Not many of the 2012 Olympic events were free, so when the route for the cycling Individual Time Trial event was released, there was great excitement. The course would start and finish at the impressive Hampton Court Palace and the route would take the cyclists through the streets of south-west London. Roads were closed and bunting went up in homes and offices along the route. What a buzz!
From my temporary home during the Games, the ‘Hersham Hilton’, we strolled down to where the crowds were gathering at the end of the road and took in the Olympic vibe as we waited for the cyclists to start ‘flying’ past us.
Legend has it that a nineteen year old, James Moore from Suffolk, won the first bicycle race in Paris in 1868. But the first Olympic Road Cycling event was only introduced at the 1896 Games. The 87km race started and finished in Athens. A hundred and thirty years later the Olympic movement allowed professional cyclists to enter the completion for the first time at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Spain’s Miguel Indurain, who had won the Tour de France five times at that stage already, won the inaugural Individual Time Trial event. Since then road cycling has been an exciting addition to the Olympics and always features high profile cyclists that have achieved great things inside and outside of the Olympics.
In true style, the route was beautifully decorated. The Olympics had come to the suburbs for more of London to enjoy. Everywhere we turned we felt we were right in the heart of the Games and the atmosphere was alive with anticipation!
Another very special Olympic afternoon!
Jonathan Edwards, a former British Olympic triple jumper said when the Games Maker uniforms were unveiled, “You won’t be able to move in London without seeing someone in one of these uniforms.” And how right he was!
The uniforms were not only Games Makers identifiers they were also instant friend magnets. On a train, a bus, in a crowd – if I saw anyone else in uniform, we would nod and smile at each other, and if neither of us were in a rush, we struck up a conversation. We would chat about everything to do with the Games, our different roles, the buzz in London and never, ever was anything negative. The conversation was always uplifting.
I suppose the most remarkable aspect of the uniform is the response I got from the public. People stood back for me and treated me a bit like a celebrity. On one occasion, on the Tube, a gentleman stood up to get off the train, walked past me, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Thank you for what you are doing! You are doing a great job!” A warm feeling flowed into every part of my body and my smile must’ve lit up the whole carriage. The uniform really did make us stand out in a crowd!
70,000 Games Makers, 6,000 paid LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) staff and 4,500 technical officials wore the uniforms in the Olympic venues and accommodation locations across the country. Most were like mine, but there were a few other styles too. The pink uniforms were for Ambassadors, placed across the Olympic venues to provide information to the public and the blue uniforms were for technical staff. I still liked mine the best, of course 😉
The red of the uniforms was inspired by the historic Grenadier Guards and some say the red represented the poppy, symbolic of the First World War. The purple it is believed was inspired by the colour of the queen’s crown (as it was also the Jubilee year) and was also apparently the favourite colour of the Queen Mother. The style of the uniforms was influenced by the 1948 London Games, Wimbledon and the Henley Regatta. And if you look at the outfits the Beatles wore on the cover of ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’ album, you will see the same cuffs we had on our jackets. Now that is pretty cool!
There have been suggestions that the colours also reflected the two main sponsors of the Games – the purple for Cadbury’s and the red for Mc Donald’s. Mmmm, yes, but I like the historical influences and references better…
Adidas helped LOCOG design the uniforms. We each got a jacket, two light and easy to dry polo shirts, two pairs of (almost completely) waterproof trousers, a pair of trainers, two pairs of socks, a cap, a shoulder bag, a water bottle and an umbrella. And everyone thought we would be using the umbrella daily, but I did not even use mine once! We only had one morning of rain (while I was on shift in the Olympic Village) during the Games, which was just amazing considering it was the wettest summer on record.
LOCOG was adamant that the uniforms would be “produced in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimise waste and other local environmental impacts, while also taking full account of responsible sourcing throughout the supply chain”. So, the shirts and the shells of the jackets were made of 100 per cent recycled polyester, and all the other items were made partially from recycled fabrics – the most they could – as sustainable as possible.
The High Street chain Next played a hand in the formal wear, which I didn’t get to see. The buttons on these jackets had silhouettes of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and London’s skyline with her iconic buildings, was embroidered under the collar.
Most importantly the uniforms were functional and comfortable (although the medical centre will tell you that they had hundreds of Games Makers come in to get treatment for blisters from the trainers. I think it had more to do with the fact that we were on our feet all day, running about like crazies!)
And as a little thank you, we got a limited edition Games Maker Swatch watch…a lovely touch!
The night before my first shift I laid my unform out on the bed…it seemed surreal. I was about to embark on an adventure that would become one of the highlights of my life. I was so utterly overwhelmed! And of course I barely slept!
I do know that every Games Maker at London 2012 wore their uniform with pride! The very modern design reflected the spirit of the Games, Olympic heritage and British quirkiness…just marvellous!
The email arrived…
And the time had come! I was arriving at the Wembley Arena for my first training session as a Games Maker for London 2012. It was icy in January in North London, and we all stood in the howling wind, not worried about the cold as this was the beginning of a journey of which we knew not what to expect….we were buzzing!
Seated in the high tiers I sat betwee two lovely gentlemen (lucky me!) and we instantly got chatting. The one man had come from Norwich for the training and was a truck driver. He knew he was doing some driving at the Games, but hadn’t been asssigned to a specific job as yet.
To my left was a man, cravat ‘n all, who had been in the navy and was orignally from Edinburgh but lives in Plymouth. So very posh! He too was to be driving at the Games and was so looking forward to it.
I was of course excited for them, but secretly I thought, “I am so lucky to have the best job at the Games!”. As a National Olympic Committee Assistant (NOC Assistant), I would be based in the Olympic Village and would look after an NOC from a country for the duration of the Games, which would include driving the Olympic BMWs. Yes, I definitely had a great Olympic role!
Our host for the afternoon was Jonathan Edwards, former British triple jumper. You could tell he had been a presenter for the Olympic Announcement ceremonies during the IOC Sessions in Guatamala (2007) and in Copenhagen (2009). He was also a great choice to host the afternoon as he was the athletes’ representative for the Games, and he was looking at things from the perspective of the atheletes, which gave us a great insight into what to expect. He was so comfortable on the stage and he anchored it all so well. He just looked the part…
We were then introduced to Paul Deighton, Chief Executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). He spoke about our role in making these Games happen for London and the country. A former investment banker, grammar school educated, with an economics degree, he came across like a man who knew what was happening. Confident and engaging, he too was pretty inspiring!
For a bit of fun there was a TV news desk set up, which acted as a news studio during the Games and the presenters sent the camera out to meet Games Makers to ask them about their roles and activities during the Games. This really made me smile and got me all excited about getting my ‘teeth stuck’ into the Olympics. I was going to be one of those Games Makers! Yippee!
Sarah Winckless was an impressive addition to the events. Sarah is a former British rower and won a bronze medal the at the Athens Games in 2004 with her Double sculls partner Elise Laverick. She has also been World Champion in 2005 and 2006. Having retired from elite sport in 2009, Sarah is now a motivational speaker and a coach.
Sarah impressed on the Games Makers the difficulty of the role, but also the rewarding side. She was interesting and engaging and I was overwhelmed by seening such a successful and talented sportswomen address us. She really must be great to see at a motivational talk as she was enthusiastic and outgoing in her approach. (http://www.sarahwinckless.co.uk/index.html)
It was here too that we were introduced to the uniforms by the head of Human Resources. It seemed more real than ever before and I think the room started to feel they were all in this together as a group of Games Makers.
As part of the closing, Games Makers were randomly selected from the crowd to come onto the stage and ‘perform’ as part of a fun sing-along, which was so bad it was funny!
And then, to end the afternoon’s session, a video of the wonderful Eddie Izzard rounded things off nicely with some humour and got the whole arena giggling.
With warm fuzzies I stayed to grab the last of the atmosphere as my fellow Games Makers filed out of the arena, and I just sighed…
The jouney had begun….
Dawn Denton ©
Le Bron James and Kobe Bryant earned between US$52 and US$53 million each in 2011. Basketball really is a remarkable sport! It was only in 1989 that the Olympic movement decided to allow these highly paid professional basketball players to represent their countries at the Games and since then the tournament has become more exciting than ever.
I had only ever seen a live basketball game once in New York, which was incredible (being at Madison Square Garden ‘n all), but I had not seen it played at the level one would see at the Olympics. I may never see it again.
So, one ticket was on offer in the Team SA office, and as I had missed so much of the Games being in the Olympic Village, I jumped at the ticket, almost as high as those guys do defending their posts 😉
During the early stages of the Olympics the basketball was help in the Handball (Basketball) Arena in the Olympic Park, which was one of the largest temporary structures to be built for an Olympic Games. Most of which will be recycled after the Games with elements and equipment being shipped to other parts of the UK.
But, the Basketball moved to the to the O2 Arena, which was rebranded as the North Greenwich Arena during the Games, to make way for the Handball events to take place in the Olympic Park.
I made my way to the arena after my shift in the Olympic Village to see the Men’s Semi Final – Russia vs Spain. For a game invented in 1891, it really has a modern feel – the fashion, the music, the crowds, the entertainment, and the general vibe was incredibly hip and happening (such a granny phrase that!). The game made its debut in the 1936 Summer Games although it had been a demonstration sport in 1904, and that year it was played on the outdoor tennis courts. What made 1936 so special though was that the man who actually invented the game, Dr Naismith, presented the victory medals. That would’ve been a true honour!
Today I was in a very modern venue, with press, cameras, flags and energy!
The game has been dominated by the USA for decades (well, since its invention in the US), and it was great to see two of the top teams in the world compete for a place in the finals – to play against the winners of the USA vs Argentina game later that evening.
The Spaniards won an incredible game, with the final score at 67 – 59, and I am sure that this had to do with the fact that they have more players on their team playing in north America than the Russians. The Spanish players play for the LA Lakers, the Denver Nuggets, the Toronto Raptons, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder and in their own Spanish league. The Russian are mostly based in the Russia.
And how tall are these men? To see so many extremely tall people in one place is almost comical – the ref looked like a child! Yes, height does play a role in this game, but the skills needed to play the ball like an extension of their arms, and the fitness these man and women have really makes the game awe inspiring, and especially when watched at the top levels. There was actually a motion filed in 1936 to ban basketball athletes over 1.90m or 6ft 2.75 inches tall, but thankfully this was withdrawn.
The London 2012 Basketball tournament ran smoothly and nothing like the 1972 finals which was the most controversial event in Olympic Basketball history. With one second to go, the USA were in the lead 50-49. The Russian inbounds pass was deflected and everyone thought the game was over, but they were given another shot, and did not score. The authorities decided that the to allow another shot with only one second to go, was not according to the rules and the game was restarted with 3 seconds to go. The Soviets scored and won the gold. Team USA lodged a complaint, but was eventually awarded and refused to accept their silver medals. To this day the medals are kept at the IOC headquarters in Switzerland.
I sat and soaked it all in, every ounce of the energy, the atmosphere and reality of being at an Olympic basketball semi-final. There really is nothing like being totally present to absorb everything about the Olympic spirit – alive in the players and enhanced by the crowd!
Dawn Denton ©
A week after the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, I was in Glasgow.
It is wonderful to see how this city has embraced the Games (they had hosted eight Olympic football matches) and how they were preparing for the Paralympics (the Spanish Paralympians were staying at out hotel).
Across the city there were over 700 banners and flags and 6,000m (20,000ft) of bunting.
Glasgow was alive with Olympic and Paralympic fever!
The most impressive of all were the three tonne Olympic Rings, which had been unveiled in George Square at the end of May, in time for the Torch relay passing through.
The Rings are the largest in the United Kingdom at 5m (16ft) high and 10m (33ft) long.
I felt like the Games had not ended as I strolled through Glasgow, soaking up the last of what had been an amazing summer for me and the whole country!
I was in awe! I had entered the Olympic Stadium and I could not stop smiling!
The noise, the atmosphere, the energy….the place was buzzing!
There were flags everywhere, but my eyes fell on the magnificent Olympic Flame…and I smiled some more….I could barely contrain myself! I was in the Olympic Stadium!
But then, I was drawn to something zipping across the centre of the stadium…the cutest mini Minis in the world! They had been assigned to one of the most important roles for the Olympic Field events – to shuttle the javelins, shot-puts, discuses and hammers from the field of play back to the athletes.
Only 39 inches long, and solid enough to carry the maximum weight of the field equipment, they also had a very cute little adapted sunroof. How much fun the volunteers must’ve had who were the remote controllers!
These little BMW designs are a ¼ the size of the real thing, and travelled about 6km per shift.
They must’ve been as pooped as I was at the end of my shift in the Olympic Village, although I did at one stage clock up to almost 20km per shift…
“Sport is about what you can do, what you can achieve, the barriers you can break.
Sport shows what is possible.
Sport refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer.
And everything sport stands for, we are going to see right here, right now.
Everything sport stands for we are going to experience with these Paralympic Games”
Sebastian Coe (Chairman of LOCOG)
Paralympic Opening Ceremony
Image Source: www.itv.com