Written by MM
Recollections from Mike May
Olympic gamesmaker in the stadium
We were first invited to apply for being sport-specific volunteers in July 2010, and I got my email about it just as I arrived in Hungary for the European Veterans Champs that year. We applied before the main body of volunteers was called for, but those of us likely to be in the stadium (as opposed to those working on the marathon and walks, whose test event was in May 2011) were not called for interview until June 2011; I had my interview only a couple of weeks before I went to Sacramento for the World Masters Championships. We were interviewed by volunteers who had been trained to interview but not about athletics;I thought I had not made it through, but in March 2012 I finally heard that I had been accepted, and went to Role Specific training at the stadium in April, where a series of talks and videos (including one with Chris Addison on how to carry out the Gamesmakers’ hosting role) briefed us on being Gamesmakers but not on what we would be doing in the stadium; we also picked up our Test Event uniforms for the BUCS championships and had a short tour.
I was invited to be on the Track Team, which would be putting out the hurdles and moving major items like Pole Vault beds and High Jump beds on and off the Field of Play for both the test event and the Olympics themselves. Rachel Brookes was also on the same team. At the BUCS championships we learnt how regimented the putting out and retrieval of hurdles was going to be, and met our team leaders, who were mainly chief groundsmen at places like the Alexander Stadium and Bedford. Moving the beds about was a lot harder than at the Olympics as we did not have the little sets of wheels that were available at the latter. In June I went along to venue specific training at the stadium, where we saw Opening Ceremony rehearsals involving hospital beds, and the giant figure we later learnt was Lord Voldemort. We were asked to keep what we had seen to ourselves, which was fairly easy as it did not make a lot of sense at the time, and just before the Games I went back for an informal hurdle placing practice on the Warm-up track where the team leaders tried to work out the best strategies for getting them out and retrieving them quickly.
At the Games, shifts were quite long, with the morning ones lasting from 7am to 2.30pm, and the evening ones from 4pm until 11pm, but because they were trying to keep the field of play visible to the camera free of anyone who did not have to be there, most of our tasks apart from the hurdle placing took place before and after competition; we could see a fair amount of the action from our base in the tunnel near the 1500m start while we waited to carry out our duties. You could see the home straight, possibly the finish line and the big screen and scoreboard on the second bend. Another duty was winding the net on the hammer/discus cage up or down before and after competition, and I found myself standing on the infield doing this as two heats of the heptathlon 800m went by us on Super Saturday. The atmosphere was amazing during the hour when the 3 British gold medals were won, and I’ve only felt anything similar as a spectator at the Sydney Games when there were two Aussie long jumpers contending for medals in the final there, plus during the 5000m the following Saturday. Our team of Gamesmakers were a little unusual in that we did not encounter the public or the athletes much, and were discouraged from applauding GB athletes lining up to go out to their heats, as they were ‘in the zone’. Our main contacts were the technical officials, and Gamesmakers on access control and doping control duties, and we did get good feedback from them and spectators we knew in the stadium who saw us going about our synchronised hurdle placing (I believe the TV cut away to the pundits and interviews while we were in view).
On the Tuesday morning when they held the 110m hurdle heats and Liu Xiang crashed out of the final heat, I’d been helping afterwards in checking the hurdles for damage in the tunnel near the 100m start. When we tried to return to our base at the opposite end of the stadium, we couldn’t get through because of all the press wanting to interview the unfortunate hurdler, and my team leader led us over to the warm-up track, where I encountered Peter Shilling who was in charge of call up for the 200m. I saw Bolt’s first round heat on the big screen there before we returned to the stadium. Brenda Ford was also on Call Room, but the only time I encountered her was on my day off, when I paid a short visit to the stadium to take part in a walking tour of the Olympic park.We followed one of the team leaders, who was carrying one of the heat banners used to lead the athletes out to their events, with the legend ‘synchronised hurdle team on tour’ inscribed on it – we tried to attract the attention of the BBC presenters in their studio with a demonstration mime of hurdle placing, and got them to wave from the back of their sofa, but don’t know if there was any comment on air about our antics.
My other particular memorable day was the Thursday, which was the second day of the Decathlon. During the Decathlon 110 hurdles, I got sent to sit by the finish with one of the Clerks of the Course, so I could help right the hurdles between heats, and then while we were removing the High Jump mats from the women’s HJ qualification round to finish setting up the Pole Vault mats for the Decathlon, we got stuck on the infield during GB’s heat of the 4 x 400 relay qualifying round. The roar as heard from infield was overwhelming, especially when Jack Green, who had fallen in his 400 hurdle semi-final (in my full view) took the lead on the third leg. Altogether the experience as a Gamesmaker was unforgettable. Roll on the 2017 World Championships.
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