There’s a common perception that the athlete’s Olympic Village could be mistaken for Party Town.
But not if you’re the Latvian Modern Pentathlete whose late afternoon arrival two days before her event was because of a reason every working parent will recognise – the problem of finding a suitable child minder. I was able to empathise (which isn’t bad for a man).
Today I am one of six accreditation volunteers supporting the transport team in Terminal 5 who have to supervise members of the Olympic Family leaving before the Closing Ceremony.
There are designated drop-off sections for the buses and cars, with a fast-track check-in desk for the Olympic Family.
Volunteer Games Makers and BAA Volunteers make sure those preparing to leave the country are in the correct terminal and are then escorted to the check-in desks – simple but effective.
This is a fascinating insight into another piece of the very complicated logistics needed to transport many thousands around the capital and beyond.
Two years ago I received an e-mail from Seb Coe inviting me to apply to be a Games Maker. It was a very warm invitation emphasising the important role volunteers play in the Olympic Games – without the volunteers the Games just would not happen.
Ever since and at every step along the road, Games Makers have been made to feel important and necessary in making the London 2012 Games successful.
The Games Maker Volunteers have been a triumph for Seb Coe. His energy, drive and hands-on efforts ensured the 2012 organisation, LOCOG, provided a clear vision and individuals were left feeling as if they were a huge part of a small family – achieving this within a workforce of seventy thousand Volunteers is nothing short of astonishing.
The information and training provided over the past two years has been good well organised and consistent.
Arriving on duty at 6.30am I receive two very nice and touching gestures.
The first is a pin badge from the chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Jacque Rogge – on the pin is the words Thank You and Merci.
In the box passed to me is a Games Maker baton - a souvenir relay baton of London 2012 and this is what it says on the box -
"This relay baton is a gift from the London 2012 Organising Committee in recognition of your commitment, enthusiasm and hard work as a Games Maker. You made the Games happen. The relay baton is a symbol of teamwork and trust. Your baton is the regulation size and weight and was made in the UK from anodised aluminium tubing. Whether you display your baton as a trophy or even race with it, we hope it will be treasured and admired by all as a unique souvenir of the London 2012 Games,
Seb Coe, Chair, London 2012 Organising Committee"
I sat down at the desk with a true sense of being part of something really quite special that’s been happening over the past two weeks in London and throughout the whole nation.
As the number of arrivals reduces to visits from Border Agency officials and LOCOG computing technicians I find myself alone amongst the twelve desks in charge of proceedings with possession of the ‘walkie-talkie’. This gives me time to watch the men’s marathon - a stark reminder that the clock is already ticking down on the Seville marathon next February I’ve expressed an interest in doing (more fool me).
The down-time also gives me a chance to reflect on what went badly over the past six weeks on the Accreditation desks.
All I can come up with is my days off. On two occasions when I was absent two well-known faces passed through. Lord Coe dropped by to say hello to the volunteers and you can hardly get bigger than that, can you?
Well it’s the Olympics, and its Terminal 1 so the answer must be YES.
And that’s how it wasn’t me that appeared on the Volunteers’ daily Heathrow news-sheet photographed with Pele (anyone who was thinking one of the well-known faces must be Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it).
Lightning they say, doesn’t strike twice. Catching a face amongst thousands does though. During the final frame of the closing ceremony on television and clad proudly in her denim jacket, I glimpse a Canadian track cyclist who was one of the first athletes to stand in front of me at the desk – 'have a great Games,' I said.
She did, winning bronze.
Volunteers are already talking about applying for Glasgow 2014 and it would be wonderful if that fine city could benefit from the London 2012 ‘bounce’ – I could offer a few suggestions.
It’s a bit sad watching everyone enjoying themselves, then packing up and going home.
Spare a thought then for the Volunteer Games Makers, we’ve only another month to spend on the desks. The Paralympians are already arriving.
No rest for the idle.