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After 10 months of waiting, the big day finally arrived for
London 2012 Games Maker Dave Simmonds...
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Dave Simmonds (top picture) was one of 3,500 volunteers and staff at Eton Dorney during the Olympic rowing The first Team GB gold
Saturday 14 July – Venue Training, Eton Dorney A day we’d all been looking forward to – but with only two weeks to go until the first rowing events, Eton Dorney is still a building site, and a very wet one at that. The team is obviously making strenuous efforts to get everything ready, but we can’t tour the venue. Everyone I speak to is a little worried...
Friday 27 July We’re asked to come in for an extra training session. After some dry weather, Eton Dorney is transformed! As we stroll around the site in blissfully hot sunshine, moods rise again.
Sunday 29 July – my first shift I get up at 3.45am to start my journey to work and nibble some breakfast biscuits en route. I don’t have much appetite – to be honest, I’m more than a little nervous. I’m posted to Stand 1, right on the finishing line, and luckily I’m with some people who did the job yesterday [the first day] so they’re old hands. There’s not a lot of time to watch the racing – I’m kept busy getting my team members into the positions we’re supposed to cover (not as easy as it sounds; just when we think we’ve got it sorted, the contractors who organise the paid stewards decide they need a couple of our people to help theirs), greeting spectators as they start to roll in at 7.30, helping sort out ticketing problems, trying to make sure our people get breaks, and then at the end of the day making sure that 25,000 people – most of whom seem intent on leaving at the same time – get out safely. It’s the first of five very busy days. I spend much of my time in the stands, out on the return island keeping roadways clear, and up on the lakeside lawns marshalling queues; but our main job is always to make sure that the people who’ve paid a lot of money to come and see the rowing are as happy as possible. I think the official terminology is ‘enhancing the customer experience’. So I carry cups of coffee for over-laden spectators, find chairs for the weary, help children across roads and spend a lot of time answering questions about rowing and Eton Dorney. I generally start my weary way home around 2.30pm. My days fall into a ‘work – sleep – eat – sleep’ pattern. It’s tiring, but we’re buoyed by the news that of all the Olympic venues, we have the highest customer satisfaction rating – 95%. And some people are kind enough to stop and thank us for our efforts, which is always a great boost. Most embarrassing moment? On being approached by Sir Clive Woodward, I drop my radio and somehow manage to kick it into his path. He slowly picks it up and hands it back to me, with an expression that suggests I’m not going to figure on his ‘Most Effective Volunteers’ list. And the highlight of my week? Well, the British women’s first-ever Olympic rowing triumph, for Helen Glover and Heather Stannning, must come pretty near the top. I can’t really count Katherine Grainger’s long-awaited gold as I watched it at home on my first day off, but the biggest buzz was the sheer enthusiasm and good spirits of the crowd. Time after time I heard commentators describe them as the extra person in the British boat, and that just about sums them up. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be there. Well the rowing is over and what a fabulous success it’s been, in all sorts of ways. Next week the lake is going to be taken over by a different sport so, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and help some canoe enthusiasts have a good time.
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Tweet of the month
Gold! Helen Glover and Heather Stanning will Gold! Helen Glover and Heather Stanning will forever be remembered for winning GB’s first Gold medal at #London2012 #OlympicHistory
@GaryLineker on Twitter
06 | Rowing & Regatta | September 2012