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Mr Bellars from Ballard at the Paralympics

September 3, 2012

“I applied to be a volunteer in 2010 along with 250,000 others and, after interview, approximately 70,000 of us were selected for a huge range of roles.  Every Gamesmaker is assigned to a specific venue and a particular duty.  Here in the Athletes’ Village, some work with individual national teams, others help in the Village Management Centre, others welcome VIPs in the Protocol Lounge, and so on. There are also security staff, cleaners, cooks, drivers… you name it!

My role for the first few days has been to welcome people into the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Information Centre, right in the heart of the Village Plaza area. The Centre is designed to explain how the Paralympics came about, from their humble beginnings in 1948 thanks to the driving force of Dr Ludwig Guttmann through to the present day, where the Games rank second only to the Olympics in terms of their global spread and size.  Athletes, officials, VIPs and other guests have all been in to see memorabilia from previous games, such as medals from Beijing and Sydney and a mascot from Athens, as well as other materials dating back many decades. My languages have proven very useful, as many of our visitors do not speak English. But I wish I spoke Russian and Chinese – these two would have come in particularly useful!

Before the Games started, fifty “athletes to watch” were selected and given IPC smartphones to record and liveblog their experiences during the Paralympics. As luck would have it, they came for their briefings to the IPC Info Centre, so I got to meet a lot of them, too. At least two of them were also chosen to be their countries’ flag-bearers for the Opening Ceremony. You can see their video blogs on the Paralympic Sport TV YouTube channel, here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ParalympicSportTV/videos.  They give us a really good insight into the athletes and their lives during competition.

Over the last few days I have been working in the IPC Voting Area. Every four years six new athletes are voted onto the Athletes Council, which represents Paralympians and works with them and on their behalf. The voting booths have had to be carefully designed so that all athletes can access them, and also to allow for the visually-impaired to be able to hear the information onscreen rather then see it. Not all athletes can operate the touch-screens, of course, so sometimes they require assistance from a helper. Little things like this, which the able-bodied are lucky to able to take for granted, have been a real eye-opener for me. Once they have voted, if they wish, we take a picture of them in front of a giant set of agitos (the Paralympic symbol) and a torch from the torch relay, which gets uploaded onto the IPC Flickr site. You can have a look for yourself at http://www.flickr.com/photos/paralympic/ (I took quite a few of the photos!).

One thing that absolutely everyone in the Village does is swap pin badges. I have a stash of IPC badges in my pocket, which I swap with athletes for their national team badges. So far I have got about 30 badges, and I am aiming for 50 by the time the Games finish! We attach them on the neck lanyards of our accreditation – the special ID cards which allow us into the various zones of the Olympic venues and the Athletes’ Village. Mine is pretty full, already!

The day of the Opening Ceremony was particularly exciting. I had tried to get a ticket for it via the London 2012 website, but like a lot of people I had found the whole process rather frustrating, and had resigned myself to watching it on TV… but suddenly a call came through from the IPC hotel in central London asking me to come and collect a ticket for me and 9 other Gamesmakers! We were given fantastic seats in the VIP area, and I had a great view of the whole thing – plus a luxury picnic! What a brilliant evening!

I have been really fortunate to have been allocated a Gamesmaker role which has allowed me such close contact with the athletes. It has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, without a doubt, and one which I will never forget.”

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