Well, I have made it to the Athletes’ Village!
To do so, I first had to visit a huge warehouse in East London where the accreditation and uniforms are provided. My status change from the Rowing Village to the Athletes’ Village was done in minutes, but sadly I had no luck on a new pair of trousers. It seems that I am not the first with this issue, but all 20,000 trousers in stock are being saved for the Paralympic Gamesmakers. Oh well.
I did see a variety of people, especially teenagers, with ‘Talent’ marked as their accreditation grouping, so I am guessing they will be part of the closing ceremony. I didn’t glean any performance secrets, although they all seemed very excited.
Then it was onto Stratford. The tube was surprisingly calm, but upon exiting at Stratford, the mood changes. People are moving in every direction, with an almost tangible sense of anticipation everywhere. Crowds, yes, but certainly it’s still easy to move – if you know where you are going.
Of course I didn’t, and as most people wanted to go to the Olympic Park it took quite a few questions to head the right way.
Walking to the Village, I was struck by the amazing Olympic skyline of the different arenas, and knowing that the world’s best are here, and that I would be soon seeing them. This is why I put in my volunteer application two years ago.
The Olympic Village (or OLV as it’s known behind the scenes) has flags everywhere – one for every nation outside the huge Dining Hall, then each country proudly proclaims its location with flags, banners and even artwork draped on balconies and walls.
Australia even has three emus outside their apartment block!
And with the athletes walking around in their national colours, it feels like I am inside a child’s painting in bright primary colours, except with moving components.
One of the favourite occupations for the volunteers is trying to decipher unfamiliar flags, and guessing the sport of each athlete. Apart from the really obvious ones, like the lanky basketball players and the muscle-bound weightlifters, it is surprisingly hard to guess.
I was also struck by the thought that while many athletes are part of a team, it must still be quite lonely in some ways. Unless they are in a team sport, an athlete might have at most one or two other compatriots with the same expertise and understanding of their chosen sport, and in fact, they perhaps have more in common with their competitors. That must require a very special mental strength.
My team is very small, but very welcoming. Their events start next week as part of the athletics programme.
The athletes are supported by a chef de mission, a doctor, one coach and a chaperone, and three NOC Assistants, including me. Quite a different set-up from the huge teams which dominate the medal boards – this team is yet to win a medal at any Olympic Games.
But they are looking at developing a national talent identification programme, as it has seen success elsewhere, not only in competitive levels, but also future opportunities for children.
So these athletes are very much role models at home as well as individual competitors here.
Which is e exactly what these London Olympic Games are about, aren’t they? Inspire a generation...