Letter from Downing Street!

I was most surprised when I opened the post this morning to find a letter from Downing Street among all the bills! It was in fact a thank you letter from David Cameron to all Olympic volunteers, including the Team London Ambassadors. I took a photo of it so you can try to read it here:

David Cameron Letter

My letter from Prime Minister David Cameron

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A Summer Like No Other

I have written a summary of my time as an Olympic volunteer for one of my clients, Judge and Howard, so I thought you might like to read it here on their blog.

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Athletes’ Parade

I was privileged to be among fellow Ambassadors, Gamesmakers and other Olympic volunteers who watched today’s Team GB athletes’ parade in a special ticketed area along The Mall.

I’d never seen so many people in and around Trafalgar Square when I arrived at Charing Cross. It took me a good 20 minutes to make my way through the crowds to the ticketed area near The Mall! However, once I got there, I found a spot with a great view. I was also near a big screen so I could watch the progress of the parade across the city before it arrived at the home straight.

My spot on The Mall

My spot on The Mall as the parade starts to arrive

Starting at Mansion House in the City, the 21 floats transported some 800 athletes from Team GB and Paralympics GB across the capital to Trafalgar Square, then The Mall and finally to the Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace.

Here are my best photos from the parade:

Rebecca Addlington

Rebecca Addlington (right) and other swimmers

Bronze medallist Greg Searle

Bronze medallist Greg Searle

Tom Daley

Tom Daley (who didn’t seem to want to smile!)

Sir Chris Hoy

Sir Chris Hoy

Christine Ohuruogu

Christine Ohuruogu

Many of the athletes, like Greg Rutherford, were holding up signs thanking the volunteers for their contribution to the Games:

Greg Rutherford

Greg Rutherford (with a sign thanking the volunteers)

David Weir

Paralympian David Weir

Mo Farah

Mo Farah

I’m so glad I had the chance to go to the parade and re-live the excitement of the Games. It was a fitting end to the ‘Summer like no other‘ and I was more than a little bit sad as it ended and I made my way back home. The party was over.

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In search of Wenlock

With my nephew here this week we have, of course, been sight-seeing. As well as the usual visits to Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye, when he spotted a statue of Olympic mascot Wenlock, he wanted his picture taken with it.

When I told him there were 83 of them – Wenlock and Mandeville – dotted about town, unsurprisingly he wanted to track them down! We didn’t get time to hunt them all down but did manage a good handful, as these pictures show.

Big Ben Wenlock

Big Ben Wenlock

Aquarium Wenlock

Aquarium Wenlock

Telephone Box Wenlock

Telephone Box Wenlock

Novel Wenlock

Novel Wenlock (I think!)

Trafalgar Square Wenlock

Trafalgar Square Wenlock

He didn’t see this one of Beefeater Mandeville, but I promised to post photos of others I’ve seen when I’ve been out and about:

Beefeater Wenlock

Beefeater Mandeville

And this one was taken the morning of my last shift when I went in early with hubby and his mum to watch the men’s marathon!

Embankment Wenlock

Embankment Wenlock

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Preparing for the Paralympics

There has been a slight sense of anti-climax since the Olympics finished a couple of weeks ago. I, for one, have been really tired – my Olympic Ambassador shifts were amazing but they left me feeling somewhat exhausted. I think catching up on work hasn’t helped either!

But Olympic fever is back in the air. Or I should say, Paralympic fever. The organisers have been busy over the past few weeks changing the signage and making adjustments to some of the venues ready for the Paralympics and today the torch has been travelling from its home in Stoke Mandeville through to the Olympic Park, ready for tonight’s opening ceremony.

My nephew is visiting me this week and we were lucky enough to see the torch while we were out sight-seeing, as it passed through Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a particularly good photo of the torch itself because there were so many people cheering it on. But it was brilliant to soak up the atmosphere and for my nephew to see it.

Paralympic Torch 29.8.12

The Paralympic Torch procession

Unlike the Olympics, for the Paralympics Trafalgar Square has been transformed into a BT Live Site, with big screens where you can sit and watch the competitions. The Paralympic logo is sitting proudly on the front of the National Gallery and I got a great photo of my nephew in front of the Live Site, with the National Gallery in the background.

Trafalgar Sq Live Site

My nephew in front of the Trafalgar Square Live Site

The weather is very deceptive here. It was dry when I took the photo but we popped into the National Gallery afterwards and it started pouring with rain while we were inside!

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Days 4 & 5 – Piccadilly Circus and Westminster Abbey

I’ve combined my last two shifts into one post as I wasn’t able to get many photos at each and many of the questions were similar to previous days.

On day four, I was posted again to Leicester Square and on arrival the Location Manager (in charge of the information pod and Ambassadors for that area) asked if I could go over to Piccadilly Circus. Being a Saturday afternoon, it was really busy, so we were frequently asked questions and gave away loads of maps and free Time Outs. The most common question, for some reason, was where the Abercrombie & Fitch store is. Not being one for designer gear, I had to look up the answer (Burlington Gardens, just off Regent Street)!

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus

On day five, my final day, we went into town a bit earlier to catch some of the men’s marathon. I then left my husband and his mum to wander round town while I went to my shift. Before I’d even got through the door, I was asked if I could go to Victoria to help redirect people. Victoria Street – the main thoroughfare between Victoria Station and Parliament Square, where the marathon had passed – was closed off due to some emergency gas work, so we needed to give people alternative directions back to the station.

We were positioned opposite Westminster Abbey and at one point had to call Transport for London because people were trying to walk down Victoria Street despite the cordons! Fortunately, the TfL guys were nearby and able to step in to help.

Westminster Abbey

View of Westminster Abbey from where I was standing

Victoria Street

The road cordoned off at Victoria Street

We also spotted a gold post box near where we were standing – all of the Team GB gold medal winners have had a post box painted gold in their home town. Of course, we soon had questions about it and had to look up who it was for. We were scratching our heads as to which athlete lived in Westminster! The answer wasn’t so exciting, however – it was the post box they’d used to test the gold paint! Good spot to test it, where there are always going to be lots of tourists! Presumably that was intentional.

Test gold post box

The test gold post box!

So that’s it, my London Ambassador shifts are over! And the Olympics themselves end tonight. But we still have the closing ceremony and the Paralympics to come. Stay tuned for my thoughts on those.

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Sent to the Tower!

For my third Team London Ambassador shift, I was sent to the Tower of London. I did have a choice to go back to Leicester Square or Covent Garden but the great thing about being in the Flying Squad is that you can experience different areas.

Jane at Tower Bridge

Me at Tower Bridge

I chose the Tower because it’s a great location next to the river and is full of tourists, so it’s the perfect place for meeting and helping lots of people. There were eight of us from the Flying Squad at the Tower today. We were asked to walk around the whole area and give out maps and other area information. The atmosphere was brilliant and I got to speak French a few times.

There are a lot of Olympic-specific events going on here – several of the national hospitality houses within walking distance, including Austria, Denmark and France. One of the House of Nations venues is also in the former moat area of the Tower.

After my shift, I popped into Denmark House and saw this amazing Lego model of the Olympic Park!

Lego stadium

The Olympic Stadium made of Lego!

Lego Park

More of the Olympic Park in Lego

 

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Ambassador Day 2 – Leicester Square!

After meeting at Somerset House again for our start of shift briefing, I was this time deployed to Leicester Square. I was delighted with this, as I know the Leicester Square area a little better than Covent Garden, having worked nearby a few years ago.

I was even more delighted to see that the Ambassador pod is right next to the M&M’s store that I discovered on Monday!

Ambassador pod M&Ms store

The Ambassador pod (on the right) is next to the M&M’s store on Leicester Square!

Today we were given area maps, local walking maps and the new edition of Time Out to give away. My ‘buddy’ for the day (the person you share your shift with) had been in Leicester Square yesterday so she knew the key points, like where the nearest toilets and cash machines are and the common questions.

It wasn’t as busy as it had been in Covent Garden but we still had a steady flow of people coming and asking for maps or how to get to certain places – most often we were asked ‘Where’s Covent Garden?’ or ‘Where’s Trafalgar Square?’

At the end of our shift we were given our Day Two pins, this time of the London Eye. So I now have three badges to wear during my shift: the language badge that says I speak French, the Day One pin of the London skyline and the Day Two pin. We don’t get another pin until our fifth and final day.

My badges

My three badges

It is a bit strange that the French language badge is orange; it would have been better if the languages badges reflected the country colours or flags but none of them do. And yes, for the eagle-eyed among you, the ‘français’ shouldn’t have a capital letter. I have fed that back!

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My first London Ambassador shift in Covent Garden

Today I donned my lovely pink and purple uniform for my first London Ambassador Flying Squad shift. I think it’s the first time I’ve had to wear a uniform since I left school and it made a nice change not having to decide what to wear!

Clearly, the uniform works as I got asked directions on my way to the station near home! I also got asked a couple of things when I arrived at Charing Cross station and en route from there to Somerset House on the Strand, where we had to gather for our Flying Squad briefing.

There were about 35 of us starting our Flying Squad afternoon shifts today. At Somerset House, which is hosting one of the London Ambassador management bases during the Olympic Games, as well as Brazil’s national hospitality house, we were signed in for our shifts and given an overview briefing before being deployed to areas that needed extra support.

To my delight, I was assigned to cover Covent Garden with five other members of the Flying Squad. Covent Garden – famous for its piazza, stylish shops and cafes and, of course, the Royal Opera House – is only a short walk from Somerset House so we were there in no time. The manager of the Covent Garden Ambassador pod gave us a short briefing about the vicinity and common questions and then deployed us to various spots in the area.

Armed with maps and copies of Time Out to give away, I headed over to join some other Ambassadors near the tube station. We were soon inundated with questions, mostly about how to get certain places or whether you can get Olympic tickets at the venues (you can’t, you have to buy them in advance online).

We were also often asked where specific shops were and how to get to the Olympic shop and museum, both of which are located in the Royal Opera House for the duration of the Games. I was even asked at one point about the Hat Walk, which I knew nothing about until I looked it up!

During the afternoon I was able to move around the area a little, still giving out the free maps and Time Out, and was even able to use my French to help a couple of people (those of us who are multilingual wear badges to indicate which languages we speak).

At one point a camera crew arrived to film the activity on our pod and we all had our photos taken together and separately with an Olympic Torch. I don’t have copies of these yet but I will post them when I do.

The afternoon flew by and it was time to sign off from our shift before we knew it! I really enjoyed the shift, meeting lots of new Ambassadors and visitors to London. I also learned a few things about Covent Garden myself today. I wonder where I’ll be deployed to tomorrow? It’s possible I could be back at Covent Garden but I won’t know that until I get to Somerset House again tomorrow. So tune in then to find out!

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Whiff-whaff, Westfield and M&M’s

Did you know table tennis was originally called whiff-whaff? Neither did we but it’s one of the things we learned when we went to see the table tennis at the Olympics on Monday.

It was an early start as we had to be at the venue – the ExCeL centre – for 8am, in order to get through the security and be at our seats by 9.30am. As it happened, the journey was smooth (it’s just over an hour from where we live) and because we were one of the first there, we got through security quickly. We had plenty of time for breakfast and a look around the spectator area before we had to take our seats. This is where we learned about whiff-whaff, at an exhibition about the history of table tennis.

ExCeL centre

The ExCeL centre (photo by David Walkley)

We also had the opportunity to have our photo taken with an Olympic torch!

JaneDavidTorch

With the Olympic Torch

Given all the recent controversy over empty seats we had wondered how busy it would be but the arena soon started to fill up and there was barely an empty seat by the time the match kicked off. We were watching the women’s team event semi-final, between current champions China and South Korea.

Table tennis teams on court

South Korea’s and China’s women’s teams come onto court (photo by David Walkley)

Hubby David plays table tennis in a couple of local leagues, so he knows a thing or two about the sport and was filling me in on the rules before the match started. It’s similar to tennis but the winner of a game is the first to 11 points. The team event consists of singles and doubles matches; the matches are the best of five games and the team event is the best of five matches.

David had warned me that it would all be very fast – this is Olympic standard, after all! And he was right. The speed with which each team returned the balls was phenomenal – blink and you missed it! There were some good rallies, particularly in the second of the three matches we saw, but mostly the points were won really quickly. China dominated throughout, winning each match 3-0 and the overall event also 3-0.

http://www.london2012.com/venue/excel/

One of the singles matches (photo by David Walkley)

This meant that the whole thing was over in little more than 90 minutes, which was slightly disappointing as we then had to leave the arena. It would have been nice to see a few more matches. Some of the GB spectators had been cheering on South Korea in the hope they might claw a game or two back to lengthen our time in the arena!

After leaving ExCeL we decided to make the most of our free one-day travelcards that had come with our tickets and headed over to the Olympic Park in Stratford. We knew we wouldn’t be able to get into the Park as we didn’t already have an event ticket or day pass (I’d tried several times but none were available for the that day) but we could still look round the area and soak up the atmosphere. The new Westfield shopping centre, built especially for the Olympics, was heaving with people but David managed to get some nice shots of the stadium from the viewing gallery within the centre.

View of the stadium from Westfield

View of the Olympic Stadium from Westfield (photo by David Walkley)

After having a coffee within Westfield, we decided to head into central London to soak up more of the atmosphere there. We sat in Trafalgar Square for a while and saw some of my fellow Ambassadors there, before having a quick look around the National Portrait Gallery‘s current Olympic exhibition.

We then headed the short distance to Leicester Square and spotted the new M&M’s World store. I’d heard about it as part of my Ambassador training but hadn’t seen it yet. I was expecting a sweet shop with lots of M&M’s on sale but hadn’t imagined a megastore over four floors of total madness! Any type of branded goods you could possibly imagine – and many you won’t even have thought of – are on sale in the shop. From sweet dispensers to kitchen equipment, they’ve thought of everything. You can even have your very own colour mixed!

M&Ms World

A rainbow of M&M’s!

If you love M&M’s, it’s definitely worth a visit. Even if you don’t, it’s still worth experiencing this crazy sweetshop!

So that was one crazy day of whiff-whaff, Westfield and M&M’s! I’m looking forward to starting my Ambassador shifts tomorrow.

 

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