Wednesday night, our starting blocks/lane marker team were asked if a few of us could come in early for Thursday evening’s session to help set up some of the field equipment. Immediately, a dozen of us said, ‘Of course, we don’t have anything else to do!’ not realising what it would entail.
I actually enjoyed finding out what some of the other volunteers get up to in their shifts and a whole new appreciation for their roles! We have pressure to comply with Seiko, TV Cameras and the strict time schedule to adhere to: the field team have to make sure that no athlete gets injured, or is able to throw a discus, shot put, javelin or club throw into the crowd. I think they have more things to worry about!
We ambled up at 2.30pm (90 minutes before our normal shift began) carrying all the metal poles for the throwing cages – which were surprisingly lighter than the netting that goes around it – and lifting the net like a flagpole. Me, like the delicate flower that I am, managed to get rope burn in the process having to resort to yet another plaster. But it wasn’t just me, this was dangerous work! Two others in our team ended up receiving medical treatment after setting up the field equipment; starting to appreciate our role even more now!
But we also got to experience the hidden downsides to the equipment team, the dirty underside of the role; cleaning. We felt like Cinderella scrubbing the floors and waiting for Prince Charming to spot us and return a glass slipper. It didn’t happen… Our aim was to get rid of all the chalk that was on the track from the previous night’s action – whether we achieved that or not with just a couple of sponges and some cold water in a bucket, we’ll never know!
The rest of the evening’s squad arrived and we had to get to work for yet another incredibly busy evening of action. This was going to be a night where we were grateful for a pair of running trainers from Asics, because they were certainly going to be put to the test. I was on the 400m and 800m for the evening with a slick team ready to keep the finish line clear before the athletes made it with 200m to go, but it wasn’t going to be a doddle.
It also doesn’t help with concentration when our team leaders keep asking us to strip off… the track. Wording is everything and we still can’t help ourselves!
But we made it through the evening with no major hiccups and an absolute ton of giggles. These people will be friends for life as they have made the experience that little more special for all of us – you may be having a rough day or feeling sleep-deprived, but a high five from someone on the bridge, or hearing that you have a lovely smile from the guys at the bag search table can completely turn your day around. Suddenly, you have all the energy in the world and are ready to give your all for the session.
The group that we have on the starting blocks have carried me through the last couple of days, and I know that they will be there to keep picking me up and make sure I have a grin permanently plastered on my face. We are so lucky to be so close to the athletes during their races and they have all been so open and willing to have conversations, sign autographs and even take selfies with us all. we are doing as volunteers is to make their competition experience as special as possible.
After all, London is the home of the Paralympics!