The 2012 Olympics took London by storm, and the locals couldn’t escape being touched one way or another by the Games. It was like a wonderful virus that infected everyone. Fears of chaos across the London transport systems and an unbearably crowded city were unfounded. Yes, the city was crowded and public transport busy, but the organisation of the Games was truly outstanding and everything flowed effortlessly to everyone’s pleasant surprise. Anyone who attended an event spoke of the friendly and organised reception at all the Olympic venues. This was made possible by the Games Makers – thousands of volunteers who gave up their time to help manage all of the moving pieces during the games. Anni Abel, one of our own Idea Engineers, had the privilege to serve in the role of Games Maker, and we took some time to sit down with her and find out what it was like.
Anni had submitted an application to volunteer more than 18 months ago. When asked why, she simply responded, “London has been good to me and given me so many opportunities, I wanted to repay my debt to the city.” Months later, after a thorough screening and selection process followed by weekend training once a month for seven months, Anni found herself reporting for duty as a National Olympic Committee Assistant for the Danish Team (being Danish herself was definitely a bonus!). Her duties included helping to unpack 29 pallets of gear for the team, testing 40 sets of room keys and driving and assisting Danish athletes and the Danish Royal Family – namely HRH Princess Benedikte. Anni went from the 1st Floor of SapientNitro staffing our people to projects, to high-speed royal convoys whizzing around the city. What an adventure!
Driving the Princess around wasn’t without a moment of panic. On a visit to the Athletes Village, Anni had safely delivered the Princess to her engagement. While waiting for Her Royal Highness to complete the visit she realized in complete horror the car keys were missing! 15 minutes to go to departure, still no keys. Searching her jacket, turning her pockets inside out, exiting and going through the airport style security over and over, retracing her steps and plotting to smash the car window were all part of the plan to get the car ready and waiting for the exit. Turns out, the keys were in her jacket pocket… she just had the wrong jacket. All ended well, the keys were returned and the car was waiting for Princess Benedikte who was none-the-wiser.
Giving some insight into the world of volunteers she described it as, “truly stepping outside her comfort zone,” a feeling that seems to have been shared by the other volunteers, a diverse group that included the Director of Operations from a leading retail outlet. While chuckling she described a lip biting incident watching one of the volunteers try their hand a staffing. Resisting the temptation to step in, she let go and embraced her new role.
Although from the sound of things it wasn’t all hard work. She lists some of her highlights as watching the men’s badminton final and medal ceremony as well as helping at the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal – surrounded by waving flags and the beating of drums, she describes the experience as “Preeettty, cool!”
It can be said that change is as good as a rest. Anni is certainly a testament to that, coming back to the office even bubblier than ever. As a team we’re proud to have a Games Maker in our midst and as Londoners we’re grateful to all the people that gave up their time to make London 2012 such a great success!
Photo credit: Anni Abel