Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Making volunteering 'cool' again - Richard Dando

The dust has barely settled on a memorable London 2012 Olympics and already excitement is building for the Paralympic Games. Much deserved praise has been heaped on the army of volunteers who are so instrumental in making the Games run so seamlessly.

One such person is Sport Wales Senior Officer, Richard Dando, who was chosen as a Games Maker official with the Event Services team based at the Olympic Stadium. Here he sums up his experience of pitching in at the Olympics.

The Olympics may have ended and the Paralympics may be about to start but the experiences and memories I have of being a Games Maker will live on for a long time.

Following the opening ceremony I had ten days before my next Games Maker shift at the Olympic Stadium so I managed to cram in a few days in my ‘real job’ at Sport Wales and some of the free sporting events like the cycling road race, the cycling time trials and watching Wales’ triathlon champ Helen Jenkins. 

The atmosphere wherever you went was incredible.

The Olympic Stadium: Richard's 'office' during the Games
Sunday 5 August soon came around and a run of six shifts in seven days was about to begin, the fact it coincided with the men’s 100m final only added to the excitement! 

The Stadium Events Services team role was to ‘host’ spectators visiting the stadium by answering their questions, pointing them in the right direction, checking their tickets, directing them to their seats, taking pictures for them and directing them to Stratford station when it was time to go home. 

It might not have been the most glamorous of roles but I enjoyed meeting spectators, athletes and coaches from all over the world and making sure that however trivial the role seemed, I had helped to make their London 2012 experience an enjoyable one. 

Each night I had a different role, with new people, in a different part of the stadium which provided too many highlights and memories to write about them all in a blog!

My final shift was Saturday 11 August and I was back on pushchair and wheelchair storage duties where it all started three weeks previous! It had its perks; I was on the 100m start line so when all pushchairs and wheelchairs were safely stored I was in the perfect position to cheer Mo Farah down the home straight in the 5000m and watch Johan Blake hand the baton to Usain Bolt in the 4x100m relay!

I was lucky, I had a Games Maker role in a sporting venue so I combined volunteering with watching some of the sporting action. Many more thousands of Games Makers were not so lucky and were positioned in the Olympic Park or on transport links or behind desks and didn’t see any sport. 

To me these were the ‘star’ Games Makers as their spirits didn’t dampen as they revelled in their roles knowing they were contributing to the positive image of the Games.
Perks of the job: Watching Mo Farah win his second gold

Most of us working in sport know that community sport doesn’t happen without volunteers. After the glowing publicity across the world around the contributions of the Games Makers to London 2012, a lot more people are aware that sport, even on the grandest scale doesn’t happen without volunteers. 

How do we capture this enthusiasm for volunteering in our local communities alongside the increase in sports participation that we are all hoping will take place? 

Games Makers has become a well-known brand for sports volunteering and has made volunteering ‘cool’ again! Should we continue with this brand in community sport? 

Games Makers have been made to feel part of the Olympics, whether that’s a thank you email, a pin badge for every shift turned up for, positive media coverage, a pat on the back, a personal thanks – they are all things that can be implemented in community sport to value the contribution of the volunteers to ensure they come back again.

Every other Games Maker or member of the public that asked me what I did for a living outside the ‘Olympic bubble’ responded with; ‘that sounds interesting,' ‘lucky you’ or ‘are there any jobs going?’ when I explained I worked for Sport Wales and that we want to get ‘Every Child hooked on Sport for Life.' 
So yes, I did have the Olympic blues coming back into work but knowing I was coming into work to help partners harness the impact of London 2012 in their local communities made it a whole lot easier!

Celebrate the volunteers and coaches who keep community sport alive in your area by nominating your local heroes today for one of our Coach of the Year awards.

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