A WAC Games Maker’s Story
Dave Wild reports from Olympic 2012 duty in Weymouth.
It all started for me in July 2005, when I was lying in a hospital bed
at Southampton General recovering from heart surgery when I heard the
news that the 2012 Games had been awarded to London. Seeing a jubilant
Seb Coe (one of my favourite athletes) and Kelly Holmes, (I had the
pleasure of competing in the same Army Cross Country Championships as
her in February 1996 – somehow she crossed the line in front of me) on
TV after the announcement, reminded me of the inspiring story of the
Olympic volunteers that started with the Sydney games. I made up my
mind, there and then, to become a volunteer at the 2012 games.
There are so many different and varied roles as a volunteer, not just
the guys escorting the athletes to their starting blocks. There are
medical teams, doping teams, transport, sports officials, timekeepers,
security, communications, catering. The list goes on and on. My ideal
job would be an usher/escort to the athletes, but I realised I was not
young enough and not pretty enough.
The application process was not as simple as I expected. I applied to
become a volunteer (or a ‘Games Maker’ as they became known) sometime in
early 2010 – an online form that went on forever. They wanted to know
everything about me – all my talents, language skills, sports played,
medical skills, radio operating ability. In fact they wanted my life
history. I eventually had an interview at Weymouth and Portland National
Sailing Academy on 16 March 2011; a 90 minute intensive selection
interview for a job in the Command Control and Communication Centre at
Portland. On my application, I had applied to work in the transport
area (I wanted an easy two weeks driving people around). However, LOCOG
decided that my life skills would be better exploited elsewhere.
That’s me at Portland in my uniform (Olympic Rings rising out of the
Then a 12 month wait before I was informed that I was successful and was
offered the job. Apparently, the reason for the long time between
interview and job was that almost 250,000 people applied to be
volunteers and they only needed 70,000.
Training was mandatory (?). Orientation training, which I did not
attend, Job Specific Training held in London and Venue Specific Training
held in Portland. Most of the training was nugatory, but no training –
no job, so it had to be done. The good thing about it was I had the
opportunity to meet other members of the team. After this, I was fitted
for my uniform and it was off to work.
So, what did I do for two weeks? I was in Portland from 26 July until 11
August most days. I travelled daily by car and was employed in the
Command Control and Communication Centre at Portland, located in the
Police control room. In that room was the Police, Ambulance, Fire &
Rescue, Security (G4S, Military & Venue Security Managers) and the LOCOG
team (that was us). Around the walls, as well as the TV screens showing
the BBC Olympic feeds, was an array of CCTV monitors. These were mainly
used by the security people. Throughout the games, communication was
primarily by radio. If teams and groups of people working around the
venue wanted any assistance they would use their radio. There were
hundreds in use, in Weymouth and Portland alone.
Our role was to monitor the radio communications and log the
conversations. Also, if there was an incident that could not be
resolved on the spot, the matter would be reported to us. We would
decide what action should be taken, who should deal with it and pass the
issue on to the relevant department. We also monitored the progress of
any racing/training and traffic on the water, informing the relevant
departments when the waters were open to Olympic traffic, when athletes
were leaving and returning to and from the marina/harbour, and when
sailing was finished so the waters could be restored to normal use.
Not too exciting a job. Incidents that I can report are as follows:
A body on the beach early in the morning – turned out to be an
individual who had overdone the celebrations the previous day/night.
Minor injuries to volunteers – sun umbrella collapsing onto an
Athlete/Sailor falling off his mountain bike.
Fence and tenting panels blown over.
Coast Guard rescue of 2 old guys who had fallen onto rocks near the
Leaking toilets/water pipes.
Suspect package – bomb squad called out. The security manager was in a
rage and said that someone would lose their job over this. I asked him
why, if the security personnel had followed correct procedures. The
security manager was furious not because the bomb squad were called
but because the package had been there for over three days. Turned
out not to be a threat.
Other strange things that happened were related to ‘Branding’. There was
a ban on branding/advertising of goods close to and in the venue –
unless they were an Olympic sponsor or partner. There was a team of
volunteers whose job was to go around the local area to ensure nobody
had any ‘illegal’ advertising. Volvo cars had put some advertising
around Weymouth so it would be seen during the TV coverage.
Ben Ainslie lighting the cauldron.
who have an establishment in the Sailing Academy area had to cover up
all their signage. A delivery truck to the venue was denied access
because his vehicle advertised his own business. The only way he could
get his goods onto site was either to cover up his brand name on the
side of his vehicle or cross load the goods to a UPS vehicle. UPS
vehicles were allowed on site as they are an Olympic sponsor/partner.
Despite being locked in the Police control room during my stint, I did
manage to see and do some other things. I got a free ticket to see the
Opening Ceremony rehearsal on the Monday prior to the actual ceremony. A
most exciting time – albeit a little confusing at times. Some items were
omitted during the rehearsal and it wasn’t always clear what was
happening. For example, Rowan Atkinson made an appearance but did
nothing during the rehearsal – we didn’t know why he was there. Also we
were trying to work out were and how the cauldron would be lit, but our
joint imaginations were no match for that of Danny Boyle. I also
attended the ceremonious lighting of the cauldron by Ben Ainslie at
Volunteers were also invited to the medal ceremonies. These were quite
low key events, as there was no public attendance, only officials and
families were allowed, hence the volunteers being invited - probably to
make up the numbers.
All in all, being a Games Maker and working alongside other volunteers
and the uniformed services for the 2012 Olympic Games was a truly
enjoyable, once in a lifetime experience. Next step Rio or maybe I’ll
just settle for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Ben Ainslie and his GOLD.