London 2012: A Games Maker Journey (all)

A compilations of  days 1 to 3, 4 to 6, 7 to 11, and 12 to 16.

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.

For Day 1 to Day 16 details ..

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..

*

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.

Day 4: 31 July 2012

My day off once again.

That morning, I accompanied YY to Heathrow airport to send YM off. When I was leaving, I was genuinely surprised to see Games Maker volunteers stationed at the airport. Wouldn’t it be a monotonous job? And it was located so far away from the other arenas.

On the tube ride back, we met a fellow Malaysian. He was a middle-aged man, of some status according to YY. As he was the Chairman of the Famemas Malaysian Supporter, he had a list of all Malaysians participating in the Olympic, including the schedule. Then, he pointed out a couple of names and potential Olympic medalists – and he was right! Malaysia gained medals in both badminton and diving!

After lunch, YY and I went to Hyde Park to enjoy the live screen. Artistic gymnastic for female team was on that day, and I wished I could see it live.

We then tried our luck at the Wembley Arena to see if we could get tickets for the gold medal match in badminton. The tickets were sold out. Later, I learnt from TJ that we could get tickets on the spot at the venue. If only I knew…

Day 5: 01 August 2012

My third consecutive day off.

The wonderful thing about free transportation is that I am able to tour around London without worrying about the cost. It was the perfect opportunity to take all the Olympic air. I wanted to visit all the different venues for Olympic but it was impossible to fit anything in only a few day offs – and I would prefer staying in bed.

Here are some pictures of Tower Bridge.

At night:

Day 6: 02 August 2012

Back to work.

Highlights of the day:

1. Travelled the Emirates Air Line
2. Took picture with the awesome foam fingers
3. Received a Japan Olympic badge
4. Took picture with the Olympic Torch

The Emirates Air Line is a cable car-ride that runs between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks, across the Thames River. As it was a tourist attraction, I had to fork out an extra £3.20 for the three minutes ride. The view was beautiful, as I tried to spot all the different Olympic venues throughout the ride.

I had to use a different entrance from my usual. I managed to take picture with a foam finger en route to ExCeL. These pink foam fingers were almost as popular as the Olympic torch.

In the workforce check in area, I managed to convince the person-in-charge to give me an extra meal voucher. Woohoo!

Today I checked accreditation in SA1 (Fencing). We didn’t know it that army were not required to show any accreditation, but they still pulled it out regardless. It was quite entertaining because everyone, no matter how important they are, had to stop and show us their accreditation before entering the arena.

As the pace was slow today, we snapped a couple of pictures with each other. Meet Gabriella from Italy (pic:left), Marie from Mexico (pic:middle, bottom), Susie from UK (pic: top, middle, on my right) and Melanie (pic:right).

During our briefing, we were told that there was a special booth for Games Makers on break to watch the show. It was near the Olympic Family seating, so we had a really good view of the event. My group leader Melanie was really nice. She understood that this was a slow paced job, and we were occasionally given fifteen minutes break to watch a bit of the event. As this was one of the medal matches, the leniency we received was very much appreciated.

An unexpected thing happened:

I received a Japan Olympic badge.

A Japanese couple hovered near the accreditation checkpoint area, where I stood. When asked if they needed any helped, they said that they were waiting for the coach. They could not enter the warm-up area as they did not have the proper accreditation. As the coach came out and tried to convince us to let the couple in, my compassion must have kicked in. I was the one who convinced the team leader to let them in; after all, they had been waiting for almost an hour. She agreed, so I escorted them in. That was the only time I entered the warm up area. As they were exiting the arena, I was handed the Olympic badge – my pride and joy.

Another unexpected thing happened.

The Olympic torch made an appearance in the workforce canteen. All the excited Games Makers queued up for a quick picture with the torch. Some questioned if the torch is real or not. I believe it is real, because they protected it so well. And because it felt heavy.

The torch is magical.

So, this is now my profile picture:

Day 7: 03 August 2012

Allocated in the seating bowl for boxing arena.

The job description fits an usher; our duty is to guide the spectator to their respective seats. When the event started, all we had to do was make sure that the spectators stayed in their seats and not disrupt the view of other spectators by waving the big flags etc. And we could watch the whole event with them – for free. If there were any commotions, we had to call the Knights and Sons (K&S) for assistance. They were situated at the bottom of the stairs in each section of the seating bowl. So, in a way, we had our personal K&S.

Ken was a big fan of boxing. Me? Not so much. I didn’t get the whole concept of ‘amateur boxing’. I had Ken explained to me that it was something about boxing with style and not swerving punches as one please. It wasn’t as gruesome as I imagined, but I was still unable to appreciate it. To make matter worse, the boxing spectators seemed to be more concerned about getting drunk than paying attention to the event. The stench of beer was so overpowering and there were spillage on the floors that I had to constantly ask Ken to send for the cleaning crew.

As it was only a three-minute fight, we were told to refrain any spectators from reentering the section until the time was up. There was one person who asked why they couldn’t go back to their seats since there were other spectators leaving the seats during the fight. “It didn’t make sense,” he said “There was no difference between them leaving their seats and we going back to our seats.”It was hard to reason with someone who is clearly tipsy. I fumbled with some reason about being polite.

I was looking at the countdown of the three-minutes fight for most of the time.

Here’s a picture of all the people I met on the first day. We seemed to be together throughout the whole week. y.

From left:me, Gabriella, Avni, Rebecca, Jonny

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Day 8: 04 August 2012

Allocated in the seating bowl for weightlifting arena.

Personally, I felt that being assigned at the seating bowl was a privilege. A bonus if you are assigned to a medal match. Also, an added bonus if you are lucky enough to be allocated in the arena and time slot of your preference.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed watching weightlifting. I happened to always be in the men’s weighlifting event instead of the female’s.

There were two types of event in weightlifting which I familiarised myself on my first day of work. The first is the snatch, where the barbell is lifted from the platform in a smooth continuous movement. The other is the clean and jerk, where the barbell is lifted to the clavicle, and then above the head. I found myself holding my breath each time. Athlete weighing approximately 94kg could snatch a 150 kg. For a moment, I thought that these people could pick and throw an average person out if they want to – effortlessly.

It was a medal match today. We were also honoured to witness a new Olympic and World record being set by a Kazakhstan for the Clean & Jerk event.

The crowd went wild, and I went home with the cheers and whistles still ringing in my ears.

.

Day 9: 05 August 2012

The most memorable day for us, as our hero Dato Lee Chong Wei once again made our country proud when he bagged the Malaysia’s first silver medal in badminton men’s final.

I went out with YC for lunch before we headed to Hyde Park to watch badminton on the big screen. There were none. We rushed to the nearest wifi station – McDonald, to stream the match online. End up, we watched the nail-biting badminton gold medal match via an iPhone.

Although I hadn’t seen much medal matches to date, this was also the first time an athlete was in verge of tears on the stand. To top it off, there was the heart-breaking tweet from DLCW saying that he was sorry.

Yet, the whole nation is proud of him. Why not?

****

That night, Gabriella and I went to watch fencing finals. We’re not supposed to do that without our uniform, but I guessed we could have easily been mistaken as part of the media crew or creative team (with no attire code).

We got to sit near the Olympics Family section, which means we had one of the best view of the match, and the medal ceremony. For fencing, each round lasted 3 minutes or 5 hits. It was a good match. Italian bagged the gold medal with 45-39. Japan silver, and Germany silver.

I loved how the athletes shared their stage together to take a group picture. So much loveeeee.

Day 10: 06 August 2012

Back to the seating bowl in the weightlifting arena.

To be honest, the weightlifting arena was my favourite arena. The team leaders were friendly; it was also the only arena you get to choose what you really want to do. By then I’m very familiar with the codes: Zone 10 for ticketing, Zone 11 for spectator zone, Seat 10 for the back seating, and Seat 11 for the front seating etc.

It was a pleasant surprise for three spectators to approach me “hey, it’s you again!” What are the chances of meeting the same games maker (a.k.a me) in two of their consecutive events? They asked if I remembered them from Day 7 at the boxing arena, but I had greeted thousands of spectators in between…

I was then switched to safeguard an entrance for accreditation access (mainly for Olympic Family and NOCs). This is a very petty manner, but I got so excited when I was so close to the army that I had to make way for them. LOL.

At the debriefing, there was a very heated argument between the team leaders of our EVS team and the K&S. I caught the tail end of the conversation, where our team leader was trying to reason with the K&S leader.

Earlier on, there were a couple of excited Iranians desperately waved their large national flags. This shadowed the view of the other spectators. As mentioned in Day 7, when commotions like these happened, we were told to call the K&S. Apparently the games maker on duty for that section did, but the K&S never bothered (or wasn’t present). In a separate incident, I overheard a couple of people complaining about the K&S. To be honest, I find it mean to generalize. Just because a couple of K&S do not do their job does not generalize the whole K&S population. Me; I’ve been fortunate enough to be in contact with very nice K&S throughout.

The argument was so tense that we stayed a distance away. I think our leader forgot to debrief us, after. Or maybe I didn’t catch any of it.

Met a fellow Malaysian on this day. 😀

.

Day 11: 07 August 2012

Assigned at the precinct once again.

For precinct shifts, we rotated our positions a couple of times. Coincidentally, my first position was at the exact same spot as I did in Day 2. This time, I had a partner so the time passes more quickly.

I’ve got another surprise!

The same spectators from Day 7 and 10 could recognize me. Usually, I had ponytail up and contact lens on, but that day I was so tired that I just went without tying my hair up and had my specs on. I should have taken a picture with them using my own camera. *cries*

When I was assigned to the door, time ticked by ever so slowly. Several people stopped by and had a quick chat before running off to their post. A very nice K&S gave me a whole sandwich. And half a cookie. Aww…

Here’ s two picture of me while guarding the door. I don’t even have access to the door I’m guarding.. 😦

Good news though, my team leader let us off early, and a K&S took over.

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Glad for this early end. 😀

Day 12: 08 August 2012

My penultimate shift!

Once again, allocated in the seating bowl. This time, in the table tennis arena.

This is another medal match, which marked the seventh live medal match I’ve watched throughout the Olympic. I love being in the arena before the event started, especially to see the preparation first-hand so that everything was perfect when spectators crept in.

I always love the part where the medalists shared the gold medal platform. My favourite part of every medal match.

As this is the last day with friends from Day 1 *sobs * we took a couple of group photos.

Day 13: 09 August 2012

My last shift!

For the last time, I volunteered in the seating bowl. Taekwondo area.

During the briefing, we were asked to keep an eye out for large Taiwan flags. Due to its public conflict with China, the flag was banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and replaced with the Chinese Taipei flag.

I was glad that I didn’t encounter any significant problem on my section, but there was a scene at the accredited seatings, where Olympic Family members (link: http://focustaiwan.tw/ShowNews/WebNews_Detail.aspx?Type=aIPL&ID=201208100010). Apparently, from the first hand news from colleague, the news intentionally left out how many times the Games Makers on duty politely asked to remove the large national flag. The security was the last resort, and hence the seizure.

The only time I had to call the K&S security for aid was when the crowd crammed to the front, trying to get a picture of one of the taekwondo athlete (I can’t remember who he/she was). I tried to ask the spectators to sit down, but they said “I’ll sit down when the people on the front row sit down.” There were four rows of people standing, a lot crammed on the first row.

And the K&S security, with his loud and booming voice, settled the havoc in less than a minute. See. I said that the K&S isn’t thaaaaat bad.

On a brighter note, I talked to a taekwondo athlete on this day. She was looking for her way back to the taekwondo arena. It was surprising for me, to know that an athlete life is not that much different from ours, if you take out the practicing part.

Our last day, so we got some souvenirs!

****

That night, I ate with the family I’ve been staying with for the past couple of weeks. Lovely company. 🙂

Day 14: 10 August 2012

After a whole day of shopping, I got bored (when all the shops closed) so I went to meet a friend back at the venue, and watched the final of taekwondo. We were inches away from the Queen of Spain! 😀

Day 15: 11 August 2012

Back to Manchester. No pictures, but I met up with YY!

Day 16: 12 August 2012

Closing ceremony!

I reached London from Manchester about 6ish. After putting my things at YC’s place, I head off to Blackheath Park with some friends. There was a big screen to watch the ceremony live, and a really large crowd. It was a lovely sight, when the crowds started singing along to the ceremony to see the crowds singing along. However, I went home early, because I could not really stand the stench of beer and smoke…

****

London 2012. I was there.

And I loved every second of it.

Signing off,

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