This is what is was like to be a volunteer at the World Student Games in Sheffield, 30 years ago this month

Back in July 1991, I’d just left university.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 4:34 pm

I had time available before joining the world of work, and wanted to do something useful.

I was not the only one. Around that time, a legion of my friends were in the same boat, and we threw our hats in as volunteers for the World Student Games.

That was 30 years ago – July 14 to July 25, 1991.

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David Kessen with his World Student Games uniform from 1991
David Kessen with his World Student Games uniform from 1991

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A look back in pictures to Sheffield hosting the 1991 World Student Games

As an aspiring journalist, I signed up for the press department, as a media messenger.

Close friends volunteered too. One was in security, another a driver.

I remember recruitment centred around a building on Savile Street, just the other side of the Wicker Arches. There, you were given your uniform, and photographed for your pass. That picture was my first experience of a digital camera.

For me, that uniform was a white and blue polo shirt, with black sleeves, and the student games logo on the breast, combined with a pair of two-tone blue tracksuit trousers. I was rather jealous of my driver friend – he had a smart sky blue jacket and tie.

Over the two week period of the games, I operated from the press room in what was then Sheffield Polytechnic, now Hallam University, next to Arundel Gate, faxing results to those who needed them, and putting together reports with a quickly put together team of enthusiastic volunteers.

After two weeks of service to our city, we were rewarded with a role in the closing ceremony at the games.

We and hundreds of other volunteers were to line the edge of the track, waving bright yellow nylon squares as the athletes filed past.

It was exciting to get onto the track. It was even more exciting later, when I saw the British team’s golden boy, the world record holding star of the javelin event, Steve Backley. Starstruck, I joined the queue getting their pieces of yellow cloth signed by the star name.

I remember it well. He signed with a little picture of a javelin alongside his name.

It was a great experience – but with an unfortunate ending. Somehow, after a few drinks at the volunteers farewell party in the grounds of the refurbished Hyde Park flats, I lost my treasured autograph the same night I had obtained it.