Working for the Government Olympics team isn’t just about sitting behind a desk in Whitehall, planning the Games.
Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get out and about and have a look at where it’s all going to happen in 2012. That’s how I ended up joining a group of colleagues volunteering at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Hertfordshire last week.
30 km north of the Olympic Park, the Lee Valley White Water Centre will be the venue for the Canoe Slalom during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Set in 10,000 acres of rural parkland, an impressive spectator stand has already been built, and two slalom courses are well underway. But as we drew closer we saw that the surrounding parkland wasn’t looking quite as ship-shape as the construction work. Our task for the day was to help tidy up the area for the 12,000 or so spectators that will arrive in 2012.
We had a choice of three tasks; to clear weeds from the waterway, remove trees and shrubbery, or re-paint the bridge which crosses the River Lee. Being rather intimidated by the giant rakes lying on the ground, and not wanting to take a dip, I chose the safe option and volunteered to help paint the bridge. So with brushes in hand, five of us eagerly set about our task, cleaning the bridge of any moss and cobwebs before splashing some fresh white paint onto the stonework. It was tiring stuff but it was also immensely satisfying to see the newly re-painted bridge gleaming in the late summer sunshine.
The Lee Valley Park relies on the generosity of volunteers to help look after the site but despite their contribution, the Park is still short of help, especially during the winter months. My group helped to paint a bridge in a day, while the rest of the team transformed the parkland by clearing out the river and cutting down shrubs and trees. It was only a small contribution, but it will really help the public enjoy their visit to the Park, not just now, but right through to the Games and beyond.
So, as I sat on the train home, tired and probably with more paint on me than the bridge, it struck me that if we can make such a difference in a single day, just imagine what we could do if more people around the country volunteered. That’s why we want to use the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to inspire people to get involved and help their local communities. After all, the Games aren’t just about sport; they’re a nationwide celebration. Everyone should have a chance to take part and see the benefits in their neighbourhoods.