Is anyone monitoring the conditions under which the Olympic Park volunteers aka Gamesmakers work? The concerned grapevine has it that breaks are rare, that they stand in all sorts of weather, and that they get only £1.50 daily food allowance, not even enough for a Big Mac and fries. What is true? I did meet a volunteer driver who uses the ORN of course who told me quite blatantly that London black -cab drivers spit at her. I’d dump the uniform and go home.
The Paralympic Games look like the poor sister to the biggies. It would help if people could say the word “Paralympic”. I was on a Personal Best programme in 2009 which was designed to motivate people back to unpaid work in the Games Park. Everyone was naive then. I joined because I was desperate to get into The Olympics and Paralympics Games to watch or sniff. I was in love with the whole excitement about the Games coming to Stratford E15.
Ours was a poorly attended 6 days over 6 weeks local course. Women had been cajoled and enrolled from a large housing estate and their minds were filled with shivery memories of school, urgent child-care arrangements and what to get for dinner. The only regular attender was the tutor. I remember lots of hole- punching as we collected and filed hand-outs all about the history of The Olympics and other character- exposing questionnaires to see if we would slot into the essential criteria bit on a application form. Oh dire it all was. It finished. Thousands received their certificates and all was forgotten.
I went to my Gamesmaker interview, and did a lot of Cadbury chocolate-tasting as I pretended to be in awe of the Sainsbury’s guy who’d been on an American style howdidoody presentation workshop. I ate more chocolate aware that I was being tracked on CCtv cameras. My interviewer was a slip of an Eastern European accented girl who had no idea of my involvement with or my enthusiasm for the coming Games on my doorstep. But smile I did as the camera was rolling. My mumma raised no fool.
I was taken on as Gamesmaker for The Paralympics and even then knew I was second-rate. The Paralympics is not The Olympics. And to those classmates on Personal Best, the word “Paralympics” is as foreign to them as the word “Ramadan”. Those so-called students who could never be suitable to represent British people to tourists because those stereotyped desirables only exist in “Chariots Of Fire” are nowhere to be seen through the Westfield E20 and John Lewis windows. They certainly never got free tickets to smell the flowers or the canals. There was all the time a wink wink nod suggestion that Personal Best students would get a freebie to the Games. Naive we all were, including the organisers and the tutors.
The person who gained from that course is the Eritrean tutor who learnt something about the failures of a British education system.
So, Paralympics and Personal Best: The London 2012 team is still recruiting Gamesmakers for the Channel 4’s Games. Forget interviews, security checks and just mention Personal Best like it’s a passport visa. Say that there was definitely a promise of a job on completion of the course. No-one will check that. Get your free fitted uniform with shoes too and transport arranged to take you to your job. (As if the csa’s in Canary Wharf or wherever they flout their mauve shirts even know what Personal Best is. My interviewer dismissed my Personal Best mention because she had enough trouble writing down my past volunteering activities.)
Now that non-selection process makes a mockery of my already degraded position.
But I am so over it. Good luck to those latecomer Gamesmakers who are joining forces with the Forces. I have been into the Park many times now and will go again yet. It was funny that I entered names into the Waltham Forest ballot to have a look about the Park. Every person got a place and a wonderful time looking at the flowers and the majesty that is Olympia. It was a ballot remember so Lady Luck was surely out there. I never got a ticket. How weird. But I’m over it. Over the Games altogether if the truth be told but hanging in there ready for the Legacy lies to morph into whatever McDonalds wants.