Our Brokerage and Support Manager helps out at the Olympics!
05 October 2012
Jenny Harris, our Senior Operational Manager for Brokerage and Support, writes:
"Where are you going on your leave? Heathrow. Then where? No just Heathrow. So started my time as a Gamesmaker for the Olympics and Paralympics. I was part of the Meet and Greet Team at Heathrow Airport. We were welcoming athletes, officials, and dignitaries attending the games - and also saying farewells. We had already been on a training programme to get prepared and also, of course, collected our uniforms. There were some among my team who had thought I was auditioning for a street dance crew (the hat was decidedly dodgy) but it turns out that uniform was extremely comfortable and practical and something of which we very quickly became proud.
My duties started at Terminal 3 on July 10 - three weeks before the Games started, but at which point people were already arriving. Arrangements were in place for athletes to get on coaches to the Olympic Village, cars available for the ‘important people’, and free rides on the Heathrow Express for official press and officials.
The highlight of week 1 was meeting Lord Seb Coe.
So what did we do? We spent a lot of time standing with welcome boards and smiles on our faces waiting for people to come through into the land side arrival hall. We then took them to the next point in the relay - the transport team, who got them to their transport and away. We prided ourselves that from the time the plane touched down, to the time our guests departed, we had got them through the airport in an hour or less. At one point, luggage consisted of 48 canoes belonging to the British under 23's Canoe Team who were returning from the World Championships - nothing to do with the Olympics, but causing great excitement in the arrivals area all the same!
In fact a lot of what we did was not Olympics-related. Just by having a very visible presence we quickly became (a) target practice for passengers with their luggage trolleys and (b) providing information to passengers. I am now an expert on where to charge your mobile phone, internet access points, post office locations, lost luggage, tube travel, the Heathrow Express train - and no, there is not a MacDonalds at Terminal 3!!
Did I meet any athletes then? Yes I did, and suspect I appeared on Chinese and Japanese television fairly frequently as they brought their large teams through. I chatted to people waiting for athletes such as the Chief Executive of the Archery Association for GB, who was waiting for the International President and the Chef de Mission of the Azerbijan Paralympic Team.
People came through at such a pace that we really didn’t have a lot of time for chat. Our role was just to keep the well-oiled machine rolling.
All too soon, my first three weeks came to an end and I was able to celebrate in style as I had the privilege of a ticket to the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony. Even in rehearsal it was extraordinarily moving and I had to keep pinching myself to make sure I was really there. All those people singing Jerusalem and the National Anthem at the top of their voices was amazing.
All too quickly the Games were over, but excitement was mounting again for the Paralympics. I got a transfer to Terminal 1. It was fascinating that each of the terminal Meet and Greet Teams were doing the same job but in only five weeks each terminal had developed their own culture and way of doing things, and having been so confident I knew exactly what to do I was now on another rapid learning curve to do it the Terminal 1 way!
Then it was my last day but even that was thrilling as I met all the Brazilian Paralympians on their way home.
I met such wonderful new colleagues, Olympians, Paralympians, travellers and staff at Heathrow (of which there are thousands).
Would I do it again? You bet. I’ve got four years to learn Portugese and get saving for Rio..."
Senior Operational Manager: Brokerage and Support
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