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British reserve abandoned as volunteers bring golden cheer to London Olympics

posted 10 Aug 2012, 12:15 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 10 Aug 2012, 12:16 ]

The 70,000-strong army of cheerful volunteers are credited with playing a huge role in making the London Olympics a success. Traditional British reserve is abandoned in favour of outgoing friendliness, singing and even dancing.

Gone are the normal mumbles and grumbles of the morning London rush hour -- at the Olympic Park it's all smiles and musical greetings for Games visitors.
Seventy thousand Games Makers, or volunteers, are spread around the park to tirelessly welcome and help out the millions of Olympic tourists.

"Good morning, good morning, it's a beautiful morning" sings one volunteer through a megaphone as the throngs of visitors flood into the park.

The traditional British reserve has been abandoned as the volunteers embrace their new role as the welcoming face of the Games.

The success of London 2012 has been attributed in large part to the volunteers, by organisers, the world's media and Olympic tourists alike.

Many are going above and beyond their scheduled duties to entertain the crowds.

An impromptu volunteers choir sprung up on Thursday (August 9) and with just a short practice they entertained visitors with renditions of the Beatles' hit "Hey Jude" and "Consider Yourself" from the musical Oliver.

"To be able to be a part of that is just amazing, it makes everybody happy. It makes their day. It's not just the sport, it's everything else that goes with it," said Gilly Fifield.

Another volunteer, Jude Hole, said the feel good factor of the Games was spreading outside the Olympic Park and into the wider general public.

"You are travelling and people are talking to you, whereas prior to the Games they wouldn't have bothered and they are just saying 'Hi, you are doing a great job' and people are walking up to us and thanking us and we are loving it, absolutely loving it. It is absolutely brilliant," she said.

The Games Makers are often far away from seeing any action inside any of the venues, but are happy just to be part of the global show.

19-year-old archeology student, Leah Powell, was using her boundless energy to encourage children to have a go at ribbon twirling.

"It's the inspiration of the Olympics which is filling everyone with such a joy and such a passion for sport and it is really good, it is really reflected here with all the kids coming up to us and asking to join in with the ribbon. It is fantastic, I have really enjoyed it," she said.

For many visitors the volunteers have been the unsung heroes of the sporting spectacle.

"I really admire the volunteers and the time and the effort they have put into the Games and they are still doing it. It is fantastic," said Londoner Linda Bridgemount.

More than 240,000 people applied to volunteer for the 70,000 positions doing anything from welcome desk, bus drivers, ticket checkers and event stewards.

London organisers said they have had just a one percent drop out rate. They'd budgeted for far higher no-shows after the first few days.

If medals were handed out for volunteering, many golds would be awarded.

Laura Rennis would surely be in line for top spot on the winners podium. After battling the illness multiple sclerosis she's turned adversity into a positive.

"I was in hospital for a year. I was paralysed and I was blind so I couldn't actually do much. The fact that I'm here now and walking around and can actually see a little bit, I'm still registered blind, still vision impaired, but its well enough for me to get around. So to be able to be doing this and hopefully be in a position to inspire others is a good thing," she said as she handed out park maps to visitors.

Rennis, who helps motivate young people in London, now plans to write an inspirational manual after the Games based on the qualities Olympic athletes posses.

The volunteers of all ages come from all walks of life.

Noelle Skivington found her skills as a radiologist being put to good use in the Olympic Park. But instead of taking X-ray images of patients, she was taking snaps of tourists posing by the stadium.

"I normally take naked photos and look inside. But this is fully clothed and I hope that they are enjoying themselves," she said.