‘Wonderful and awesome’: Volunteer near Banbury describes her experiences at the Commonwealth Games
I feel extremely lucky to have been part of the very successful Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as one of the 14,000 volunteers and these are some of the highlights.
In 2017 I was a driver at the IAAF in London and since have been a marshal at other triathlon and running events, but when an alert came through in June 2021 for volunteers for the games, I thought I could not miss out on this huge opportunity. I filled in the application and sat tight for a response. I was one of the 25,000 interviewed and in March 2021 I got my acceptance email and was going to be part of the Road Work Force (RWF) Team – cycling to you and me!
My journey started by attending several training sessions in Birmingham where I met some of my fellow volunteers and other key members of the RWF team. The sessions were informative and thought-provoking as I realised the challenges and duties we were being asked to do, were not to be taken lightly.
It was quite daunting to understand the responsibility of how to manage the public and spectators over five days for the cycling section of the triathlon in the heart of Sutton Coldfield, then the road time trials in Dudley and the road race in Warwick. People wanting to cross the road when cyclists would be rushing through at 50 miles per hour let alone the support vehicles and camera crews!
The triathlon has to be my favourite event as my shifts went over five days. I was assigned to Sector three – Boldmere High Street on a central zebra crossing. The team got into action and practised the routine of how the crossing would work. Whistles, flags and rope to hand. The public were responsive and did not mind being asked to wait for a couple of minutes whilst the cyclists went through. To keep the party atmosphere going I got a Mexican wave started but didn’t quite manage to get it all the way down the high street before the ladies race arrived, but we had a good try.
The public throughout were full of the inclusive spirit of the games especially as the English athletes and home nations were doing so well. I greeted everyone with a smile, or a high five and a great sense of camaraderie and fun developed. It was just contagious even the police motorbikes joined in with a short siren blast and a cheerful wave as they came through. The goal was to get as much noise going.
The athletes and technical directors were grateful for us volunteers as if it wasn’t for us the events would not happen. For the athletes it gave them that motivational boost hearing their country being cheered just as everything seemed too hard. The public were also very supportive of the volunteer teams as they said nothing was too much and that we made them feel welcomed ensuring a good time was had by all.
On one occasion, I led a team of three trying to track down a groom who had voiced a concern of his bride being blocked in on race day due to the road closures. Being half Belgian, my Hercule Poirot detective hat was donned off we went. The hunt was not going well but then I got stopped by a local barber who said he knew who I was looking for. So a couple of phone calls and details were passed onto the triathlon support team and my fingers remained crossed that all would be resolved. All I hope is that the ceremony went off without any hitches and the celebrations went off with a bang.