Gill Gregory on the merits of 'high-fiving'

30 August 2012

I am the PA to UCL’s Vice Provost (Operations) and I volunteered for two weeks at the Eton Dorney Olympics venue.

Gill and Wenlock

An email dated 11 July 2006 reminds me that it’s six years since I registered an interest in the London 2012 volunteer programme.  Having just spent two weeks as a Games Maker in the Events Services Team at Eton Dorney - the venue for rowing and canoe sprint events - I can say without hesitation that it’s been one of the best experiences of my life – positive, uplifting and rewarding, and fantastic fun.

Over ten shifts I’ve welcomed visitors from across the world, learning to recognise national flags and practising limited language skills.  I’ve answered general enquiries about the venue and events, directed spectators to seats, and managed crowd circulation.  I’ve encouraged younger visitors (future Olympians?) to try out the rowing machines in the ‘Get Involved’ tent, and to search for the roaming ‘life-size’ Wenlock.  I’ve assisted with egress, lining the exit route with other volunteers, police officers and members of the armed forces to ‘high five’ kids of all ages as well as several medal winners.  Not very British, as one elderly visitor put it, but absolutely in the spirit of the occasion and openly appreciated by the majority.

I’ve enjoyed being outdoors, unconcerned about standing for hours without a break – time really does fly when you’re having fun.  On the rare occasions when the skies opened, we donned our ponchos and carried on.  The uniform may not have been an immediate hit but it was one less thing to think about when the alarm went off at 04:00, and as Games Makers gathered each morning in the workforce area we certainly looked the business.

There were unexpected rewards for the ridiculously early starts.  Arriving at the venue via Windsor Race Course we crossed the grass shrouded in mist and saw the sun rise over Windsor castle.  Watching the crews on the lake for a final warm up before spectators arrived and the competition began was also pretty special.

I had no expectation of seeing any of the action so was delighted when assigned Stand duties.  Surrounded by Union Flags, I was engulfed by the mighty roar of the crowd as Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins approached the finishing line and took gold in the double sculls.  It was thrilling to watch the medal ceremony, join in the National Anthem and see the pair return to the water for a lap of honour to a standing ovation.

There are many more memorable moments which add up to the most amazing fortnight.  I feel incredibly privileged to have played a small part in the success of London 2012 and it has inspired me to seek out other volunteering opportunities. 

And I’ve never been to Rio …….