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The 2002 Commonwealth Games - A Volunteer's Perspective

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The 2002 Commonwealth Games were held in Manchester, in the summer of that year. Crew 2002 were a volunteer team (in purple!) who were recruited to ensure the games run smoothly. This entry is designed to show what being a volunteer at such a big event is like.

The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is a group of 54 countries1, each of which have some connection to the UK (that is, were once part of the British Empire, or still see the UK head of state as their ruler). There are, however, 72 Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) eligible to take part in the Games, due to the fact that some Commonwealth countries have more than one CGA (such as the UK, which is split into England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey). A full list of CGAs can be found at the Commonwealth Games website.

The Games

The first Commonwealth Games was held in Canada in 1930, and since then there have been 16 more Games, with one held every four years (excepting the war years of 1942 and 1946).

The sports featured in each games vary, but the ones at Manchester were athletics, badminton, boxing, cycling, diving, gymnastics, hockey, judo, lawn bowls, netball, rugby, shooting, squash, swimming, synchronised swimming, table tennis, triathlon, weightlifting, and wrestling.

A Commonwealth Games Volunteer's Story

As I have always loved watching the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games on the television, I couldn't resist when I saw a volunteer application form for the Manchester Commonwealth Games on the Internet. I filled in the form, and after a while I was told that I was on the reserve list - they would contact me later if there was room for me. I'd almost forgotten I had ever volunteered when I got a letter inviting me to Manchester for an interview, which wasn't so much of an interview as finding out what job we wanted to do, which venue we wanted to work at, and letting us know what was involved. I was put down for 'Mag and Bag' at Sportcity - the athletics stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were also taking place.

Mag and Bag

Mag and Bag, it turned out, meant security - putting everyone who wanted access to Sportcity through a magnetic detector and searching their bags. I had to attend two training sessions prior to the Games - one showing the layout of the entrance gates we would be working on and teaching us how to use the magnetic search wands, and one at Sportcity itself to show us round the stadium and give us a dry run of searching bags and checking people. I also had to collect my accreditation (security pass) and my gorgeous purple uniform.
I worked 12 days during the two weeks of the Games. The shifts were mostly meant to be from midday until ten o'clock at night; however, once the crowds disappeared most of us were allowed to go early.
I can now categorically state that rugby fans carry more 'banned' items than athletics fans. One of our main jobs was to confiscate all the banned items we found in people's bags and in their pockets. These included anything illegal in the UK (such as guns), but also penknives, bottles, cans and flags/banners over a certain size. We were getting a steady flow of banned items over the athletics days (all of which were thrown in special bins, and then disposed of by the police), but on the first day of the rugby I managed the astounding feat of collecting 13 penknives and a cap gun in the space of 30 minutes. We also seized a bottle of Chardonnay, and the looks on our faces as we dropped it into the bin were sights to behold!

The Showbiz Gates

One of the nicest things about working at the Commonwealth Games was all the new people you met - not only the general public but the other volunteers - as we weren't in the same group each day. Every morning the group leaders would essentially pick the ten people who were standing nearest them to be in their group and work on the same gate. Of course, the gates we all wanted to work on were the Media and Athletes' Gates, as that's where all the famous people were! We tried in vain to discover beforehand which team leader was on which gate, as they switched every day too. No sooner had I given up trying to cheat the system like that, I ended up working on the Athletes' gate for a day!
Working the Athletes' gate had to be the best Mag and Bag job, as not only did you meet all the Athletes as they entered the stadium complex, the gate was right next to the warm-up track so you could stand and watch the Athletes warm up during the quiet moments.
I didn't, however, get to see any of the actual Games (apart from on television on my days off) due to the fact that we were working all day, and didn't have the correct accreditation for access into the actual stadium. A couple of us did sneak into the stadium one day, to try to see a bit of the action, but were thrown out again after 30 seconds!

After The Games

Every volunteer at the Games received a medal in a presentation box as a thank you for making the Games the success they were. We also got to keep our uniforms, which, believe it or not, has come in quite useful as an umbrella and raincoat were included.
Although it was very hard work, and exhausting at times, I would definitely recommend volunteering at a big sporting event to everybody out there. It is such an amazing experience to be part of something so big, and to feel that you helped to make it successful.
1Membership numbers go up and down according tot he political situation of any one country.

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