In a previous working life you will know, if you’ve been listening, that I like to get into work early. There are huge advantages in this, the roads are quieter with time to absorb the surrounding countryside, time for thoughts, time to tune into 5 Live ‘through the night’, time to read the morning papers in peace with a double espresso and croissant.
Well today I’m being rewarded for my nocturnal habits (or madness, take your pick). I’m opening the Accreditation desks in Terminal 1 and received the phone call asking me to carry out this task while in the kitchen of royalty, King George IV’s actually, you may know this as Brighton Pavilion.
Anxiety is hardly a natural sleeping pill as I head off to sleep at 10.30pm to be sure of being awake by 2.30am, I never ever use an alarm – fear of being late is my alarming method of choice.
This is a particularly poignant drive through the Devil’s Punch Bowl into the Surrey dawn because it’s my very last early shift, which I’ll miss, desperately.
The main reason for my excitement at being asked to open the desks is because I have to collect the two ‘walkie-talkies’ needed on the Accreditation desks. While sitting sipping a coffee I’m always impressed, jealous even of people who walk about the terminal with a ‘walkie-talkie’. Now I am to have two for the short walk that will take me ‘airside’.
I park the car on the same level, same place, same time 5.00am,(it’s wonderful how you slip back ever so easily into the executive ways) –and it takes five minute to reach the LOCOG workforce office which is on a mezzanine above the departures concourse.
The morning greeting in the office is always the same, cheery friendly, wide awake and the Games Maker sitting behind the desk will log me onto my shift by scanning my Accreditation. I wear it while driving and even once wore it all day strolling through Covent Garden and Somerset House. Once I forgot to wear it and made a 50 mile round journey to retrieve it. I mention to the Games Maker in what must sound like a sort of unthreatening Glasgow lilt that ‘I’ve to get the walkie-talkies’.
Mission accomplished, I had often wondered what I would be thinking walking about carrying two heavy early eighties mobile phone lookalikes.
‘Well there’s no excuse for your left ear not knowing what your right ear is listening to’. I know, quite sad.
But the walkie-talkies do have a crucial role in the smooth running of the Accreditation process, as I make my way across the Arrivals concourse I’ll nod to the London 2012 Welcome Desk manned by Volunteer Games Makers, and will soon be talking to them from the frontline.
With the software loaded and good to go, a member of the Olympic Family approaches the desk and as we share a word or two, I’m looking at their Accreditation to find out where they are in the Family hierarchy and what form of transport they are entitled to. Groups of athletes are no problem as they’ve been through this sort of process many times and are usually all set for the coach ride to the Olympic Village; likewise the world weary members of the press corps, who either have their ‘own people’ waiting or use their entitlement on the Heathrow Express (Paddington in 15 minutes). But the crucial Family members that set the antennae twitching are the BAA Volunteer escorted members, the V2’s who include officials from the International Olympic Committee or it might be a Distinguished Guest of the Olympic partners (what used to be called sponsors). They’re Accreditation will have the code T3 clearly visible.
Whichever type of V2 it is they’ll be entitled to a chauffeur driven BMW down the Olympic Lanes to their destination in London.
Once Accredited they make their way through Baggage Reclaim then emerge into Arrivals. Before they step into Arrivals this is a conversation I’ll strike up on the walkie-talkie,
‘Accreditation desk 1 to Welcome desk, over’.
‘This is Welcome desk, go ahead please, over’.
‘A T3 (insert name here) on the Geneva flight has just left Accreditation and is making their way to Baggage Reclaim, over’.
‘We are expecting them and are waiting, over’.
‘Thank you for that, over and out’.
This is a simple straight forward but important piece of the whole Olympic jigsaw. The Welcome desk and the Accreditation desks are supplied each day with an incoming flight schedule and the numbers and category of the Olympic Family expected.
The Welcome Desk will alert the Transport Volunteers and the V2’s will be whisked to their hotel, happy bunnies, in a seamless transfer. It all comes as part of the package labelled ‘exceptional hosting’.
My last Accredited athlete came through Terminal 4. Thierry Mabicka is from Gabon and competing in the wheelchair marathon - he has his yellow racing wheelchair which feels surprisingly light - I give him a pin badge, the token of friendship.
Not long after Thierry arrives I get chatting to a guest of the Zimbabwe Paralympic Committee. When I notice where he’s from I’m able to do a bit of serious name dropping and mention that I was speaking to his Minister for Sport just a few weeks earlier. ‘Ah, David Coltart, he’s a good man’, he says. ‘I know’, I’m able to concur. Well you wouldn’t expect anything less from a man with his roots in Auld Reekie.
It’s a small place, this world of ours, when we’re all pulling together and it’s a nicer place too.
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