With the games of the thirtieth Olympiad drawing to a spectacular close, many sporting greats have become sporting legends, with the likes of Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford propelled to dizzying heights. Sporting legends in turn have become athletic deities, as Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Chris Hoy cement themselves into Olympic history. But I wonder just how many people will remember the anonymous faces in purple T-shirts, without whom the Games could never have taken place.
It was in London in 1948 that volunteers first played their vital role and this year up to 70,000 of us descended on the capital to make the greatest show on earth happen. As one of those anonymous faces, here is a little insight into just what each and every one of those 70,000 put into the games.
The days started incredibly early. We always had to be ready for our first spectators of the day and, working at the Excel Centre, doors were opening at 7 am. That meant that London had to borrow the title of “the city that never sleeps” from New York as the men and women in purple began the slow crawl to their venues. The earliest wake I heard of was 2:45 in the morning, arriving with smiles on faces ready to welcome spectators from all over the world. People would be waking up from all over the local area and jumping on any public transport possible to get themselves in at an ungodly hour, some staying in campsites, others in hotels or on friends’ floors. But still, gates were open every morning on time.
It was incredible to actually be part of the whole volunteer team throughout the day. There was a real sense that everyone in uniform was there because they really wanted to be. After all, there’s little point giving up two weeks of your time for free and not enjoying yourself. Every single volunteer walked around with a smile on their face all day despite being on their feet for ten hours, which is more than can be said for some of the spectators! It’s not very British to be outgoing, chatty and fun well before eight o’clock in the morning and that was clear. There was more of a quiet anticipation from the Team GB fans who preferred to be in their seats before unleashing their support. In fact, I was surprised nobody hit me in the face with our attempts to buoy the crowd and get them excited for the day outside the venue.
That’s exactly what happened as well. I remember sitting in on a table tennis match between Team GB’s Na Liu taking on her opponent from North Korea. Admittedly, I had never heard of Liu myself and probably reckon that most of the 8,000 spectators were exactly the same. Nonetheless, it was absolutely incredible to feel the whole crowd unanimously rousing around her with every single point scored. Chants were starting, roars of cheering and thunderous applause. Sadly, the GB ladies didn’t progress but the support in those moments was amazing to be a part of.
To be part of the Olympic Games was something truly special. Tributes have been flying in constantly to support the people who made all this happen. Colin Moynihan, the chief of the British Olympic Association, has even called for the volunteers to be nominated for the Sports Personality of the Year team award. The staff at LOCOG were absolutely brilliant at supporting us throughout the whole time and as a unit, we made an awful lot of friends. Our main aim was to create an unforgettable experience for spectators yet more importantly, the ideal atmosphere for the athletes themselves to perform to their absolute best. Team GB did not disappoint, finishing third in the medal table and the nation’s most successful Olympic campaign since 1908.