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Tuesday 16th October 2012 | INDIGO

4 features Behind the scenes: London 2012 Caroline McGrath on VIPs, volleyball and volunteers

Photograph: Nicoletta Asciuto


ittle did I know it, but my first shift as a London 2012 Gamesmaker would set the scene for the whole experience. Merely a few hours in, I had already been thanked by Lord Coe for “doing a great job” and had served food to Norwegian royalty. I was based at Horse Guards Parade, where the beach volleyball competition was held. The organisers had literally gone and built a beach in David Cameron’s back garden. We were a stone’s throw away from Buckingham Palace and the view from the stands showcased landmarks such as the London Eye and Big Ben. As a member of the Venue Protocol team, it was my job to look after the VIPs of the Games. These people weren’t sponsors (as was commonly believed inthe media), but mainly members of the Olympic Family - those who organise Olympic representation in their respective countries, and included royal guests, politicians, and Team GB gold medallists. You’re probably wondering if I met Prince Harry. The answer is yes, I was lucky enough to be working when he made his visit. I also met David Beckham on the

Photograph: Karen Sherr

Horse Guards Parade, where mere mortals mingled with royalty for beach volleyball Photograph: Caroline McGrath same night and worked out that Laura Trott and Jason Kenny were in a relationship a few hours before the rest of the world. Not bad for an evening’s work! It still baffles me why a nineteen year-old Mancunian girl was let loose in such a role. Essentially, the most important part was to offer excellent customer service. I have worked in retail before and being a friendly, personable representative of London 2012 was not particularly hard given that the clients were so nice. Indeed, meeting the most high-profile people of the Games quickly became the norm. One of my friends was using her French skills whilst chatting with a friendly gentleman. He explained that he was from Monaco and then it dawned upon her: she was in conversation with Prince Albert of Monaco, blissfully unaware of his status. Namedropping aside, in a role that focused so much on people, it was my fellow Gamesmakers that made the whole experience memorable. I genuinely believe that the world would

be a happier place if every manager was like my bosses.

You’re probably wondering if I met Prince Harry...

It was nice to work with people of a variety of different ages and our team was truly international, given that some were providing interpretation services. I have group photos in which every single volunteer is a different nationality. As a Modern Languages student and self-confessed xenophile, I was in heaven. In my opinion, London’s multiculturalism was most definitely a factor in the success of these Olympics. Most teams playing could count on a fellow countryman to be watching them at Horse Guards, willing them to succeed. Witnessing crowds re-

ally getting behind the athletes regardless of race or nationality was powerful. It defined what the Olympic movement stands for and brought people together through sport, irrespective of their heritage. As a volunteer, my salary was the experience. Away from the seriousness of the Olympic Park, we had music booming and dancers during the interval. The infectious atmosphere certainly made amends for the unflattering purple uniform. The sport itself certainly didn’t disappoint either. I challenge anybody who believes that beach volleyball is unworthy of the Olympics to try running around on sand, whilst maintaining pinpoint precision in handling the ball. At times London seemed like a Rio street carnival, particularly unusual in a city where the busy rush hour of an ordinary day is often a reserved and quiet affair. Even commuters on the tube were entering unchartered territories by acknowledging one another!

The first day I wore my uniform, a stranger came up to me on the street to wish me well. It is a sad fact, but at any other time I probably would have assumed she was crazy for speaking to me. Given the amount of scepticism there was in the months leading up to the Games, the way in which the Olympics gripped the nation is slightly ironic. I hate to say I told you so, but I always knew the whole thing would be a stirring success. Why else would I have bothered with expensive trips to London for training? Everyone in Britain was glued to their television screens, and Gamesmakers were given the opportunity to be first-hand witnesses to the excitement and victories of London 2012. That’s certainly something you can’t put a price on.


For more on volunteering antics at the Olympics, go to

INDIGO | Tuesday 16th October 2012

Mrs Elvet sorts you out

Features Editor: Sophia Chan Deputy: Emily Woodhouse


indigo’s very own Agony Aunt solves all your problems Dear Mrs Elvet, I would really like to bring my car back up to University this term, but got so frustrated by people hassling me for lifts and not contributing towards petrol last year that I’m not sure it’s worth it. How can I make my friends behave more considerately? Jack Stone, Stephenson’s College You can’t, so you might as well sink to their antisocial level. Start playing Ed Sheeran at full volume with the windows down whilst singing along at the top of your voice. Say his music brings out your emotional side, go the wrong way round roundabouts and summon up a few tears. You’ll drive your friends mad, although potentially yourself too.

Dear Mrs Elvet, Do you know of anywhere in Durham that does a good spray tan? All my friends have spent their summers in Puerto Banus, and I don’t want to let on that my only holiday was a wet weekend in Wales. Rose English, Collingwood College

There is no such thing as a good spray tan. Pretend you holidayed in Morocco, where you were covered head to toe out of respect to the locals. Whilst they are gaping in awe at your cultured lifestyle, gently enquire whether they’re feeling ok, as you volunteered at a hospital for jaundiced patients whilst out there and know how self-conscious it can make sufferers feel. Dear Mrs Elvet, I really want a pet in our house this year. How can I convince my housemates that it’s a good idea? K9KT, Trevelyan College

Buy really thin binbags, then overload them. Each time one breaks, leave the leftover food all over the floor. Point out that if you had a micro pig, you wouldn’t have rotting waste. Alternatively, watch Heston Blumenthal with your house and explain how well a boar can provide an occasion to bring friends closer together. Dear Mrs Elvet, I signed up to loads of societies during freshers’ fair, and

I’m fed up of receiving emails from people like ’The Rainbow Smiles and Chocolate Society’. How can I stop them from sending me emails? Fresher, St. Aidan’s College You could of course reply and ask to be removed from the mailing list. However, that would take away the bonding first year fun of being able to complain about it.

Dear Mrs Elvet, One of my housemates is absolutely lovely, but she always bakes cakes that are average at best before smothering them in icing and expecting us to eat them. She is clearly desperate to be a ‘yummy mummy’ and thinks this is a way to make a good catch - unfortunately we are both after the same guy. What do I do?! Francesca Lemon, St Cuth’s Society Let her carry on. She clearly hasn’t realised that boys are more into steak than the Humingbird Bakery.

Dear Mrs Elvet, I totally found myself on my year abroad. I joined a collective of Paris intellectuals and spent the year discussing the really important questions in life. Now I’ve come back to Durham it just feels like something is missing. My old friends seem immature and everything is just so shallow and pointless. How can I hope to adjust when I’ve changed so much and everything here is still the same? Tortured Artist, Hatfield College Don’t worry, there are many yah abroaders out there just like you. If an existence punctuated by college dinners, quaddies and doing the macarena just doesn’t seem worth the bother, comfort yourself that you have the rest of your life to be overeducated, underworked and a drain on society. In the meantime, why not spend the year sitting morosely in the garden of Fishtank and bemoaning the banality of your existence. You might even encounter some kindred spirits. Elizabeth Briggs and Olivia Rudgard

indigo’s definitive guide to lecture etiquette Forget official advice, we tell you what to bring, where to sit and when you should just stay in bed Choose appropriate attire. Do not wear pyjamas and flip flops. You will, without fail, look ridiculous. Last night’s clubbing outfit disguised by a giant hoodie filched from a random person’s bedroom floor is also unacceptable. There’s an art to arriving late. If you’re going to arrive late to an Elvet Riverside 140 lecture, don’t choose a seat at the front, in the middle. It’s annoying. Conversely, we get that you took an advanced course at A level and already know all that the lecturer is droning on about, but it is still highly annoying when someone ups and makes a bid for freedom half an hour early. It’s just plain rude. How to ask questions. Do not ask a question and keep everyone from their long-awaited lunch. Wait patiently and ask your lecturer personally at the end. You’ll probably get more

brownie points that way anyway.

Turn your phone on silent. You’re the one going to be embarrassed when Sexy Bitch by Akon comes on loudly half-way through.

If you’re ill, stay at home. It’s inevitable that you will catch the annoyingly persistent freshers’ flu in your first few weeks. Cue lectures played out to a soundtrack of sniffling freshers. But when your booming coughs are echoing off the walls and your insistent noseblowing means no one can hear the lecturer’s already muted tones, you’re not being brave, you’re being annoying. Contrary to what you might have heard, the University doesn’t hand out medals for valour in lecture attendance. Go back to bed. Sit somewhere practical. If you do arrive super early and have your pick of the seats,

please don’t be the idiot who sits on the end of an empty row, thereby forcing everyone else to clamber over you. It’s completely unnecessary. And for the uber keen out there- we know you are trying to be friendly and all, but sitting right next to someone on an entire row of empty seats is just too close for comfort. Respect people’s personal space.

The University doesn’t hand out medals for valour in attendance

Bring suitable equipment... What on earth is the point of turning up armed with nothing but a restorative bottle of water, a mobile phone and a loud voice intent on recounting all

the banter from Market Vaults last night? If you want to spend the entire hour staring into space that’s your prerogative, but please don’t fill your time by playing angry birds and nudging your neighbour every time the lecturer says a rude word.

smells, it’s noisy and it’s completely antisocial. We’d rather put up with your tummy rumblings than suffer ridiculously loud open-mouth chewing. AG, SC, OR and CT

...but don’t go overboard. Equally, it really isn’t necessary to bring all the set texts, 15 different coloured pens and highlighters, printouts of the lecture slides, a Macbook, notepad and Dictaphone. It’s a lecture on the Hundred Years War, not an MI5 briefing, and you really don’t have to meticulously record every word that comes out of the lecturer’s mouth. Eating is cheating . We know you missed lunch because you were fervently cramming for this afternoon’s seminar, but that’s no excuse to turn up with a Gregg’s pasty and eat it very loudly in the back row. It

Illustration: Katherine Berks

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