My journey to the Games, at the Games and to the volunteering legacy beyond

I can’t believe that the Olympic Games are over. I’m not sure what to watch on TV and already feel bereft not being able to take a sneaky look at it in the kitchen every time I make a cup of tea at work! London 2012 has been a collection of millions of people’s personal experiences; this is my journey to the Games, at the Games and beyond. 

On the 6 July 2005, I was meeting someone for lunch and halfway across Tower Bridge, sitting on a red London bus, I wondered why all the cars were hooting their horns when the bus driver came over the tannoy and said we’d won the Games. It was a truly bizarre but memorable moment and very, very un-London. That night, I watched the newsreels of Kelly Holmes and David Beckham and all the other iconic images we’ve seen replayed over the past seven years.

And then it all went wrong as I came across that same Bridge less than 24 hours later. There were sirens coming at me from every direction – the London tubes had been bombed and all of us were overtaken by fear and sadness it could not have been more opposite to the euphoria of the day before.

Wind on and I’m Chief Executive of TimeBank and invited to join Locog’s volunteer advisory board. TimeBank had already run the Back the Bid volunteering campaign, with over 100,000 people saying they’d volunteer if we won it. In fact, 250,000 did volunteer and 70,000 - as Lord Coe said at the closing ceremony - ‘Made London 2012’.  I’m not going to pretend it was all plain sailing. We didn’t always agree with Locog or what they were doing or how they did it, but my goodness! To have played just an infinitesimal part in this process and watch it grow makes me glow with excitement. And let’s face it what a result - the Games Makers were fantastic.

I’m also proud to live in Walthamstow and be an adopted East Ender. I have watched the Park grow from nothing to everything and it’s been incredible to see. The Olympic Park has changed the East End for the better: it’s brought jobs and it’s brought pride and I hope more than anything it will bring a legacy, of sport, of affordable housing and of community.

And so to the home straight. We’d done our final meeting at Locog, we’d been to a test event – I’d got up at 7am on a Saturday to go to Wembley to join 10,000 Gamesmakers at their very first training event – I’d seen the uniforms and the distribution centre and I'd finally scored some tickets in the ballot. I am the luckiest person in the world because I was then invited by a friend to join him at the opening ceremony and what a memorable night. 

The next day I flicked through millions of new BBC channels wondering which sport to watch next – it was a sports fan’s heaven. Suddenly as Olympic fever gripped, everyone was an expert on every conceivable sport. In the office, we were taking it in turns to let each other know when the next race would be so we could watch another Gold for Team GB. And everywhere you turned there was a volunteer directing you or smiling at you. I have never been so proud to be a Londoner.

But my journey isn’t over. My job must surely be to work with others to capture a proper legacy – not just a weekend of excitement between the Games but a lifetime of volunteering, a generation inspired to volunteer and see the good that can come of it, to see the pride that can be had and to know that you have made a difference to someone’s life. That’s what this Olympics has shown: everyone can make a difference, everyone can be a part of it, everyone has a Games Maker in them somewhere. So let’s ride on the crest of the wave and volunteer for other things too. We cannot allow this not to make a difference to the charitable sector.