Upton Noble resident Maggie Love booked plane tickets to Brazil in anticipation of volunteering at the Olympic equestrian events. However, she was in for a big surprise
I’m oscillating between excitement and barely contained panic. Why? I’m not the most courageous flyer and in truth I’m pretty terrified on a plane. Actually, I’m not brave, full stop. However, on Sunday 31 July I will be going to Heathrow to meet up with other UK Olympic volunteers to fly to Rio de Janeiro.
The journey actually started two years ago with a throw away remark at school. A fellow teacher happened to say that the web portal was open for applications to become a volunteer at the Rio Olympics. Application completed promptly. I wondered if my age would count against me, but essentially you have to be over 18, have some interest in sport and/or some useful skills and be capable of breathing independently. Phew. First hurdle successfully passed.
I expressed an interest in equestrian sports and also put down the fact that I swam fairly regularly, am OK in French and have a smattering of Spanish. Sadly, in Brazil they speak Portuguese…
I waited… and waited
Then the wait began. I was given access to my own space on the official Rio2016 web portal. Some of the UK volunteers sensibly started up a Facebook page so that we could share information. The Brazilian Olympic committee was not being very forthcoming with information. I had an online interview set for November 2015. I checked the time difference carefully and at the appointed hour I tried to join the meeting, and tried… and tried… Eventually I had to give up. Fortunately, I found out that lots of other UK volunteers were having similar problems, contacted the Rio team and a fresh interview time was set up. Actually ‘interview’ is a bit of a misnomer as it essentially consisted of a chat between a very enthusiastic gentleman in Brazil and half a dozen multinational volunteers — all with recalcitrant telecoms links.
A few weeks later I got an email to say that I had been accepted and the letters with offers of actual positions and rotas would start to be sent out in… April 2016.
The problem was that until we had the offer letter we wouldn’t know where we would be working, and Brazil is a big country. Nor would we know when we were going to be on duty — just that it would be some time between the end of July and the end of August (later if volunteering for the Paralympics).
The flights are booked
At Christmas I took the plunge and booked flights. As a volunteer I have to pay for my flights and accommodation, although I will be provided with free travel and meals in Rio when on duty and, of course, a uniform. Bright green from head to toe in my case. The uniforms, all 86,000 of them apparently, have been made in China and have been shipped to Rio.
Also in December, I booked accommodation via AirBnB with a Brazilian lady called Lucia. I will be staying in an area called Itanhangá, in a gated community in a house with a pool. Back in December prices were still reasonable. I decided that if my rota, when it arrived, was not acceptable, I would at least have a fabulous holiday.
Horses for courses
My lovely friend Jennie Smith asked that I be allocated to her (GB equestrian eventing) team of volunteers and I put in a similar request from my end. We waited. Towards the end of May I got my rota. Not an equestrian event in sight. Instead I have been given 12 shifts at the Maria Lenk stadium working on Event Services for synchronised swimming and diving. So I have bought a frilly bathing cap and am going to (hopefully) see Tom Daly win a gold medal. Worst case scenario, I get to see lots of fit men in skimpy swimming trunks.
I’ll keep you posted on progress.