With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics underway, our colleague in the LSE Social Media Team Sooraya Walker has been reflecting on the London 2012 Olympics. Sooraya volunteered as a Games Maker and has shared her life changing experience in this blog. It’s so great to see all members of the LSE community giving their time through volunteering!
Nine years ago in July 2012, I began my volunteer experience as a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympics. I spent five incredible weeks working as a National Olympic Committee (NOC) Assistant in the Athletes Village in Stratford, London.
In 1992, aged 12, while watching the Barcelona Olympics, I boldly declared to my mum that I’d be going to the 2012 Olympics, having no idea back then that London would be host. I just knew I wanted to go, and I worked out that I’d be old (and rich) enough to attend in 2012. I’ve always loved sports, as a teenager I won a gold medal at local level with Ladywell Gymnastics Club, and ran the hurdles at the London Youth Games.
I saw the opportunity to volunteer at London 2012 while watching the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The BBC commentator said if anyone was interested, applications were open to take part. I applied within minutes and my heart was set!
In April 2011 I had my interview as a Games Maker. I was nervous, excited and felt so proud to be a Londoner. I also applied to be a dancer in the Opening Ceremony and attended several auditions in East London. To my utter surprise, I was successful in getting both roles! Unfortunately, I couldn’t to do both so had to choose one. I asked myself: do I take part in the Opening Ceremony which will be seen by a global audience of four billion people, or do I want to be of service to the people at the centre of the games, the athletes?
After some soul searching I chose the latter. I arranged to take five weeks leave from work and was incredibly fortunate to have a supportive boss (thanks Alan Revel!) I remember how ecstatic I was when I picked up my Games Maker uniform.
The decision to take the NOC Assistant role changed my life. I met the most talented, gifted, hardworking and dedicated Olympic volunteers, staff, delegation and athletes. I worked briefly with the Qatar Olympic Committee, before assisting my allocated team, Timor Leste. I was humbled to meet and learn about my new friends from the Southeastern Asian nation, which had seen decades of violence and struggle. I was stunned and humbled by the sacrifice they had made individually just to be at the games. My fellow Games Makers colleagues Marcus Evans and Margarida Dias were amazingly diligent and I remember them with fondness.
Not once did it cross my mind that I wasn’t being paid to be a Games Maker. It was an absolute honour to represent my home London, and the UK. My volunteer experience at London 2012 was a once in a lifetime opportunity and training for the role was rigorous. You had to be committed and dedicated because there were long days in the Village that were so challenging mentally and physically, it hurt. Ultimately it was an experience that taught me about service, excellence, commitment, friendship and respect. The summer of 2012 was truly magical and one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.