Even now, 10 days after my last shift, nine days after the closing ceremony, I can’t keep the smile off my face.
I was one of the lucky ones, one of the 70,000 Games Makers who have won almost endless plaudits for the way they ‘made’ London 2012.
But I can’t take any credit for this or the overwhelming success of the Games. I wasn’t one of the Wayfinders with loudhailers and pink foam fingers laughing and joking with ticket-holders and pointing the way in and out of the Olympic Park or dealing with questions, 15 minutes before kick-off, such as ‘which tube do I get to the Millennium Stadium’, (with the answer you’re in the wrong city) and which way to St James’ Park (note, James’ as in the Sports Direct Arena in Newcastle, rather than James’s, the Royal park in London)
Nor was I a venue team member, checking tickets and guiding the hundreds of thousands of spectators to their seats. I had a role other Games Makers – I hate that term, it sounds like something a four-year-old would dream up – have, without exception, been incredibly jealous of and which offered an experience I will never forget.
I was assigned to the Olympic News Service in the Olympic Stadium, tasked with grabbing ‘flash quotes’ from the athletes – both medal successes and big-name failures. Sometimes this was standing 15 yards from the finish line, crouching out of camera shot under the elbow of BBC reporter Phil Jones – a thoroughly nice guy – taking notes from their trackside interviews within minutes of a race finishing.
Other times, it was in the bowels of the stadium, with the finish line in sight, but watching the action on TV and grabbing the athletes for a couple of quickfire soundbites as they passed through on their way to doping control and post-event lounges.
We were a varied team – a best-selling author, former national newspaper managing editor, London-based copywriter and Sheffield Hallam University students and officers, alongside former athletes and some of Britain’s leading athletics writers – but all bonded in working for a common cause.
I wasn’t working for super Saturday – I enjoyed this alongside 60,000 people cheering a big screen in Hyde Park – but was trackside for Usain Bolt’s 100m victory, David Rudisha’s amazing, world record-breaking 800m run and Mo Farah’s 5,000m win on the final night, where the noise in the stadium was deafening.
I shook Mr Bolt’s hand twice, getting a ‘thank you man’ after congratulating him on his 100m and 200m successes, had Christine Ohuruogou show me her silver medal she had hidden away in its presentation box, and interviewed a furious Nixon Chepseba after a trip in his 1,500m heat saw him fail to finish, where I was given the exclusive news he was lodging a protest over the incident – an appeal which was ultimately successful as race officials later advanced him to the next round.
Almost without fail, the athletes were pleasant, courteous and happy to talk, a marked difference from some footballers I could mention.
The journey for me had started seven years ago, crowded around a TV screen in the offices of the Cambridge News. Even now the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I watch footage of ‘the games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of... London’ from July 6, 2005.
There was never a doubt in my mind I would be at the Games, even after the terrorism attacks the following day.
It’s been a long journey since then – I went on a first date a few days later with the woman who is now my wife and mother of my two daughters – through my application two years ago, an interview at Warwick University, two trips to London for training and a further trip to collect my uniform and accreditation, before my first shift in the Olympic Park on July 31.
I am not the only games maker to say one of the best bits has been the friendliness it generated among the public. Drinks were bought in pubs, late-night tube journeys were made bearable by the smiles, thanks and conversation. The sense of being a part of a community has been fantastic and will live long in the memory.
Jon Ball, Games Maker