from a recent visit to the other side of the world.....
Sunday, 1 April 2012
On New Year's Day this year, I had a really positive feeling about the year ahead. I think this was partly due to the date itself - its a nice number visually: 2012 (much better than 2011, or 2004 for example) and there are so many things happening this year to make it an exciting time - for me but also for everyone, whoever you are - there's a lot to look forward to. One of these events is the Olympics. I can guess what you might be thinking - "the Olympics? but I applied for tickets and didn't get a single one" or "it's costing so much!" or "so many tourists - London is going to be in chaos throughout the summer - so many tourists!" I'll be honest and admit that those thoughts did also cross my mind, but despite this I'm now really looking forward to it - I think we'll have somewhat of a party atmosphere in London; we're welcoming millions of visitors - athletes and tourists - to our capital city, where we can really show the rest of the world what London, and indeed the UK, is all about.
I'm going to be a London Ambassador for 5 days of the Olympics, and I'm really looking forward to it. I applied back in February 2011, had my selection event in the summer of 2011, and then found out I'd been selected at the end of 2011 - I was really pleased to have this opportunity to be involved in what is going to be such an historical event. Apparently 34,000 people applied and about 8,000 were taken on.
On Thursday I went along to the first of three training days, which was held in Camden. I met about 50 other London Ambassadors - the day began by getting our photos taken for ID badges, and then we each had to introduce ourselves to the group - why had we decided to become London Ambassadors; what were we looking forward to? There was definitely a common theme to everyone's introduction - a love of London and its vibrant, cosmopolitan way of life, and a chance to show London off to the hundreds of tourists that will come to London over the summer, many possibly for the first time. Everyone seemed to have a genuinely positive outlook and people sounded keen to meet and greet tourists and give a practical, helping hand to the influx of visitors.
This is really what being a London Ambassador is going to be about - being the face of London (that's how Boris phrased it in his welcome video we watched on the first training morning!) - being the people that speak to people on the ground; giving people advice, directions and practical help. I'm going to be part of the 'Flying Squad' which means that I'm going to part of a team who works in different locations over the 5 days carrying out the role of Ambassadors, but also speaking to members of the public and interviewing them on their time in London over the Olympics - we're going to films these interviews and these will then be made into a DVD about the London Ambassador programme. I'm really excited to be part of the 'Flying Squad', although unfortunately no-ones been able to confirm that any planes will be involved.. I can but hope..
The majority of the training day was about working in teams, discussing situations that might arise, questions people - both Londoners and tourists - might ask and working out how to deal with potentially tricky or even dangerous situations. It was a great chance to meet other Ambassadors - and everyone was so friendly - there was a real mix of ages, backgrounds but I genuinely felt I could easily go and chat to anyone there - this was such a welcome atmosphere to be involved in.
We were also shown our uniforms - a t-shirt, trousers or skirt, hat (baseball cap or trilby), raincoat, fleece, bag and waterbottle - all in a purple and pink design; it looked better than it sounds, and I think it will mean all Ambassadors will stand out to tourists as someone to approach for advice.
I have two more training sessions coming up - one in a couple of months, and one just before the Games - and then my volunteering days start in August; I'm really looking forward to taking part in these Olympics and 'doing my bit' as well as doing something I can tell my grandchildren about.