For many, the Olympics Games will start July 27th with the Opening Ceremony in Stratford but for the athletes, the 2012 Olympics will start the moment their plane touches down at Heathrow.
This past weekend British Olympic triple jumper Larry Achike, explained to myself and other potential Team Heathrow volunteers that the “Wow, this is real” moment occurs when the plane door opens and
I think (and hope) most people can relate.
For me this moment hit almost exactly one year ago when I woke up in a South Kensington hotel and looked out the window for the first time. The mixture of excitement and fear was great and it was a moment that tested my courage. Do I relax in the hotel a little bit longer or do I venture out into London?
I learned on Saturday that as the official host airport, an untold number of people will make their way through Heathrow and the airport is recruiting volunteers to help welcome “the Olympic Family”. The Olympic Family consists of athletes, international media, and sponsors – all of which need to move through the airport quickly. While those that have flown into Heathrow might say the airport is pretty straight forward, the need for a fluid transition from plane to customs to London transportation is tremendously important for this group.
And Team Heathrow volunteers will be the first people to welcome these guests to London.
Over the next few months, myself and approximately 1,000 other volunteers will undergo background checks, study the airport’s layout and learn how to connect athletes with unusual equipment (Did you know, a pole vaulter’s pole is made of either fiberglass or carbon fiber and it doesn’t break apart? Image trying to check that on a regular basis…). With the basics in place, we’ll then start to run mock arrivals with full-time Heathrow operations staff acting as the athletes, media, etc.
When Chicago was bidding for the 2016 Olympics I didn’t see a clear way to get involved beyond being a good citizen and hope for the best. And when we lost the bid, the city was stunned. How could we get knocked out in the first round of voting?!? Now there are a thousand ways to get involved and it’s amazing. With any luck, the highlight of my Olympic experience will be greeting one of the Team USA jets when they arrive.