Games Makers David and Maureen Smith
The reality of being an Olympic volunteer, a Games Maker, involves an amazing amount of commitment, both of time (often using up leave entitlement for those in employment), funding of travel to widespread training events and sometimes of overnight accommodation. That over 70,000 people nationwide are making this commitment says a lot about the British nation.
I spoke to David and Maureen Smith who live in retirement my village and have been accepted as timekeepers for the Olympic and Paralympic Marathon events. They are both experienced having filled this role for many years for prestigious Marathons, including the London Marathon.
They explained about the lengthy selection process included what David described as a profiling exercise. They had to pass even though this is a job they have done many times before. David, whose personal interview was short and sharp, and Maureen, whose one to one session was a more lengthy experience, were both convinced that they had not made the cut. Sample questions included detailing what they considered to be their greatest achievement thus far (David had project managing the building of the village cricket pavilion high on his list) and also what they wanted to achieve in life. This raised a chuckle as many would say that in retirement, a quiet life is the main aim.
They needn’t have worried as many weeks later they heard that they had been selected and so began a long journey of training and motivational sessions in varied venues all over the country. One session, was team building and motivational. We smiled as we shared the image of the two of them leaping and hollering in orchestrated high spirits, led by a public address head-set sporting conductor of events on the stage. However, they calmly agree, it certainly worked and unified the crowd with shared goals and principles.
The test event for the Marathon preceded the BUPA 10k race, and entailed a two am arrival in The Mall. There was no parking so rather than travel in the grey hours of early morning they opted to fund their own overnight stay. Lunch, they said, was provided.
David explained that the timing system was different from that used at the London Marathon, though their job was essentially the same. They manned a checkpoint and manually recorded a sample of times to check that the electronic chip system was working accurately. Maureen and David devised an improvement to the system they were using…hopefully one that will be adopted at other checkpoints. It was also discovered that although the course was practical ( fewer road closures than the London event, as well as easier to maintains security), being generally level and fast, not to mention scenic, some turns on the course were too tight for the seated athletes. Finding wrinkles is exactly why test events are run, so this can be deemed a great success.
July will see these intrepid volunteers at two more training events, as well as the big day when they collect their official uniforms…though they do wonder why these outfits have to be returned and then collected again ( all requiring journeys into London) between the Olympic games and the Paralympic games. Nevertheless, comments Maureen, they are honoured and proud to be involved.