Helena Markovic, editor of Home Office staff magazine Inside Track, finds out it’s a barrel of laughs at the Olympic shooting events as she rubs shoulders with Olympic medalists and sees Team GB shoot gold.
The last and probably only time I have written at length about guns and shooting, was for a feature about how the Home Office was working to reduce gun and gang crime in the UK. Here the inference was that guns were bad and shooting them was even worse.
So when I accepted my role as a Games Maker for the shooting events at London 2012, I was intrigued to find out exactly what shooting as an Olympic sport was all about. Firstly, and thankfully, it does not involve pointing a gun at anything that is actually alive – although this did happen at the 1900 Games in Paris where apparently the live pigeon shooting event marked the only time in Olympic history when animals were deliberately killed in the name of sport. Leon de Lunden of Belgium bagged 21 birds for his efforts to clinch the gold medal.
My shooting schooling began in April with a test event for the ISSF Shooting World Cup at the Royal Artillery Barracks. It was a great way to find my way around the soon-to-be Olympic site, meet other Games Makers on my team and crucially get to grips with shooting and my Games time role. I soon realised that it took an immense amount of concentration, skill and coordination to hit the target – some of which were so teeny tiny I had absolutely no idea how those shooting could see the target let alone aim an accurate shot. I was in awe and couldn’t wait to get stuck into my Olympic role for real.
And finally I am back at the Royal Artillery Barracks. It is great to meet up with familiar Games Maker faces, and meet the new recruits. Everyone is very positive and enthusiastic. We have one girl in our team from Kansas who is here just to volunteer for the Games. Her enthusiasm is infectious. And we’ve taught her all about how to make a proper British cup of tea!
Working in Press Operations, I am right there in the mixer. Or the mixed zone I should say as this is my role. Working with the athletes and the media, it’s my job (and International Olympic Committee regulations) to make sure that all athletes go through the mixed zone, a specific area in which media from across the world can interview the athletes once they have competed – and get those all-important interviews with the medal winners.
This was doubly exciting last Saturday because the first gold medal of the whole Olympics was to be won at the shooting. Can you imagine? The first gold medal of the whole Games. And I was there! As we prepared to man the mixed zone for this event – the women’s 10m air rifle – the tension mounted. When Yi Siling from China won gold, there was a media frenzy as dozens of broadcasters, press and photographers prepared to meet her. As Siling came out of the field of play and into the mixed zone, her gold medal around her neck, the eager journalists were unable to contain themselves. I soon found myself in the role of human shield, fending off the media so that Siling would not become surrounded. This continued as she was led out of the mixed zone following interview and down to the press conference. It was quite a challenge to keep her moving forward and prevent the media from moving in. It was also utterly thrilling to have the first gold medal of London 2012 right there in front of me just minutes after it had been won.
A personal favourite for me later on that first day was looking after Andrija Zlatić from Serbia who won bronze in the men’s 10m air pistol. As my family herald from Montenegro, it was great to say well done to
him in Serbo-Croat as I led him down to the press conference. Serbia’s newly-installed President Tomislav Nikolić was also in the crowd.
The gold rush continued later this week when Team GB shooter Peter Wilson won the men’s double trap. What a final – I honestly had no idea that shooting could be this exciting (okay I could tell you a true tale about me, a gun and a kangaroo that had the team here in stitches, but I will save that for another time). Anyway, so back here Wilson was going great guns, pardon the pun, until he missed two targets with eight shots remaining. What would happen? It was so tense. Thankfully, he held on, winning by two shots, and a huge cheer erupted from the union jack waving crowd up in the grandstand. It was an unbelievable experience to be there as a volunteer and to see a Team GB gold medal win. And not only that, it was a pleasure to be there as part of the team to escort Peter Wilson down the media line and watch him beaming
with success. What a shooting star!
Finally, talking of going for gold, here’s a thing. There seems to be this funny little obsession amongst many Games Makers, coaches and media with collecting Olympic pin badges, rather like stamp collecting
at school. Different nations all want badges from other countries and I’ve seen wonderful exchanges going on with people making friends by swapping their badges with someone from another country. Who will have the most by the end of the Games is anyone’s guess. I have my own Bronze and Silver ‘medals’ in the form of Games Maker pin badges and I certainly won’t be playing swapsies with these. Well not unless I could exchange them for the real thing of course….