep people and things that shouldn’t be on the road, off the road’ and ‘be on the alert for anything not-quite-right that could be a threat to the race or competitors in any way’.  They are simple rules and not rocket science – you just need to be firm but polite (a good dose of stubbornness also helps).

The weather tested everyone’s patience on the Sunday but the atmosphere was amazing. Despite thunder rolling around the buildings and rain bouncing back up off the road way over our shoes we were buzzing so much we continued to laugh – facing the odd disgruntled Londoner who was more interested in getting to work than watching the race with good humour and grace. We even persuaded a few of them out of their grouches and got smiles out of them through the rain!

As Team Leader I was in charge of keeping my eye on a team of 14 other Games Makers all trusted with the task of manning pedestrian crossings over the course. We had 3 crossings between us and although most things went swimmingly we had the odd issue such as random cyclists who thought they could ride on the course during the race and an Olympics Official driver who got their times wrong and was driving the wrong way up the course at an inappropriate moment. Everything got sorted out quickly and efficiently and the end result were two very successful races.

The pace of cycling surprised me – I’m used to very tired people running past me, not a mass of cyclists zooming by. It was exciting and by the end of the weekend, when I hung up my Team Leader epaulette, I had a taste for it and went home determined to glue myself to the Time Trials later in the week.

‘Team Awesome’ ready and raring to go before our first Cycling shift!

Next up were the Marathons – each a week apart and each with their own mental weather! The first week was the Women’ Marathon and, no word of a lie, it was very nearly a swim. We were posted down by Trafalgar Square and the road was basically an inch deep stream for half of the race – there was no escaping it. We were SOAKED. Again though the buzzing atmosphere on the streets kept our spirits up through the thunder – not even torrential rain was enough to drown the spirit of London. People were laughing and joking and talking to everyone as if they were old friends – even though most of the time the people had never met. I’ve never known anything like it, not even on London Marathon day. It was awe-inspiring. Certainly my faith in human nature was a little restored by the whole thing.

The Men’s Marathon was an entirely different beast. It was scorching hot and the crowds were twice as huge (and they were pretty big last time!)  so we had to keep our wits about us when making sure people got to cross the road safely. It was the final day of the Olympics and there was electricity in the air (thankfully not as lightning this week though). Spirits were high (some people had clearly had wayyyy too much spirit for that time in morning…) and the sound of the crowd as the runners came through was deafening. And more than deafening whenever they spotted a GB kit in the mix.

One of the stand out moments for me though, of my whole time working as a Games Maker, came in this race. One of the athletes, I think it was a member of Team USA, dropped out on the corner just past our post and walked back up the course towards and past us to a place where he could safely get off the course and as he walked, with a Games Maker at his side, the crowd went wild with respectful applause. Shouts of encouragement rang out and I didn’t hear one person say anything disparaging or cruel – it was heartwarming to say the least.

After our duties were done we headed across London to the Olympic Park so that I could see it – we even heard the Spice Girls doing their final rehearsal and sound check before heading off home to watch the Closing Ceremony from the comfort of a sofa. I wasn’t expecting it to feel like so much of a big ‘ending’ as it did – it wasn’t until it was over and the cauldron extinguished that I realised just how much it had all meant to me.

As a nation Team GB did amazingly well, but on a personal level the London Olympics  2012 were a triumph and a learning curve that I will never forget and will always be proud of.

I had to overcome things like ridiculously early mornings (4am is not my friend), facing the tube alone, fear of the unknown and my nervousness when placed in any role of responsibility where other people look up to me. I worked myself up about these things a bit before hand but when it came to it I just took a deep breath, set my alarm clock and jumped right in. The people I would be working with wouldn’t know my hangups so I made an effort to not show them and overcome them. I like to think I was successful (I definitely defeated the early mornings and the tube) and the confidence I felt in myself grew considerably throughout my experiences. That confidence is something I can use in everyday life now the Olympics are over – whenever I’m faced with something new or daunting I know that if I go into it with a smile and the attitude of ‘I can do this’ then chances are, I can do it! Or at least give it my very best shot and be able to stand proud at the end and say I tried.

And they gave me a funky Baton as a thank you present which, you know, is REALLY COOL!

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