It’s eerily quiet at London’s ExCeL conference centre at 10am one Saturday one year before the London 2012 Olympic Games would begin.
The low thrum of a descending City Airport plane vibrates the Thames and then disappears into the murky sky, sucking all other sounds into its wake.
Moody, dark, swollen clouds scud grumpily across the sky. This is as unglamorous as it gets.
I’m early for my volunteer interview to become a Games Maker at the artistic gymnastics event and unsure I’m in the right place, despite a large welcome sign and gamesmaker logo prominently placed above a side door.
A note on the door also explains that it won’t officially be opened until 10am. I still check my map to make sure I’m in the right place.
A couple of people arrive, they’re also early, they read the sign on the door and proceed to scrape their fingers down the side of the closed door, jam their fingers in the doorframe grove and manage to jimmy it open and promptly disappear inside.
I wonder if this counts as initiative but then decide they’re probably classed as ‘pain in the neck’ so I wait with my expensive takeaway mint tea until the doors officially open, sling £1.50 worth of my tea into the Thames and make sure I’m first in with a cheery good-morning-it-may-be-10am-on-a-Saturday-morning-but-I’m-on-good-form-any-time-of-day, pick me, pick me.
The people signing us in to apply to be a volunteer at the artistic gymnastics event are volunteers too, so everyone is outsmiling everyone else making it look like a rictus grin convention.
One bouncy lady managed to combine her jaunty smile with a cheerily easy patter as she swept through, signing in, puts her name sticker on her lapel, grins for her passport photograph before sweeping through a door and into the next section of the process leaving punctured grins and words left jumbled in mouths like a gobful of alphabetti spaghetti.
Once I’d got stickered and photoed up myself, I then weaved through the next section, past angular partition walls which housed a number of short videos and written pieces about the history of the Olympic Games and how volunteers can make a difference.
Many a head nodded sagely at the Olympic history, minds working frantically to absorb the information in case questions on this popped up in our interviews later on.
Having read and re-read the info without taking anything in I sat down in a padded stool area, which wouldn’t look out of place on a Teletubbies set.
The low thrum of conversation was punctured by the odd snatch of someone quick to laugh.
After chatting with fellow volunteer hopefuls, we were led to a cinema-style area where a short introductory film preceded the one-on-one interview.
British comedian and Games Maker ambassador Eddie Izzard began the video with, “Welcome to Space Camp – you’re all here to train to be astronauts,” causing much laughter.
Once the video ended it was time for the one-on-one interviews and I knew I had this part licked.
Never averse to talking about my sporting history I was confident I’d be perfect for the role.
I’d been an elite gymnast, I’d volunteered at the 1993 World Gymnastics Championships in Birmingham (that’s me on the video below, glorious in my shell suit and trying hard not to register that I was on TV, I WAS ON TV!), I lived in London and I was just keen as mustard; I’d be a shue-in for this… right?
Previous Olympic Odyssey blogs
An Olympic Odyssey (part 1): the beginning or how one decision changed an entire life #1yeartogo
Ticket fiascos, romantic gestures, catsuits, poems and celebrity meetings, Jo’s London Olympic Odyssey is a tale of sporting obsession
An Olympic Odyssey (part 2): an obsession, or, an example of how sport saved my soul
A crushed soul, oodles of courage and a friendly England football manager, Jo’s Olympic Odyssey had an auspicious beginning
An Olympic Odyssey (part 3): failure to prepare…, or, how I thought my stars were aligning
Love struck, a dream job and location, location, location, Jo’s Olympic Odyssey started so well
An Olympic Odyssey (part 4): the countdown clock launch, or how even Jess Ennis couldn’t make this event interesting
Embarrassment, failures, red-faces… Jo’s Olympic Odyssey wasn’t always Super Saturday
An Olympic Odyssey (part 5): ticketing torture
Ticketing torture and funding faux pas, Jo’s Olympic Odyssey started with a flop
By Jo Gunston