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LONDON 2012 – A GAMES MAKER’S EYE VIEW
I remember vividly the day in July 2005 when London was awarded the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Working at IBM’s main UK Office on the South Bank there was a strange silence as we awaited the decision. Knowing the London bid was ranked as an outsider we all pretty much expected Paris to get the Games. Then a stray voice suddenly shouted “We’ve got it!” which was swiftly followed by cheers and applause from all of us present that day.
Being a sports fanatic hardly a week would pass by in the next 5 years without me thinking of 2012 and looking forward to the Games coming to London. When in 2010 Sebastian Coe made his request to the UK public for volunteers to help in his words “Make the Games happen” I thought “That’s for me”. The timing was perfect as I’d taken early retirement from IBM in 2010 and was doing voluntary work for Amnesty International at their Human Rights Action Centre in Shoreditch. As such taking time off for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics was no longer quite the issue it would have been had I still been in paid employment with IBM. Here was my chance to get involved and not just be a spectator so I enthusiastically submitted my application to become a Games Maker. An interview followed in the summer of 2011 (yes we did have one that year!) and then as the year drew to a close I got the news that my application had been successful. I was to be a member of the Protocol section of the Protocol and Languages Services team for both the Olympics and Paralympics based at the Royal Artillery Barracks (RAB) in Woolwich.
As its name suggests the RAB was the venue for shooting at both the Olympics (Rifle, Pistol & Shotgun) and Paralympics (Rifle & Pistol). For the Paralympics we also hosted the archery event.
In the months leading up to the Games I attended two training sessions. An all day session focusing on the general role of a Games Maker in the Protocol Team and a half-day session to learn all about the RAB venue. Finally in June I travelled to Stratford for the first time to be fitted out for my uniform. The big day was coming fast and although very nervous I couldn’t wait for the Games to get underway.
As a Games Maker working at the RAB we had the added excitement (and pressure!) of being the venue at which the first gold medal of the Olympics was to be awarded. Traditionally this honour has always gone to the shooting event and 2012 was no exception.
The primary role of a member of the Protocol team was to assist in the hosting of the UK and International dignitaries who were attending the Games. Typically dignitaries comprised of International Olympic / Paralympic Committee officials, Government officials and members of the UK and Overseas Royal Families.
My duties as a Protocol team member for the Olympics included:
On day one of the Olympics with being the venue at which the first gold medal of the Games was presented we were, as you can imagine, especially busy. Jacque Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the President of Switzerland were amongst those we hosted on that memorable curtain raising day.
Over the days that followed the Princess Royal visited us on three occasions, sharing much of her time between the RAB and Greenwich Park where her daughter, Zara Phillips, was competing in the Equestrian event.
Following the conclusion of the Olympics the ensuing break provided a welcome opportunity to recharge my batteries in readiness for the Paralympics.
My duties for the Paralympics were much the same as those for the Olympics. That said being able to observe at such close quarters the marvellous achievement of the Paralympians added an extra dimension to the experience. The levels of performance from these people given the handicap of their respective disabilities were truly remarkable.
Three months on as we approach Christmas, whilst the Games themselves are starting to become a distant memory, the focus is switching to ensuring the excitement and feel-good factor that swept through the country during that magical month is carried forward into the many legacy commitments that we made to the IOC. 2012 should only be regarded as the start of the story. In the months and years ahead if we can succeed in both
then no one can doubt any longer that the investment in the Games will have been worthwhile.
To conclude I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to play a part in helping London stage the Games. The experience is one that I’ll never forget.
Jonathan Miller – November 2012
Me with HRH Prince Daniel of Sweden which was published in the Games Maker Daily Newsletter for the Royal Artillery Barracks venue.