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.