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Why volunteering can be a game-changing experience

WITHIN 12 hours of applications opening to be volunteers at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, more than 10,000 people had applied.

Anyone who wants the chance to play their part in the sporting festival that will be "a global show-reel for the city" in the words of Lord Smith of Kelvin has until February 28 to apply. But the level of enthusiasm on the first day provides early evidence that Glasgow intends to demonstrate its legendary friendliness to the world.

The Games organisers are talking of the biggest peace-time deployment of volunteers in Scottish history. That will take considerable organisation and the right mix of people including those with specialist medical or sports skills, but one of the lessons of the London Olympics and Paralympics last summer was that the relaxed, happy atmosphere was largely due to smiling, helpful gamesmakers.They were the key to ensuring large numbers of people all reached their destinations at the right time and small problems were sorted out. And their enjoyment at being part of the great event was obvious.

That has given Glasgow 2014 a great template for its own friendly force of volunteers but if the Olympic gamesmakers managed to change London into a city where strangers spoke to each other, visitors to Glasgow, where friendliness is the default setting, are likely to be treated as long-lost buddies.

As the process of selecting 15,000 volunteers gets under way, it is important that a wide variety of people apply. The Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government have provided a £500,000 funding programme so that people who would otherwise be unable to volunteer because of financial problems can take part in what will be a great community event as well as an international sporting competition. This will provide a real opportunity for young people, especially those who have been unable to find employment, from some of the poorer parts of the city to get involved. The 2014 organisers will invite 25,000 applicants for interview in April. Young hopefuls, who must be over 16, should not be put off by such daunting numbers. Sports clubs, schools, friends, family and employers should all encourage young people to seize what could be a life-changing experience. Meeting people from all over the world and being part of a global event would enhance anyone's cv but meeting people of all ages from a variety of backgrounds will also add immeasurably to the visitors' enjoyment of Glasgow's Games.

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