Thursday, August 2, 2012

Games Maker - Tom Overton

We've been hearing from Sport Wales staff who are joining the thousands of volunteers who'll be keeping the Games ticking behind the scenes. Tom Overton is Sport Wales South Central Manager but during Games time he's been working with the Referee Liaison Team.

We’re a week in now and most of the critics have been converted. Even Uncle Arthur has been watching water polo. But there are still a few doom mongers around. If you’re one of them I’d suggest you stop reading.
Game on: I’ve got the refs this far, they’re on their own now
This is about the passion, the dedication, the excitement and the camaraderie of the Olympic games and I make no apologies for absolutely fizzing about the Olympics, the athletes, and my role as a Games Maker.

 If I’m honest, when I applied to be a Games Maker back in 2010, I’d pictured carrying Mr Bolt’s kit out onto the track for the 100m final. But I was also realistic and can still remember saying that I just wanted to be involved in the Olympics and would be happy "flipping burgers or emptying bins."

As it turns out I was needed for none of the above, so here I am on my first shift in the referee liaison team for the matches at the Millennium Stadium. I’m looking after teams of referees who travel up from London and spend three days in sunny Wales; the afternoon/evening before the matchday, the matchday itself and the following morning.

Croeso: The female referees arrive in Cardiff
There are four of us in the team with each covering a few games. The first experience of the transport office reminded me of the 2012 satire on the BBC - all lanyards, laptops and walkie talkies with no-one really knowing what was going on. But you soon realise that there is actually a hugely efficient machine behind the games, as is the case with the Cardiff team.

My logistics manager Roman (a Brains beer drinking Moscovite) came with me to collect my referee team for the Brazil women’s game on the first day of the Olympics. He asked if I needed a sign. I suggested that as I was dressed in bright purple and orange from head to toe, with a big 2012 handbag resting as ‘cooly’ as possible across my shoulder, I would have no problem standing out at rush hour at Cardiff Central station. After 30mins of “what’s in your handbag mate?” and “I’ve had a few beers. Could me and the wife have a picture with the Olympicsshh?” the referees sashayed off the train, in their fitted suits. The first referees had landed.

Breaking the security convoy to see the sights of Cardiff

The women’s football is fantastic, particularly as I’m in the thick of it behind the scenes. The female referees have taken holiday and are as excited to be here as the volunteers. Bibi from Germany is a policewoman  and I certainly wouldn’t argue with her. While Carol-Anne is a government official from Canada. On match-day one the referee team wanted to break the security convoy to have pictures outside city hall:
"we’re just real people who want to meet people and see Cardiff."

They spent an hour having pictures taken with teenagers (and me) who couldn’t believe they had just refereed the Brazil game. After the second game the referee team wanted taking to the shops to buy souvenirs of their time in Wales (Links of London if you’re interested!), before heading back to the stadium to support their friends officiating the GB game. I did suggest a post-match chicken madras in Canton, but they politely declined. The FIFA assessor debriefing and a morning training session might’ve had something to do with it.  

This week I’m on the sport info desk at the Hilton, dressing room assistant for the GB men, and spending a day helping out at the training ground.  All in a week’s work for a Gamesmaker. To be continued...

Keep track of all our Welsh athletes at London 2012 and follow  @Thomasfrombrum and @sport_wales on Twitter for all the latest news. Remember to use the #2012cymruwales hash tag!