BLOG: WORLD PARA-ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS DAY THREE
This was my first evening shift and I had a sneaky suspicion I would be even busier than my previous two mornings – probably the first expectation I have got right since I got here! But the atmosphere was incredible, even before I made it to the stadium.
I have to give a ton of credit to the very happy and smiley people who are greeting spectators over the bridges – their enthusiasm set me up for the day, and I did enjoy ‘high fiving’ as many of them as possible.
They are there come rain or shine, morning or evening, and ready for literally anything from directions to photos and so much more – hats off to you guys, because trust me, I would not be ready to deal with the general public so early on in the day!
Once we ploughed our way through the crowds and dumped our stuff wearing our Barbie pink tops as always, the real work began, and today was mainly focusing on the 400m races. Well I say that; we were still running through the tunnels like Usain Bolt (we wish we had his speed!) to get to the 100m and 200m starts throughout the evening.
By this point in the Championships, we’re all realising that we should have ordered trainers the next size up… Or at least try and break them in before we started our shifts. I’d say at least 50% of us are now going through a pack of blister plasters, or if we’ve already run out, we’re on the fabric.
It was a mixture of visually-impaired races (giving us starting blocks/lane markers team yet another headache), wheelchair races, cerebral palsy events and more – basically, we’re learning to be a Jack of all trades, master of none, but it’s starting to become a slightly smoother process.
As long as we all remember where our marks are. And which lane we’re setting up and clearing. And making sure the cables are tight. And waiting for everyone so we can walk out in a neat line. And organising the cables into a figure of eight (but only for the 100m and 200m).
Apart from that, of course it’s getting easier!
With the 400m, the volunteers are also at the finish line so it becomes something out of ‘Wacky Races’ – arms and legs go everywhere, and that’s before the athletes even make it to the home straight!
We are basically racing the clock and the athletes themselves, trying to ensure that all the cables, starting blocks and lane markers are off the track before they get to 200m to go.
That really isn’t as easy as it sounds; the athletes stamp the blocks into the ground before they run.
For them, it gives them more stability at the start, for us, it just makes it even harder to pick up the 5kg (I could be exaggerating on the weight, but I don’t think I am!) blocks and carry them quickly off the track. And once again, the cables have a huge part to play.
These cables must me at least the length of half a basketball team lying end to end, so getting them off and in a hurry can leave cable burns…
It’s worse if you’re in lanes 1, 2 or 3: that’s when you are literally doing your own sprinting start at the side-lines and hurling yourself to ensure you get everything off in time. I would say I have never moved so fast in my life, but you certainly can’t leave anything across the photo-finish line. You may come back with your head served on a platter!
But we did make it through the night fairly unscathed – the training before each session is definitely paying off as we have a different team every time. I’m lucky, I’ve not come across one person (in our team or not) that hasn’t been lovely and genuinely willing to get stuck in and help.
That’s the joys of volunteers: we all have the same mind-set. We’re not there for our own personal gain, we want to be a part of something special and make the games as unique and brilliant as possible.
One of the officials I met on the tube was a perfect example of that – she had flown in from New Zealand just for the Para-Athletics World Championships, not getting paid for her officiating but doing it for the love of the sport.
These are the people we aspire to be, and despite not being from the same country, let alone from London, she was still able to direct me to the stadium and chat about everything from the route to such a high-level role, to how she got into athletics in the first place.
I ran into her tonight at the finish line, so I will try and get a photo with her before the end of the championships.
Finally, after my third session was complete (and I could no longer feel my feet!), we had a team photo with everyone, and possibly may have messed around with some of the markers…
It was such a good way to relax after such a confusing session, and also gave us a chance to get to know a few more of the team. The beaming smiles on our faces just show how much fun we are all having and that we are starting to become a tight-knit group.
These people are lovely and really make my whole experience, so thank you to every single one of you.
Three shifts down, five to go. I’m not ready for this incredible experience to end yet!
2nd August 2017 - Talia Jones