There’s much talk in the press at the moment about the 2012 volunteers, as the LOCOG website has announced that volunteering applications for specialist roles open on 27 July this year, and for generalist roles in September. Reading this, I immediately took a look on the BL catalogue, wondering if the experiences of the volunteers of previous London Olympics had been recorded, and if so how. Using ‘volunteering’ as a keyword in the catalogue, it instantly became apparent that there is a huge body of literature on the broad subject itself, which covers volunteers of all sorts, be they students on gap years in developing countries or unpaid sports coaches (and there are enormous numbers of the latter, without whom a lot of grass-roots sport clearly would not take place at all).
But there’s more to volunteering for the Olympics than that. According to David Brettell, writing in the Olympic review about the experience of the Sydney 2000 Olympic volunteers, the work of these 62,000 individuals during the games ‘linked the community to the event and provided a lot of people with direct ‘ownership’ of [it]’ (the full text of this article is available on the LA84 website; see the link below). Their efforts also contributed to a legacy of volunteering in the community, a hoped for outcome of the volunteering project for the London 2012 games. As LOCOG puts it on their website, London 2012 will leave a legacy of “a new volunteering spirit, an improved volunteer network with more opportunities and better training for those who want to give their most important commodity – time’.
What is striking about Brettell’s article is the emphasis he puts on the importance of how the Sydney volunteers were trained, and treated. People were forbidden to characterise themselves as ‘only’ a volunteer, and it was made clear to them how much their contributions were valued. It all came down to ‘respect’ seemingly.
Anyhow, it will be interesting to see how the volunteering side of 2012 pans out. Personally, I hope the volunteers will record their experiences in some way, and that a few may even write books which will find their way here!
David Brettell ‘The Sydney volunteers’ in Olympic review 2001, vol 27, no 42 http://www.la84foundation.org/OlympicInformationCenter/OlympicReview/2001/OREXXVII42/OREXXVII42u.pdf
Volunteers, global society and the Olympic Movement (International symposium) (1999 Nov : Lausanne, Switzerland)
Lending Collections shelfmark: m00/45458
Max Walker and Gerry Gleeson
The Volunteers : how ordinary Australians brought about the extraordinary success of the Sydney 2000 Games
Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2001.
London reference Collections shelfmark: YA.2002.a.10825