Wimborne Athletic Club

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Being back in Blandford a few days after leaving Glasgow feels rather strange.  Had I actually been at the Commonwealth Games or was it just a fantasy.  I can tell you it was real and the experience was unbelievable.  I had spent 10 days working as a volunteer (suitably called Clydesiders) at the athletics stadium, Hampden Park during the Glasgow Games.

When did it all begin.  Probably after working as a Gamesmaker in Weymouth at London 2012.  I had got the bug and decided to volunteer.  Therefore, in November 2012, I started the ball rolling and almost 2 years later I ended up in a small town north of Glasgow commuting daily to Hampden Park.  The selection process for volunteering appeared to be the same as the Olympics, right down the questions at the interview.  It did mean that I had to make 5 visits to Glasgow prior to the start of the games – for interview, training and other bits and pieces.

What was my job.  I had been selected to work with the Timing and Scoring Team, part of Results Technology Services.  The pre-games training had been rather vague and it wasn’t until we got to Hampden on the Friday, prior to the athletics starting, that we were informed of our responsibilities.  I would be out on the Field of Play, scoring field events.  I scored the following: men’s shot put qualifying round; men’s decathlon javelin; and women’s High Jump final.  During my work, I sat alongside the international official, basically operating the scoreboard on the field of play via a laptop: confirming the competition start list and presenting it to the scoreboard; displaying the athlete’s names prior to a throw/jump; and, after receiving the distance/height from the field judge, putting it on the scoreboard.  At the end of competition, I confirmed the competition results with the officials before sending them to the scoreboard.

The actual operation was quite simple until something went wrong – and a couple of things did go wrong.  On one occasion, the field judge sent us the wrong distance in the shot put.  We put it up and the field judge hastily informed us that we had displayed the wrong result.  But, because of the security on the laptop, we didn’t have the privileges to make any changes, so the Longines contractor was called to reset the score.  This caused a slight delay and the chief judge got rather angry with us.  I informed her that we only put up the distance given to us by her colleague. 

The start of every event was timed down to the last minute.  For example: officials enter field of play at 19:11; athletes parade onto field of play at 19:12; athletes get presented to spectators at 19:15; etc, etc. This was because the broadcasters had a very tight schedule to maintain.

As you can see from the above I only officiated at 3 events, plus a broadcast rehearsal on the Friday prior to the start of the athletics.  We were over manned, out team was too large so there wasn’t enough work to go round.  Subsequently, for some of our ‘spare’ time we were given the opportunity to work with the media team or find a seat in the stands and watch the athletics.  I took advantage of both offers.

What were my highlights.  It all began with the opening ceremony at Celtic Park.  I was there as a paying spectator and had a good seat just above the royal box.  Quite an emotional night especially with the Red Arrows flypast and the arrival of the Queen.  Great entertainment with Rod Stewart, Amy MacDonald and Susan Boyle.  The athletes’ parade was a little long winded – with 71 countries/territories represented.  Could have done with a fast forward button.

On the day before the athletics started, we were given some last minute training followed by a broadcast rehearsal.  As the training finished early, three of us decided to do a lap of the track at Hampden, fully expecting to be thrown off because athletes were warming up for the rehearsal.  However, we got round without incident, so we went one step further and got photos with the lap bell.  Nobody seemed to bother us.  That was the feeling throughout the games, but it was probably down to our accreditation passes – access all areas.

Me and the Bell

When working with the media team, I had to ensure that accredited journalists got the results, start lists and any other relevant information they required as soon as possible.  A very busy job but rewarding, as I got to be in the presence of most of the BBC team working at Hampden.  One downside was, we were not allowed to approach them for photos etc.

I also got to work in the media mix zone. Every athlete had to come through this area as they left the field of play.  My task was to record the athletes as they left.  I was amazed at the number of track athletes who were physically sick as they went through.  Highlight for me that evening, besides being face to face with 136 international athletes, was getting my photo taken with Greg Rutherford just after he received his Gold Medal.

Greg Rutherford and me

On the last day of athletics I was given the day off, but I decided I was going to blag my way into the stadium to watch some athletics.  No problem, waltzed in wearing my uniform and accreditation pass.  Then I had to find an empty seat.  That was going to be quite hard, but I had befriended a couple of stewards earlier in the week and my northern charm seemed to work.  I got a really good seat just after the finish line, below the BBC TV studio.  It was a great privilege to see Jo Pavey get a medal in the 5,000 metres and the England team get silver behind the Jamaicans in the sprint relay.  After the 4x100m final, the athletes started their lap of honour but they never got round to us as they were rushed inside to prepare for the medal ceremony.  Therefore, me and another volunteer decided to test our accreditation passes to the full.  Could we get down to the area where the athletes were waiting to be called forward. Yes we could – not a problem – straight in.  There we found the sprint relay teams waiting to go out to receive their medals.  I had a BOLT overload that night.

Jamaican sprint relay team with England’s team in the background

Saturday morning (2nd Aug), with time to spare before I went to Hampden, I searched out a park run and ended up at Pollok Park in Glasgow.  To my amazement, 3 of those assembled at the start were members of the Australian Marathon Team (Jess Trengove, Martin Dent & Sarah Klein).  I asked if they were going to break the course record but replied that they would just be ‘cruising’ round.  They set off at the rear of the field.  It was a 2 lap course and towards the end of the second lap, a marshal urged me to speed up as the Aussies were coming.  I was flat out, heart rate over 180, lungs busting, fighting for breath, going as fast as I could.  Then this wave of yellow and green shirts passed me effortlessly, chatting away.  Stroll in the park for them, but not for me.

Australian Marathon team and me

There is a legend about the spectator noise at Hampden.  It’s called the Hampden Roar.  Well I am pleased to tell you it is no myth.  I experienced it on a few occasions.  The first time was in the tunnel waiting to go onto the field of play.  There was a track event taking place and the noise from the crowd was overwhelming.  It just increased in volume as it funnelled down the tunnel.  Louder than a thunder storm.  The second time, I was on the field of play scoring the shot put.  The women’s 10,000m final was also underway and, in its last few laps, as the leading pack raced around the track, there was a wave of applause and cheering following them around.  It was awesome, sat in the middle of it experiencing the roar as it circled you.  When Laura Weightman got silver in the 1,500m and Jo Pavey took bronze in the 5,000m there was so much noise, it was deafening.

The Glasgow Games was a brilliant experience for me – much better than the Olympics.  I worked with some great volunteers, most of them fine club athletes; I shared space with quite a few of the BBC commentary team (mainly ex-athletes); I was face to face with hundreds of international athletes (not all medal winners); I loved the atmosphere in Glasgow – the place was buzzing – It’s a beautiful city and so are the Weegies – so warm and helpful.  Roll on Gold Coast.

David Wild


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