Olympic driving

Geoff Ruffell is an invigilator at Bournemouth University who supports ALS students during the examination period. Here he recounts his experiences as a volunteer at the London Olympics.

Almost 250,000 people were interviewed for 70,000 posts as volunteers for the London Olympics. My wife was chosen to work on ticketing which allowed her access to all areas of the Olympic Park.  I was offered the position of driver in any one of the 4000 brand new BMWs which had been donated for the duration of the games. My role was to transport IOC officials, visiting dignitaries, Heads of State and athletes from airports to hotels and venues. There were some very high profile people whose meetings were mainly with the Prime  Minister, the Mayor of London and LOCOG officials (London Organising Committee Olympic and Paralympics’ Games). 

 Since the Atlanta Games in 1996, when the transport system failed and athletes were either late to their event or failed to arrive at all, the IOC imposed a rule that a proper integrated transport system must be established by the host country. The LOCOG committed themselves to this with a percentage of extra vehicles to cover any unforeseen emergencies. 

 Driving in London traffic is frustrating at times with the sheer volume of vehicles on the road.  Had it not have been for the special Olympic lanes provided for us, we would not have been able to deliver our passengers on time to events and meetings. The traffic lights had been re-phased so that three vehicles would go through followed by a wait of several minutes before you could move.  As the lights are only about 100yds apart you can imagine how slow our journeys could be.

 I started work around 6.30am after getting up two hours earlier to catch a bus and two trains to get to the Olympic Park.  The days were long and tiring but enjoyable and as the amount of people coming in each day was in excess of 160,000, there was plenty of activity. Other venues were close by and were easy to get to by Underground so the people watching the Games were moved in vast numbers by London Transport without any problems. 

 All in all I found the experience enjoyable and although I did not transport any Gold Medal Winners, I saw other well-known people such as Condaleeza Rice and Vanessa Feltz.  The experience was one I would not have missed and as I was only two years old when the Games were here last, the opportunity had to be taken: a once in a lifetime experience.  

 Geoff Ruffell.


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