‘We’re so proud to have been part of the Olympics’ say South Yorkshire volunteers

Gary Longdon with some of the other games makers
Gary Longdon with some of the other games makers
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ALONG with the athletes they’ve been hailed as the stars of the Olympic Games.

But today it was a case of back to reality for three Olympic Games Makers from South Yorkshire and north Derbyshire.

The trio, who all signed up to volunteer at the London 2012 Games, became firm friends after making contact on a Facebook group before the Olympics and now they are home plan to keep in touch.

The volunteers - Gary Longden, Donna Nixon and Richard Batterby - had to wear special purple, red, and beige uniforms.
But today they’ve packed them away and are returning to their day jobs.

The volunteering stint might be over for now but their memories will last a lifetime.

Gary loved volunteering so much he gave directions to the crowds even on his days off.

He was based in London, helping to carry flowers and medals to winners at the BMX cycling event at the Olympic Park and the women’s weight lifting event in the ExCel Centre.

Gary, a married dad of two, said participating in the Olympics was very different from his life in Sheffield, where he works as a plasterer and also at the Motorpoint Arena.

He said: “Everyone was so friendly, no matter where they were from, and the atmosphere was just incredible all the time.

“I’m so proud to have been a part of the Games and I can’t wait to show my family the uniform and tell them all my stories when I’m older,” he said.

The 30-year-old, of Mansfield Road, Killamarsh, north Derbyshire went back to work yesterday.

He added: “It’s sad that it has all come to an end, it was a strange day yesterday, I’m very exhausted.”

Meanwhile, Donna, 39, of Selby Road, New Lodge, Barnsley, volunteered at Manchester’s Old Trafford Stadium, stewarding people to their seats for the football.

Donna told The Star she has always been interested in sport, having participated in the Great North Run eight times, and jumped at the chance to be part of the Olympics.

During her time as a Games Maker, she met Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the Olympics Organising Committee, who shook her hand and thanked her for her efforts.

And she was also selected to help the USA women’s and Japanese men’s football teams with their training.

“It really was the best experience of my life and I would recommend volunteering to anyone, whether it’s for a small event or a large one like the Olympics,” she said.

“I also got to watch all the football events for free.”

Donna said she would be watching the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, and has already begun saving for a ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Richard, aged 38, of Carrforge Road, Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, a business development manager for Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire, was given a role with the events service team at London’s Olympic Park.

He goes back to work tomorrow.

Richard said: “It’s going to be a bit of a culture shock but it’s good to have been away.”

Richard pitched in with everything from helping the security team scan tickets to doing meet and greets with special guests who included Mayor of London Boris Johnson and various television journalists.

“Boris was definitely the most glamorous person I met,” he laughed.

Richard was also one of the privileged few to watch the opening ceremony dress rehearsal.”