You may have already read an older post about my volunteering exploits for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow? It is the reason I was asked, at late notice, to do some more volunteering at the FIG World Gymnastics Championships in 2015. It was being held at the Hydro just two weeks after we had moved to Scotland. Because I had kept in touch with some rather lovely people with whom I shared my experiences last year, they knew that I was now living closer. Dude was away on a training course for his new job, so I jumped at the chance to meet up with some old pals and get involved.
World Gymnastics Championships
I got up at 6am on the Sunday morning and drove down to Glasgow’s SSE Hydro. This place was already full of memories for me. I was given a role in the Media Operations team working in the Mixed Zone.
The Mixed Zone is where athletes, gymnasts etc get interviewed by broadcasters or other journalists about their result or competition. It is where “flash quotes” are taken for headlines etc. A highly charged place, full of emotions and people vying for the best spot to get their newsworthy photos. It would soon be apparent that the competition wasn’t just out in the arena, it was backstage too.
All week I was interacting with some of the best gymnasts in the world preparing them for photographs and interviews. It is very exciting to be so close to people you have seen on the television and to have some interaction with them before and after they compete. It was going to be a great ten days of world class gymnastics.
Catching up with some familiar faces was really fabulous. Many of us had been given similar media orientated roles to 2014. There were also plenty of new friends to make too, many with their own tales of volunteering at big events. Unlike the Commonwealth Games, the volunteers were mostly people who lived in Scotland. They either had a passion for gymnastics or were serial volunteers.
As the competition drew to an end, the buzz grew. More and more spectators, more journalists, more pressure. A hive of activity backstage with medal ceremonies to organise and press conferences.
The end of the competition came too soon and it was all over. Nothing to be sad about though as I had had an incredible time. Making friends, chatting with world class athletes and just generally having a ball.
2018 European Championships
Just three years later and this opportunity was practically on my doorstep. The inaugural European Championships. Ten days of sport across Scotland and Berlin. Athletics, aquatics, cycling, golf, gymnastics, rowing and triathlon. I applied and was offered a role as part of the media team, specifically looking after photographers.
The golf part of the tournament was to be held at Gleneagles, just 14 miles from home. This prestigious golf club is no stranger to holding world class events and this would be no exception.
Five days of men and women competing on the same course at the same time. A first for the sport of golf. I was more than happy to be a part of this. Although it felt slightly weird not knowing any of my fellow volunteers, I soon made friends.
This role was different to any of the others I had previously done because it was all outside. We all know that Scotland’s weather can be a wee bit unpredictable at the best of times but it was mostly dry. Which was a result because we were walking the course for most of our shift.
I’ve grown to enjoy golf. When Dude plays I walk the course with him but the experience of a pro tournament is exciting. Spectators follow their favourite players all round the course or some prefer to stay at the same hole and watch people play through.
Being out on the course was great. Engaging with fans, helping out with questions about where specific teams or players were on the course and speaking to photographers too. I loved this because I could (hopefully) enhance visitors experience. Especially the children who were looking forward to seeing their sporting heroes. The atmosphere was really good.
The other up side to being outdoors during the tournament was being able to admire the scenery, which Perthshire has some of the very best.
I can’t express to you how amazing it is get involved with these events as a volunteer. Giving up your time is just a minute part of what you will actually get out of doing it. It doesn’t have to be on such a large scale event most local sports clubs would love some help. Not into sport? How about being a dog walker for your local rescue centre? There is so much choice.
How about volunteering whilst on holiday? There are plenty of conservation projects that would love your help. I promise you will get more out of it than you put in. New friends, an amazing experience and that warm smug feeling you get inside when you do something good.
I know that I want to do more volunteering in the future but I’m unsure exactly what. Probably some smaller, local projects.