Diary of a Games volunteer - and still no chocolate
Apparently they didn't use any volunteers in the last Olympics. I learnt this from a Chinese student as we were queueing up to go into Wembley Arena for our Orientation session last weekend. She told me that although her home was in Beijing she had to wait for the London Games to get a chance to be part of it.
That's the phrase - be part of it. We heard it over and over again. From Jonathan Edwards, from the ubiquitous Eddie Izzard, from Seb Coe. And I must say they have done an excellent job in motivating people to sign up.
In fact, in 2010 over 240,000 applied to be volunteers - or Games Makers, as they insist on calling us - at the Olympics or Paralympics. Of those 80,000 were shortlisted and 70,000 offered roles, with others being kept in reserve.
There are dozens of different roles - from driving VIPs, looking after athletes in the village, writing press releases, accreditating journalists, catering, venue management as well as supporting each one of the sports.
I've looked back at my application form and have been trying to see what criteria they used to shortlist me. I offered no sports skills, no first aid skills and only basic language skills. I had to fill in my experience in three skills area, but only allowed 80 characters (yes, characters) for each. That clearly favoured the tweeters.
I was hoping to work in Government Relations, or alternatively Website and New Media, but got shortlisted for my third choice, Events. I can only assume that the number of hours of volunteering that I already do was the clincher.
The organisation of applicants has been excellent - we are regularly updated by email and have a dedicated website which answers all the questions we could possibly ask.
So last August found me with another 20 or so applicants at the Excel centre where we were welcomed in person and given some insight into the processes. A short film (Eddie Izzard again) exhorted us to sell ourselves to the interviewer, but the interview that followed was rather disappointing. The young man (who was also a volunteer) said he hadn't read my application form and seemed intent on getting exactly the answers he wanted, discounting anything peripheral.
Further disappointment followed. Eddie Izzard had also promised chocolate from Cadbury's, the 'Official Snack Provider', but there was none left.
So I was somewhat surprised to get an email on the very first day that offers were made, offering me a role as an Events Team Leader in the Paralympics based at the Excel Centre, which I accepted straightaway.
Which brings me to last weekend, when I turned up with 10,000 others for my first training session. All volunteers had to attend one of these. During the afternoon some imaginative presentation techniques were used to introduce us to many people working in the organisation, to athletes and to other volunteers. And to the uniform - hmmm...more of that later.
Cadbury's provided entertainment but we still didn't get the promised chocolate.
The next three training sessions will be specific to roles and venues - more about them later.
You will have gathered that I am not indulging in the prevalent cynicism about the Games. I have always enjoyed watching them in the past, and have managed to buy some tickets for athletics and handball (eh?). I intend to watch the three cycling races as they go through Kingston, and to cheer the Olympic flame as it sets off from the Hook Centre on 24th July. And next week I'm off to watch a trial event in the Velodrome - I can't wait to see the Olympic Park for the first time. London has done a terrific job; the buildings are actually finished (remember Beijing, or Athens for that matter?).
So, yes, I'm unashamedly enthusiatic about the Games.