I was one of the very lucky ones back in early 2011 to be selected as a Volunteer or Games Maker, one of 70 000 for all the sports that would be held in London in August 2012. My sport is weightlifting so you can imagine my joy when I heard I would be in the Excel Centre helping the weightlifting competition, but in what capacity? I had to wait!
First, there were a number of training events held in London including one in Wembley. Then I was invited to the International Competition held in December 2011 at the Excel Centre - this was a test event to see if preparations were on schedule. Unfortunately, someone said put him on the desk of one of the nearby Hotels where VIPs (IWF officials, coaches and some lifters) were staying and give out free jackets and also give them information of their return flights. One group of people asked me how to get to Buckingham Palace hoping to see the Queen. Well I told them it was very unlikely, but gave them directions on the Tube and guess what they saw the Royal Family entering in their State car that afternoon. How lucky were they?
I also met Vyacheslav Klokov and Aleksandr Kurlovich while minding the front desk! I had gone as spectator to the 1981 World Weightlifting champs held in Lille, and had photographed young Vyacheslav Klokov. That night I found some photos of him (he came 2nd in the Heavyweight 110 kg class) and the next day he kindly autographed them for me! Amazing! I then stupidly challenged him to an Arm-Wrestling contest and he nearly broke my arm! “You are still strong Mr Klokov”, I said and he said “YES I am still strong”.
Good job I did not challenge Mr Kurlovich! Still, I did have one over them both. I asked if they wanted free Olympic Games Jackets and offered them the XL ones. “NO, we are XXL”, they said. “No I don’t think so”, I replied and I was right when they tried the XXL ones on – far too big! They had shrunk since their lifting days.
My Journey every day from Whitstable to London (65 miles) was hard! I was often getting up at 4.00 am! I then drove to a place close to Canada Water tube station and roughly 1 hour later was at the Excel Centre using the DLR and Jubilee Line. Transport across London was free for Volunteers.
I had used a website to find a place to park my car about 15 min walk to Canada Water tube station. The tubes were being operated even on Sundays at 7 am. There was a lot of security but eventually I got to the Technical Officials office. The two people in charge were Matthew Curtain and Moira Lassen. I was part of the Technical Officials team.
My duties included: helping in the weighing in area, liaising with Drug Control, taking the accreditation from the athletes and handing back to the athletes if they were not required for drug testing, handing out bibs to the athletes in the warm up area.
I got to see the athletes as they were about to go into weigh in room. One day I met the great David RIGERT and I asked him for his autograph. Nyet was his reply. At the very end I did get his autograph! He came in as Russian Coach and struck off two names: Dimitry Klokov and Khadzhimurat Akkayev in the 105 kg class. Why? These delicate men were suffering from Bad Back. At that point I pounced on Rigert with an Olympic program and a pen and he kindly signed it and drew a nice cartoon of someone snatching. My treasured souvenir along with Olympic Games Maker outfit, diary, umbrella!
My Boss was the lovely Moira Lassen who is one of the IWF executive board members and was in charge of all the Technical Officials.
One day I went home with the office KEYS! I got an urgent phone call and text message as I drove into Whitstable that evening! Oh dear – I never did that again. Luckily, I think there was a spare set of keys!
I really enjoyed my 9 days and met some of the strongest women and men in the World. I shook hands with Hossein Rezazadeh smiled at Lulu Zhou and Tatiana Kashirina (and she smiled back).
A truly once in a lifetime experience.
The one bad memory was seeing Mathias Steiner, the great German lifter, hurt himself very badly with an attempted 196 kg snatch that fell on his head and he was in real trouble. I think he retired the next year.
Finally, I just want to point out that more than 50 lifters have been disqualified from retesting samples from 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. Yet how many were caught out in World and European Championships? I personally think a minimum 5-year ban for a lifter (1st offence) and life ban for a 2nd offence and if 3 or more athletes from one country are caught in a year the Country should be banned for 5 years.
Here is a Table of numbers of Weightlifters who were disqualified for banned substance us at Olympic Games since 1972.
- David Mannion