Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Olympic memories

It was a long time coming, almost 2 years to the day since my application to be a Sports Massage Practitioner at the 2012 London Olympics and my first shift started. What a journey of ups and downs - literally travelling from Glossop to London five times for the interview, training sessions and finally the actual big day.

I was a little anxious about having to wear a uniform before arriving in London. It's been some years since any uniform has been imposed on me; I quite like my individualism to be preserved. I don't have a particular style as such, nor do I follow fashion trends, but I do like to chose my own clothes. I realise I wear Global Therapies branded clothing for work, but that's different; that's promoting my own business which I am very happy to do. So with some trepidation on the day of my first shift I put on my Gamesmaker uniform and set off for work. 

Me in my Gamesmaker uniform - at the Olympic Stadium warm up track with the Stadium and Orbit dominating the view
Here's some memories I have from my time as a London 2012 Olympic Sports Massage Practitioner...

A common theme of most of my journeys to work was that the public looked to me for information about every conceivable thing you could imagine. I'm one of the lucky Gamesmakers, for I lived in London for 11 years. Finding my way around the tube and London streets is within my knowledge bank. Directions were therefore no problem for me. For other queries some people just couldn't understand why myself and other Gamesmakers just didn't have the information they ask for. What they failed to understand, quite understandably, was that Gamesmakers have come from all corners of the globe, not just the UK, and that some of us - like me - were volunteering at the games with a specific skill. So we therefore didn't necessarily know the answer to what may have seemed a simple question, such as where other venues were in the Olympic Park were!!

Tower Bridge and Olympic Rings - quick touristy stop off en route to work
The excitement and admiration shown by children was brilliant. The games were about Inspiring a Generation and if only a small percentage of those attending events are encouraged to try, take up and become the future stars of sport it will be great. One lasting memory for me was after a long day - first the commute in, then hours on my feet, then the long trip back to the accommodation. As I stepped off the train and walked down the platform two young lads jumped enthusiastically off the train and "high-fived" me...that kept me smiling long after leaving the station and was a heart-warming pick-me-up; just what I needed in my shattered state!

The Tunnel - where athletes walk from the warm up track to reach the Olympic Stadium
Politeness of commuters on public transport and the willingness, even eagerness to have a chat and smile was so refreshing. I spent 11 years living in London and the times I've held a conversation with a fellow commuter they have been superficial, and sadly few and far between. That was a large part of why I chose to commute by cycle during my London life. There were a few days when my Olympic shifts coincided with the need to travel at peak times. One day I saw the train pull in and thought that no-one would get on it as it was so packed. To my utter astonishment a chap on the platform insisted I got on before him in case there wasn't room for both of us - he said that my need to get to work on time was more important than his. What a true gentleman, thank you.

As I travelled back from my shift one day the driver of the tube said he had an important announcement to make....the usual groans were muttered by passengers, most expecting bad news....and then the driver said "Another GOLD for Team GB in cycling, GO Jason Kenny". The whole train load of people burst into cheers and clapped!! How amazing, the atmosphere changed to a positive one instantly.

Monument Tube station - just one of the many interchanges I made during my commuting journeys
The final point I shall make is that it is great to have the work which I (and all the other Gamesmakers) have done appreciated by the public, coaches and the athletes. It is such an honour to be working with international level athletes during their training (as I do already with Global Therapies), but to work with them during the Olympic Games was really very very special.

Walking back after the opening ceremony night at the far end of my commute so no-where near the stadium I was thanked for making it a great evening! I had a good chat with a coach from South Africa who insisted on giving me a hug and thanks - yet I'd not worked directly with any of his athletes. One athlete had hung around the warm-up track to have a massage with me - just me - because I treated him a few days prior to his competition and he wanted to see me again. How wonderful is that, and what a way to have someone thank you. As the athlete left the treatment room he shook my hand and wished me well.

The South African Coach giving me a big hug and thanks
There are so many memories I could share, and so many that keep coming to mind as I see clips of Olympic footage online and on the TV, and as I read the follow up stories in the news. The cliche 'it was the time of my life' doesn't seem to express enough how much of an amazing experience it all was.

Me and other Gamesmakers at one of the Field & Track training venues
And yes, I am still pinching myself because I was there, I literally saw history being made, and in my role as a London 2012 Olympic Gamesmaker, I Made It Happen.