Proudly South African

It must be almost 2 years since I saw the advertisements on TV, on buses in the Capital and on billboards for ordinary people like me to join in and become a part of London 2012 as a Games Maker (volunteer). It took about 10 months to hear that my application had made it to the next round of the interviewing process. I had almost forgotten about it. I was one of the 250,000 applicants who became 100,000.

In June 2011 I was called in for an interview at the Excel Centre in London. I was soo excited! I arrived about an hour early, which is pretty normal for me. My friend of 35 years, Kevin, has been known to say, ” If you tell Dawn to be there at 10, she will be there between 9 and 9:30″ 🙂

I sat and had a coffee while sorting my thoughts in my head, (mmmm, yes), trying to make sense of the chaos that is my brain and made my way to the interview venue. I was overcome with emotion. If I didn’t make it beyond this stage, it would be okay. It was such a privilege to be here – the Olympics bunting, boards, logos…it was unreal!

After watching an introductory video by Eddie Izzard, who is sooo enthusiatic about the Games, I went into a cubicle to be interviewed. It went so well. The lady who interviewed me was also a volunteer and followed Games around the world. She must just love it!  We laughed and giggled and a 15 minute interview became 45. As we were finishing off and heading out of the door, I added, “I even named my cat Sebastian after Seb Coe”. She stopped suddenly, got the interview notes out, and said, “We MUST add that in!” My friends believe this is the only reason I got the job. I like to think it was because I am charming, enthusiastic and skilled 😉

We were told we would hear in October. I got the email that congratulated me and invited me to be a Games Maker. I actually jumped up and down for about 5 minutes. This was just too much! I was one of 70,000 who would be a volunteer at the London Olympic Games!

Then in January I started my training.  We went to a Games Maker orientation event in Wembley Arena.  Thousands of us, and it was buzzing! The event was fun, energetic, informative and I left more excited than ever that I was going to be a part of London 2012.

The monthly training sessions in east London followed, covering our roles as National Olympic Committee Assistants, the way the Games works, the venues, where our accreditation allowed us, team work activities, quizzes, getting to know each other – it was so professional and thorough.

Building a tower out of spaghetti

Our training was sponsored by Cadbury’s, so of course, along with lunches, we got heaps of chocolates at the training sessions – always a bonus!

Driver training was great fun!  We had a morning of theory, and then spent the afternoon, in 2s, in the Olympic BMWs (£12 million worth of BMW donated to be used at the Games), with an advanced driving instructor.  He was exceptionally good (he trains instructors and trains and tests miliary drivers too) and we got some invaluable driving tips and techniques.  The next sessions in the cars were a hoot!  4 of us got into the cars and zipped around London, familiarising ourselves with the Olympic Routes, the venues and the ‘specially designed for the Olympics’ satnavs. Tourists took photos of us, and pointed…the excitement of the Games was starting in the Capital.

Driving down the Mall in central London

In May we were asked to submit a request for the country we would like to work with during the Games. At first I thought it would be amazing to work with a country I know nothing about, so after umming and ahhing, I finally submitted my request:

“I am a South African, and an Afrikaans speaker, and I would feel proud to work with a team of amazingly talented people who have overcome obstacles (we could not even imagine), to qualify to represent their country at the world’s greatest sporting event. I dreamed of being an Olympian myself, and sadly at that time my country was excluded from international competition due to the country’s political stance. My sporting and Olympic dreams were thus squashed,  and so working with the South African team would fulfil a part of this dream, the dream that drove me (and still drives me) on and off the sports field. Being able to share this wonderful event with my country’s top and highly inspiring athletes will be a privilege and a responsibility as I will be supporting my country, and representing the whole of my Rainbow Nation. But, as an African, I have Africa running through my veins and I would feel proud to share in the highs and lows of any African community.”

Can you imagine my excitement when I was put into a team of 7, and we were assigned to South Africa.  Kumers (from Durban) and I are the only South African, Ivan is retired and  has been to South Africa on holiday and Sinora is Israeli, and will be going to South Africa on holiday in December.  Bank Manager Darren, teacher Sally and Logistics Manager John have not been, but let’s hope this experience will inspire them to head to southern Africa. They have taken South Africa on as their own, and I see them cheering our sportsmen and women on…they have almost forgotten that they are British 😉

In May we collected our uniforms and our accreditation:

With our gift from Swatch – a limited edition Games Maker watch

Our final training session was Venue Specific Training and we went into the Olympic Village for a guided tour and to finalise the last few bits.  It was so interesting to see what it looked like from the inside…

Inside what would be the workforce dining room

Inside the Chef de Mission briefing room

And here I am!  It has been a long journey, so very very well planned, executed and delivered (the attention to detail has been incredible), and I still feel like it is not real – I am working with South Africa’s best of the best.  It is a positive, inspirational and energetic environment.  Imagine if this could be a forever job?

Dawn Denton©

Image sources: Telegraph, London 2012, BBC News


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