I’m Loving It! (My Adventures in Happy Land).

Invited, never called, to collect my uniform, I wended my way , after a bus diversion to Star Lane DLR Station,  to claim my Paralympics GamesMaker uniform from the distributing and accreditation centre. From the first entry post the greetings and smiles were overwhelming. The physical layout reminded me of those dark winter days last year when I auditioned for a performance role in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. It’s that bought- over warehouse scene where fat money converts dishevelled factory and manufacturing buildings from their 50s aura to fast-paced, floor-lined business arenas in recently discovered London spaces. Tote amaze eh? Confident grey-haired grandmas in their coordinated mauve and red GamesMakers’ attire ushered we newbies to fitting rooms and the try-on seats, the golden stools of the sacred free Adidas trainers.

Accredited and sweated I left the building and walked back along dog-shit alley to my 69 bus home. Must go back to that Star Lane to see the area when UDAC (Uniform Centre) abandons all hope.

I tried to memorise my duty roster, and then looked into TFL’s site to see how the bus situation would be for my  0615h shift start . I don’t live near an underground or other station. As I do live on the back of the Games Park I had imagined when I applied to GamesMake that I’d walk to work. Silly me; that way was earmarked for closure before the word ‘volunteers’ entered the heads of McDonald chiefs.

Taking everything in my stride and wanting to be as cheery as the next GamesMaker, I began my first shift wary of my ticket- screening skills. There was no need to fear anything. Positive gestures and cheery words are the ways of the team leaders and the experienced GamesMakers from the Olympic times. The day passed from the morning chill to the searing heat of the afternoon. I hated my trousers. I had refused the next size up because they were like Ronald McDonald’s trews and I was having none of that tree trunk look. I suffered and the material was like cardboard on my thighs. The polo shirt is as comfy as can be and will be my uniform at the gym this coming season. Polyester or not, it will do!

My first dinner was very good and continued that way. All my healthy salad was served with a McDonald’s smile . The canteen, hidden from the Olympic Park’s’ public view, was filled each day with security workers, GamesMakers, London Ambulance crew (Yay!), cops and cleaners. I’m loving it. What I really loved was the organisation, all dreamed up from day 1 , seven years ago. You cannot beat order and organisation. Whoever knew that the volunteers would be fed and watered with accompanying peer smiles? Who knew we’d get Adidas socks and that our watches would sell on Ebay for hundreds? He he!

Leaving a shift in the heat of the day, tired and aching and having to follow the spectators who are leaving at the same time, we all having had the experience of a lifetime, is not an easy task, and you’re not really off duty as at any time Jill Public will ask the way to Amarillo. Keep smiling. I swear something is mixed into the volunteers’ food to keep the positive vibes kicking. Years ago I worked in the German Railways and we were told to eat their prescribed pills to keep us “strong”. We did as we were told, I mean the guest workers from the then Yugoslavia and myself. The pills were likely iron tablets. Who knows?

It was obvious to me that the Paralympic GamesMaker security force, mostly youngsters in their teens and twenties, were Black and Asian youth. They were recognisable by their GamesMaker uniforms over black trousers as opposed to fawn ones. The Paralympic GamesMakers (event services) were made up of many grey-haired white seniors, I mean many. What drives us? I don’t know the answer.What was driving the youth? It was just an aside that I noticed the demographics.

The experience has finished now and I’ll forget it as we move onto something else.

Once in the role and standing on the Olympic Park ground  was as though I were on another planet. Others said the same. It was a surreal experience, being in a newly formed part of  and previously unhallowed east London. Every day was full of sights and really nice excited people; all customers, all spectators. We were there to increase their good times as you would to any guest in your home. That was a pleasure to do. So many visitors took my photograph and so many thanked we the volunteers for their day. Sweet eh?

I was at loggerheads with many people  who saw me as a worker for McDonald Restaurants and an arm of the hated Atos. I often saw the GamesMakers and remembered Hitler Youth.   GamesMakers all together do look amazing, smartly turned out , energetic and cheery.  From Leyton Station going outwards to Walthamstow , you’d be lucky to see the uniformed ones. That part of London seemed unaware of what was going on across the border down by Drapers’ Field. Around Stratford the GamesMakers were always out in their hundreds and in teams, or gaggles as someone remarked cleverly, up towards Spitalfields and Hackney Marsh. I was proud to be seen in my colours and shocked to get recognition from bus-drivers. At one time, some guys were worried when they saw me coming along just as they dropped litter. It’s the uniform, see.  My thoughts were on a foot  spa, believe me, not on their ignorance.

It was Happy Land. Many people said to me “What has the Olympics done for us?” Don’t get me started…. “What did you do for the Olympics?”  You moaned.

Thank you London 2012.

UDAC

UDAC Uniform distribution and accreditation centre for GamesMakers for the Paralympics is set up in what may have been a factory:-

Purpose of Report / Proposal

Demolition of all existing buildings and the erection of four buildings subdivided into

twelve units totalling 10,621sqm for B1c (Business – Light Industry), B2 (General

Industry) and B8 (Storage and Distribution) employment uses with ancillary yards and

parking

next to dire Star Lane area in dire Stephenson Street in dire Canning Town adjacent to  the fresh and newish Star Lane DLR station. I travelled to aforesaid dire area on a 276 bus and lo and behold the bus was on a London 2012 diversion so I was totally lost, in strange deserted land. The driver was kind and dropped me off at dog- turd alley so I could walk the 10 minutes to the station. I was never tempted to turn back because part of my job to collect my GamesMaker uiform was to covet my pair of Adidas trainers. I had been successful last year in being given the chance to be a GamesMaker at the Paralympics but was in two minds wheher to take  up the post for many reasons, eg security, travel to and fro.  A pair of trainers clinched the deal really.

Got across from Star Lane into Stephenson Street via the station footbridge. I was carrying an old pre -Olympic Park map page of the address from the  “Master Atlas of Greater London NHS Trust London Ambulance Service”  which was of little help as it was from way back when at a time when Carpenters Road was busy and dirty full of second hand car workshops called garages and at a time when no-one cared about Canning Town. Oh!  They still don’t.

I saw the flags and a litter of GamesMakers in front of the UDAC building. I showed my passport and stated my business.I entered the massive busy place.Got mi trainers…..

Then it was try on for comfort the uniform. No mirrors. Can’t fault Adidas quality of course but I hate Adidas trousers. They are never quite the generous size around female bum and thighs. So I made do because the next size up looked like Ronald McDonald’s painting overalls. The polo top and jacket are as comfortable as silk. Already others’ stuff’s up on Ebay.

Went along to the collection point. Oh My goodness. So well done, so organised, so army. I was given a bag, an Adidas bag, and  my peers put in clothes after clothes, then the trainers then other whatnots. Never knew until I emptied the bag indoors what goodies I had as well as an Oyster card. There were 2 polo tops, 2 pairs of yuk trousers, 2 pairs of Adidas socks, my trainers, jacket, unbrella just in case, my cap, Coco Cola drink bottle, Swatch Watch, notebook and epaulettes or something I’ve not opened yet. Amazing! Awesome. I am grateful. My only hardship really is getting to my job for 0615h ! Aren’t I a lucky one? I did get the job via interview I said to myself as another GamesMaker spoke to me and I wondered what form of English I’d just heard.

Think of that Shreddies advert and the Wonga one then know that in real life all those grannies are out there GamesMaking in on trend Adidas trainers.  Good on their spirit. Shame on Shreddies for not smashing the stereotype. The only knitters I know now live on a remote Scottish island or are tote maze in Dalston.

I run Up Your Street and it was originally formed to engage seniors with the coming of the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012. I believe becoming a Gamesmaker,  sold out to Adidas or McDonalds or Coca Cola, (I had to research Atos), is the culmination of the work of Up Your Street. What makes me glum is that seniors I know still have not been into the Stadium. They never saw the adverts for cheap tickets or what? £5 tickets for seniors to get into the Paralympics? Opportunities to become Gamesmakers? You have to grab!

Now let’s see how I get on! You have to be in the mood for all that American style gushing. Don’t get me wrong. I can do that! I cannot do the Stadium stairs. They are steep , high and many. Even the youth say that. Not as bad as the gods in O2 mind.

I live on the back of The Stadium. I was naive such that when I applied for Gamesmaker I imagined myself ambling through Orient Way or catching the W19 as a case was made for it to reach from E17 to E20. Never happened. The roads were all closed off. I became an outsider in my own habitat. I was stoooopid and naive and gave in to some officiating Olympic body my enthusiastic plan for High Street Seniors to walk on the perimeter of the Park at dusk throughout the Olympics. We weren’t wanted there mucking up their security. I was a flea in the big plan eh?

When I texted my sister that I was now a uniformed GamesMaker she replied, “What’s a GamesMaker?” Cheers!

PS  The (UDAC) site is located along Stephenson Street in Canning Town near the Cody

Road industrial estate and is located within a predominately industrial area.

The site is rectilinear in shape and roughly level and comprises a range of

existing commercial warehouse buildings and hardstandings. At the front of

the site, adjacent to the main vehicular access, is a locally listed two (plus

attic) storey building. The building was the former offices of the Canning Town

Glass Works, built around 1925.