Chiswick Games Makers At The Olympics
Local people give up their free time to be involved in London 2012
Chiswick residents who volunteered as Games Makers for the London Olympics have been telling ChiswickW4.com about their experiences.
Simon Surtees, an education charity project manager has been extremely busy with three separate roles. He was selected as a drummer in the Opening Ceremony, a Marshall during the athletes' parade, and is currently preparing to drum again in the Closing Ceremony.
He and his wife Sara Hodson were encouraged to volunteer by the positive experience of Australian friends who had helped out with the Olympics in Sydney. But he was quite surprised to end up as a drummer in the Industrial Revolution scene in the Opening Ceremony.
“I had some drumming experience many years ago at school, so that must have helped," he said.
There was a "hefty commitment" to rehearsals with 1,000 volunteers initially gathering in Danny Boyle’s studios in Bromley-By-Bow and then in Dagenham East Ford. Simon took leave and unpaid leave to participate.
“The whole drumming scene was a big concept and nobody knew if it would work but excitement grew as the time went on, and we knew it was going to be something special. Our story was to beat out the message of change during the Industrial Revolution."
He was also selected to be a Marshall in the Opening Ceremony, which involved a quick costume change,and back into the stadium to form up with the inner circle of volunteers who were protecting the Olympic Flame. He described being positioned a few feet away from the Flame as "a deeply moving experience".
“There were lots of surprises for us in the Opening ceremony-we had no idea who would carry the flag, or about the James Bond sequence for example. I didn't really get to experience the overall impact until I watched it on television the next night".
Caroline Merritt (above) was also selected to appear in the Opening Ceremony's Industrial Revolution scene.
“I really wanted to be part of things, and I was lucky enough to be chosen to perform in the Industrial Revolution Pandemonium scene. I had two auditions, and I thought I wouldn’t be picked as there were some really good dancers there, but they wanted a mix of people.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be as we were so well rehearsed. It was great walking on and hearing the applause and then we had to stay in character throughout the ceremony. Coming off I saw the athletes lining up for their parade, I spotted Usain Bolt, which was a bit of a thrill.”
Her husband and two children (aged 11 and 8)were lucky enough to get tickets for the ceremony.
“It was unbelievable, just wonderful to take part. I got to keep my costume and have a wonderful souvenir brochure.”
Sara Hodson and Sue Hearn on their way to Wimbledon from Chiswick
Sara Hodson,who is married to Simon Surtees, found herself based in Wimbledon along with over 800 Gamesmakers. As she has HR experience, Sarah was initially asked to help interview potential volunteers in the run up to the Games. Since the start of the Games, she has been located in Wimbledon as part of Work Force operations team carrying out a variety of tasks, from checking people in, to organising the helpdesk and managing the Locog employees.
“You really get a sense that you’re contributing. And it’s quite nice to be walking past Centre Court and spotting famous tennis players”, she commented.
Local architect James Holmes-Siedle and his partner Jane Hanna were also doing their bit. Jane Hanna is looking after the Oman team in the Athletes' village whilst James is a personal assistant/driver to the NOC President of Holland. James said, "We felt so strongly that we shut our architectural practice for the three weeks of the games!"
James Holmes-Siedle with his official car
James and Jane in front of the Olympic Rings
Sue Hearn, wife of local councillor Sam Hearn, was also located in Wimbledon.
“I‘ve been a team leader in Event Services at the tennis in Wimbledon, which means I and my team check tickets, direct and aid spectators and see people to their seats. We work alongside a paid team of stewards.
"It has been a great experience. We move around each day, so work with a new team and in a different area of the grounds for every shift. It is a brilliant opportunity to meet fascinating people from different backgrounds, all drawn together by a common interest. The days are full, hectic and fun, though I haven't actually had a chance to watch any tennis.
"One of my team a couple of days ago found herself travelling home on the tube with an organiser of the 2016 Games in Rio. He took her contact details and asked her to work for the Rio games. I am hoping to get to meet him! ".
Dinah Garrett (above) recalls that she was so excited four years ago when Britain won the Olympics that she was determined to become involved. Her role was as Team Leader at the Beach Volleyball in Horseguards Parade.
“Everything has been a great experience, from the training process, to getting the uniform-I’ve seen bits of London I’d never been to before, and met all sorts of people.
"It’s quite a process. There are 15,000 spectators to get through ticketing, and security and into the waiting area while the venue is being cleared of spectators, and then cleaned. The jobs change from day to day, its mix and match."
Working long shifts have seen her rise at 3.15 a.m. to be on time for a 5.30 a.m. start, taking the night bus from Kew to Trafalgar Square and walking to the venue, before finishing at 4.30. and making her way home.
“It’s a great atmosphere, and you meet other Gamesmakers in their uniforms on their way in the morning. We all have a chat- visitors come up and ask questions when they see you in uniform - they presume you’re an expert on London."
Lindsay Van der Merwe from South Africa (above) was also based in Horse Guards Parade. Originally from South Africa, she has lived in Chiswick for fifteen years with her husband and three children.
"I was part of the Service Events Team. I volunteered because I wanted to be part of the Olympics and give back something to the city.
"I took leave from work to attend rehearsals but I've met people from outside London who have really made sacrifices. I've met people who've come as volunteers from Wales, from Belfast, and Scotland and they're camping in London while they are Gamesmakers. I even met a woman who left a six-month old baby behind as she volunteered while she was pregnant".
She described her experience as "brilliant and really worthwhile". Ironically, prior to being chosen for the beach volleyball event she had bought tickets online- for beach volleyball! However, it meant that her husband and three children were able to come along and see her in uniform.
Jo Harry was involved prior to the Olympics in training.
"I was undertaking an MA in Human Resource Management at Kingston Uni when the tutors informed us in January 2011 that they’d been approached by LOCOG to train us to be volunteer interviewers of the Games Makers – so I did, and regularly went over to the Excel Centre to interview right up until September 2011.
"They asked if any of us had a background in Training, and I did, so went on to be selected as a Trainer of the Games Makers.
"The foundation training that I facilitated was called ‘Common Role’ and covered diversity and inclusion, an understanding of disability, customer service behaviours (hosting actions), communications and reporting structures, safety, security, sustainability, health & wellbeing, manual handling, accreditation and identification, maintenance and correct wear of the uniform, daily logistics regarding getting to your shift and what you can/can’t take with you, and finally the do’s and don’t's on how you can communicate your ‘day’ on digital social media.
"I undertook this from February/March time until end of June this year. It was great fun, I made loads of new friends, and it gave me a sense of contribution and belonging to the whole London 2012 programme. "
August 3, 2012