London 2012: A Games Maker Journey Pt. 1 of 4

Day 1 to Day 3

A few weeks before London 2012 started, we received our shift. We knew which arena we were assigned to, but not what task we would be doing on that day. We had to wear our uniform, and the most important of all – the accreditation.

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Day 1: 28 July 2012

My first shift!

We had to go through an initial security check (pic: top left) I entered the venue through the staff entrance (pic: top right), a shortcut and straight to the workforce check-in point (pic: bottom left). We then entered the EVS check-in point (pic: bottom  right). Being a paranoid parrot, I arrived at the venue an hour early for fear of being late. Turned out, the starting time as stated on the roster was always 20 minutes before the briefing session.

As the shift started in the afternoon, the whole place was bustling with people when I got there.

I was assigned to SA3 (weightlifting).

The person in charge of the arena was Fraser, a very loud Canadian man. During the briefing, one of the volunteers tried to strike a conversation with the team leader, Stephen Owen, one of the team leader. The reason I remembered his name so well, because the guy said to the leader, “Michael Owen.” Unfortunately for this poor guy, Stephen was a football fan, but not a Liverpool fan and felt very offended. “That’s strike one.” In defense, the guy tried to recover his mistake by digging an even bigger hole for himself. Stephen couldn’t stand it anymore. “Just stop talking.” Ouch.

Everything was a little havoc in the beginning. We were handed a leaflet that we were initially told to ignore. I was then assigned to the spectator zone, which I was not particularly enthusiastic. It was a bad impression to reject a task on the first shift, but ten minutes before the door to the arena opened, we were then told to not ‘ignore the leaflet to that extend’.

Turned out, the card I held for the ticketing arena. I was ecstatic.

However, my joy was short lived. There were so many complications for the seating in the arena. A lot of tickets were rejected as the seats had been reassigned due to the large pillars in the area. It was difficult to explain why the tickets weren’t approved, especially when we weren’t even told the reason then. All we were told is to direct them to another line, and the questions that follow will always be “Why? What happens there?”

I don’t know.

Apart from the little confusion in the beginning, it was a good first day. I could feel the excitement in the air. There were a lot of Chinese spectators trying to check if I understood Chinese. “ 你好!”I understand conversational Chinese, but the terms “Olympic family”, “weightlifting”, “media”, “separate entrance”, “arena” etc. were never part of my conversations.

Ever.

During our break, we were able to enter the any arena if we wanted to. I’m not sure if it’s officially allowed or it was an unspoken agreement between fellow Games Maker.

Day 2: 29 July 2012

Assigned for 11 hours shift at the boulevard area.  At the boulevard area, our duty is simply meet and greet. I smiled and said “hello’s” to people who passed me as I watched as they waved their flag proudly. I could literally smell the excitement in the air. Or maybe that’s just the piping hot Chinese food nearby.

Due to unfamiliarity in the venue (less blame on my lack of sense in directions), I gave a lot of people the wrong directions to toilets and cashpoints. It was embarrassing when one person said to me “I was from that way and there were no cashpoint.” Oops.

I happened to be stationed at a place where it is most popular to take pictures.  It was exhilarating when the people asked to take pictures with them – felt like such a celebrity. Likewise, I took group photos for them. Also, it was a coincidence to meet the first friend I met the previous day, so I took a picture with him as well.

11 hours shift, but I only made it for 7.

Being on the boulevard for half a day can be a mundane task, but that’s not the reason why I couldn’t complete it. My team leader today was strict and only allowed half an hour for dinner break. I am a slow eater; I must have swallowed too fast (or the food was bad), because for the rest of the evening, I felt like I was about to throw up. To make matter worse, my eyes were so dry that when I rubbed it and my contact lenses fell off.

The worst part of all: My work is to smile at the people who walked along the boulevard.  How could I smile when I’m in pain?  I asked for an early end in shift. That night, I slept for 12 hours straight. I figured out: apart from indigestion, I must have been suffering from jetlag.

Day 3: 30 July 2012

My day off.

It would be a waste if I went to volunteer and not watch anything live.  My accreditation only allowed me access to a venue, so if I wanted tickets to other venues, I had to buy tickets.

So I did. I chose artistic gymnastic at New Greenwich Arena. Badminton tickets were sold out no matter how I tried. This was the only time I entered an arena (officially) as a spectator.

The details were a little fuzzy now.

The event opened with a live performance by Pixie Lott. From my angle, I could only see the side view. There were several songs including the song ‘Use Somebody’.

Being in the arena is a lot different from watching from the television. There were 6 events going on simultaneously that it is different to keep track of every performance. For a bit of background understanding on each event, I quote http://gymnastics.about.com for the details.

Floor Exercise:

“The gymnast performs a routine no longer than 70 seconds, usually consisting of 4 or 5 tumbling passes, a balance element or strength move, and sometimes circles and flairs similar to those seen on the pommel horse. The floor mat is 40 ft. by 40 ft. and is usually made of carpeting over padded foam and springs.”

I didn’t particularly appreciate this part because it is the least interesting among all. And there were no accompanying music for men’s event which makes it even less appealing.

Still Rings:

“The gymnast completes swinging moves, handstands, strength moves, and a dismount on rings suspended approximately 9 ft. from the ground. Unlike the pommel horse, a gymnast must stop and hold his strength moves for at least two seconds. During this time, the rings should be as still as possible.”

This was located at the far end, from where I was sitting, and I’ve never seen the full performance for any country. I didn’t take a proper picture of this event because it was a little creepy to see their arms rotating an almost full 360’ without any effort. And to hold themselves upside down for more than two seconds – looking so effortlessly, enhanced a mixed feeling of amazement and worry.

Vault:

“The gymnast runs down a runway, hurdles onto a springboard, and is propelled over a vaulting “table” about 4 feet off the ground.”

The best landing I’ve seen was by Ryohei Kato from Japan. It was from that instant I realized although everyone was performing the same routine; there was a difference between normal and perfect. And that landing was too perfect. Look at his expression! The average points were about 15.4, and having 16 points is incredible.  From that instant onwards I paid a lot more attention to the minute details of the event.

Parallel Bars:

“The gymnast performs swings, release moves, pirouettes, and a dismount using two horizontal bars set at the same height. The bars are about 6.4 ft. from the floor and made of wood or plastic.”

I enjoyed taking pictures for this event. What I notice is, no matter how many different poses one make, the most important part is the landing.

High Bar:

“The gymnast performs pirouettes, high-flying release moves, swings, and a dismount on a single bar, 9 ft. off the floor. The bar is smaller in diameter than the parallel bars, and is made of metal.”

I noticed something oddly hilarious in this event. There were two mattresses placed at the bottom, joined in the middle where the bar was. This was to prevent injuries if the athlete fell. For Asian countries like Japan and China, the mattresses were joined, but for non-Asian countries, the mattresses had to be separated. Can you think of the reason?

There was someone who slipped: he let go of the bar and underestimated the distance of the bar from his position. Then, the amazing thing was that he stood up, continued his routine and ended his performance with yet another (almost) perfect landing.

Pommel Horse:

“The gymnast swings around the pommel horse on his hands, without letting any other part of his body touch the horse and without stopping during the routine. He uses the whole length of the horse, and performs circles, flairs, scissors, moves up to handstand and back down, and a dismount.”

Swing swing swing.

The memorable part for this event was that Uchimura Kohei made a very large error at the landing, and the mark initially cost Japan a medal, but after an inquiry, Japan came in 2nd place. Probably the penalty was too severe..

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When the result was announced, the crowd grew wild. Why not? The entire crowd consisted mainly of China and GB supporters. Regardless of who won, I’m thrilled I was able to watch an Olympics gymnastic event live.

Stay tuned,

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