I have to confess – I am not into sports. Apart from an occasional trip to Ma Bells to watch football with friends, I never turn on the sports channel on my TV. I have never even followed the Olympics, nor did I watch the legendary Opening Ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Honestly, the reason I decided to apply to become a volunteer for the London 2012 Games was because a family friend suggested it would look great on my CV. Needless to say, I was accepted and my experience as a Games Maker working at the main press centre at the Olympic Park changed my attitude not only towards sport but towards life as a whole.
My role at the Games was as a language services volunteer, and my team and I were responsible for helping the world’s leading sports journalists and photographers cover the Olympic events. Even though our team comprised mainly of students, we worked incredibly professionally to provide information in numerous languages to the general public.
A rather lovely surprise presented itself in the form of another St Andrews student – Tom Dobin – with whom I had shared a Spanish tutorial. He had also been allocated a job at the very same help desk! It was great to meet a fellow student and to see how our educations had furthered our language abilities; I merely translated from Russian to English and back, whereas Tom was constantly switching between English, Spanish, French and Arabic… unbelievable!
We worked at the press centre for a month before the Games even started which allowed us to really get to know the leading journalists and photographers who were working with us. Regardless of the fact that these professionals were the best in their respective fields, and that they were worked off their feet with extremely hectic schedules, they remained polite, smiling and interactive at all times!
Perhaps the funniest translation blunder I found myself in was when a British journalist saw my ‘Russian’ language badge, and approached me sheepishly to ask if I spoke English. To this I smiled, turned on my worst Russian accent and referred to him as ‘comrade’ throughout the remaining conversation!
Reminiscing over my summer, I think that my time spent at the Games was the most positive experience I have ever had. I cannot even begin to describe what an amazing feeling it was to have members of the press approaching us after the Closing Ceremony to thank us for our help. It was amazing how the summer flew by: one moment we were so excited for the greatest show on Earth to begin, and the next we were celebrating its end. One thing is for sure – we are all willing to wait the four years to welcome our next experience as the Games arrive in Rio de Janeiro.
The London 2012 Olympics were truly inspirational, just as its organisers had intended. I now show a genuine interest in swimming, tennis, and equestrian events amongst others, and I even started going to the gym to attempt to sculpt my abs to rival those of Jessica Ennis. Yet most importantly, I have become part of a team that will always share the memories of London 2012, and will hopefully reunite to share in those of Rio 2016.