Even the early starts (6am) or late evenings (12.45am) didn’t put many off. All ages, gender and cultures were represented. Including Jo Gunston’s mum, Jacky. Here she gives us her top moments from the London 2012 Olympic Games.
1. The enthusiasm of all fellow Gamesmakers and the lengths to which they had gone to be part of the 2012 experience and the face of the London Olympics. They came from all over – for example at Earls Court I met volunteers from Spain, Edinburgh, North East England, Lake District, Gloucestershire, Loughborough and Hastings to name but a few.
A number were able to commute from home to the venue, others stayed with family or friends in London, some in youth hostels and some youngsters camped. Some walked or cycled up to 30mins from their accommodation.
2. The ambience of travellers on the tubes and buses – Londoners and visitors alike. One great memory of getting on the tube, in my gear, at Walthamstow, the end of the Victoria Line, and having my photo taken by a French family who were on their way to the Games. I told them they would see lots of other people dressed like me but I was the first one they’d seen and they were very excited. They didn’t speak much English so I had to dig in the depths for my French!
Another time on the tube on the way back from a match, Brazilian fans asked me to photograph them with one of their retired volleyball heroes who also happened to be on the District Line.
3. The atmosphere at Earls Court was electric when the matches were taking place and the noise of supporters was sometimes deafening. In breaks between sets they joined in singing ‘We are the Champions’ and ‘We will Rock You’ with great gusto and took part in ‘bongo bashing’ in which a camera zoomed in on the crowd with a bongo graphic, with great enthusiasm. The supporters also showed appreciation of their teams by stamping their feet and waving flags.
I chatted to an old man – an ordinary Londoner – who had been brought to a volleyball match by his son. It was his first experience of the game and he was thrilled at everything – and was particularly impressed by the leotard-clad cheerleaders that performed before the match and sometimes between sets.
4. The great community spirit that was tangible between all the different groups who made the event possible. The volunteers, the soldiers, the police (drafted from Norfolk and Manchester, amongst other places) together with the paid stewards. They were from various backgrounds and education but everyone mucked in and chatted together. Everyone ate in the same canteen and we seated ourselves randomly – although towards the end of the two weeks many soldiers found that the floor of the canteen was an excellent place to catch up on sleep.
5. The supporters of whom many had never seen a match before – although it is the second only to football as the most popular sport in the world. Everyone enjoyed the matches and I expect this will have ignited interest in the game. I did spot a number of very young babies at some matches – held in kangaroo harnesses – mostly by their fathers. When I commented on one 12-week-old baby the father said: ‘Well, we had to apply for the tickets a long time ago and we didn’t know then we were going to have a child!’
Some teams had supporters following them – the most enthusiastic, loud, colourful, cheerful and fun being the Brazilians. They came dressed in ridiculous yellow and green costumes sporting yellow or green curly wigs and a few tried to sneak into slightly better seats. When challenged they were charming and semi-obedient. One favourite memory is a Brazilian dressed in a ridiculous costume wearing a face mask of the Queen.
These are five memories although there are many more!
By Jacky Gunston