Sophie is the England Athletics Volunteer Development Intern and was fortunate enough to be a Gem at the World Indoor Championships 2018. Gems were the 400 non-technical volunteers at the championships. Here is her story:
On 29th September, I made the application to be a Gem. Having been part of the British Athletics Biomechanics team for London 2017, I had seen first hand the sort of experience the Runners had there, and I wanted some of that! Knowing how many people would want to be a Gem, and how few spots there were, I wasn’t hopeful - I can’t have been the only one inspired by those pink t-shirts!
When I received the email to sign up to a Volunteer Recruitment Session, I jumped on it, booked my slot, and then my train to go with it. I tried to bring my best self to the recruitment session, using my previous experience of major events to try and convince those present that I was worthy of one of these exclusive spots. And then came the wait…
Finally, I received an email to say I would be part of the VIP & Protocol team; YES! Now I could let myself get excited. I followed the whole build-up to the champs, including the team selections by all nations (but especially ours!) and ate up every detail they sent through to me about the championships.
And, in the blink of an eye, we were at the week of the Championships! My Gems training session was this week, so I picked up my handbook, and my kit, listened carefully to the given instructions and went away to get ready for my shifts.
Friday night I was fortunate enough to be a spectator, and that could not have left me feeling any more excited for my first shift on Saturday morning if it tried!
The snow certainly added another level of stress to the event, but thankfully I don’t live too far away, and the trains were still running (if not a little sporadically) from Birmingham to Wolverhampton so I allowed myself extra time to make the trip on Saturday morning and was met when I arrived by smiling faces! I knew that the weather would leave us short-staffed, and I had already seen people commenting as such on the unofficial Gems Facebook page, but when you arrived, you wouldn’t know it. The volunteer lounge was buzzing with excitement, the volunteer co-ordinators were sporting big smiles and I was cheerfully directed to the VIP entrance to meet my team leader.
2 out of the 4 of us on this shift were working for the first time, but we were paired up with the two more experienced volunteers and they supported us through. Probably our most significant challenge was having to check all the accreditations, as the security team were also short-staffed due to the weather, and this was a task I wasn’t prepared for! The feel of the experience was fun and relaxed, but I knew just how important it was that I did my job as well as possible; our VIPs needed to know that their area was as exclusive as it was intended to be, and I helped service that request.
Sunday was my second and final shift, and it began much the same way as the day before but ended very differently! Partway through my shift I was reallocated to the ICC where the IAAF dinner and post-championships party were taking place. I was briefed on who could and couldn’t be allowed up the escalator, and then the security guards placed with me helped to enforce the confirmation / denial of entry. As an Athletics super fan, it got hard at times to maintain composure, but I knew I was there to do a job, and that took priority, so my professionalism came first. It was incredible to be that up close with some of the world’s most famous athletes, and to know that I was contributing in some way to their great championships experience.
Overall, it certainly didn’t come without it’s challenges, but it was a fantastic weekend and amazing to be a part of.
Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to my great experience, and I hope to see some of my fellow volunteers again soon!