Church News and Events

LDS Volunteers Add to the Olympic Spirit in London

  • 8 August 2012

Elliot Blakemore, Debbie Twigger, and Tony Twigger at the technical rehearsal of the Olympic Opening Ceremony. These and many other LDS volunteers are donating their time and talents to support the 2012 Olympics in London, England.

At venues both around London and farther away, at train stations, at bus depots, and on the streets and underground train platforms of London, the familiar purple and orange uniforms of the London 2012 “games-makers” can be seen. The “games-makers” are the 70,000 volunteers of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, so called by Lord Sebastian Coe, chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee who commented, “Volunteers can make or break the games.”

Members from wards of the Church in Great Britain are among those original 240,000 individuals who applied more than two years ago to be part of the “Greatest Show on Earth” in London and at other venues.

Volunteering at the Olympics first started at the London games in 1948. In September 2010, 100,000 interviews took place, and the chosen 70,000 volunteers are being used to fill hundreds of roles—from raking sand on the volleyball court to helping in the press office, and from scanning spectators’ tickets to transporting the athletes. Most volunteers donate at least 10 days, working up to 11-hour shifts, often at their own expense. Most attended a minimum of three training days, and some had to pass a test to qualify to volunteer.

Debbie Twigger, a games-maker from the Northampton England Stake, has an inside view of being involved in the games.

“Back in 2005, when London won the bid to stage the Olympics, I immediately thought about trying to volunteer and was delighted when the London Organizing Committee started to ask for anyone who would be interested in volunteering to register,” she said. About two years ago, after her application was submitted and after many months of waiting to hear, she received an invitation to attend an interview in February of 2012.

She is now a team leader within Events Services, which is the public face of the games. These volunteers deal with the spectators. Their service encompasses scanning tickets, manning information points, and providing mobility services and more for specific areas and events. She describes the experience as “a dream come true.”

“I have always enjoyed watching the Olympic Games, but when I read about the missionaries in Greece volunteering in the Athens Olympics several years ago, I felt this was something I would like to do,” she said. “I am currently stake director of public affairs, and I regularly get involved in organizing Helping Hands activities within the Northampton stake.”

By the time the Olympic flame is extinguished on August 12, Sister Twigger will have volunteered for 136 hours over 14 days. Some days she has begun volunteering at volleyball matches at 9:00 a.m. and hasn’t stopped until they were over—at midnight. She has been on one of the first and last trains out of London’s King’s Cross station, but she has no regrets.

“The experience has been absolutely fantastic, working 11-hour shifts with wonderful, supportive people who work as a team,” she said. “There is a brilliant atmosphere in London with happy spectators who are very complimentary and appreciative of all the volunteers and the roles they are playing. There has been a real feeling of being part of a team, and whether we are seated next to a police marksman in the canteen or are coordinating with some of the hundreds of army soldiers providing the security, I have been treated with kindness. The Olympics have really brought the best out of not just the athletes but also everyone involved with them, including the spectators.”

Many other LDS volunteers have also put forth their best efforts during the Olympic Games in Great Britain.

Olympic Games Volunteers

Richard Davies

A member of the Merthyr Tydfil Ward, Brother Davies has been a member of the Church for 40 years. He is a team leader on the time trial events and is also a marshall for the road race events.

He stated, “I have always been involved in sport, cycling, and running. Since returning to the UK 13 years ago, after living for 9 years in the Middle East, I have participated in running and cycling, and combining the two with duathlons. So I became involved in cycling as a volunteer.”

Brother Davies has been deeply involved in many facets of cycling—organizing, overseeing, and participating in many local and regional cycling events. Getting involved with the Road Cycling events at the Olympic Games was a natural progression for him.

Jan Davidson

Sister Davidson, from the Wembley Ward, is a keen former athlete. She is working with the print distribution team at the volleyball tournament at Earls Court.

“I am blessed to be among a fabulous group of people that make up our team, and the spirit of camaraderie has been amazing,” she said. “The atmosphere in the stadium is electric, and fans of all the nations taking part bring the place alive. You cannot buy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It has been worth every ounce of sacrifice, and the memories of it will stay with me long into the future.”

Elliot Blakemore

A security team entry member for the Olympic Park main gates and the main press office, 29-year-old Elliot Blakemore comes from a family of five in Horsham, West Sussex. He has enjoyed being active and playing sports for most of his life. He recently completed a degree in acoustics at Salford University in Manchester and has been attending the Manchester Young Single Adult Ward.

“I love volunteering and meeting like-minded people who want to serve and enjoy life,” he said. “My experience so far of the Olympics has been fun, and I appreciate the opportunity to see everything first hand.”

Nicholas Walker

Brother Walker is from the Weymouth Ward and was baptized in 1971. He serves as an Olympic ambassador on the south coast of England.

I am the smile that welcomed the world to Weymouth and Portland for the sailing events,” he said. His first duty was on July 27, 2012, at Weymouth on the night of the Opening Ceremony.

Wendy Milner

Sister Milner, stake Relief Society president for the Ashton stake, volunteered at Old Trafford—Manchester United’s football club—giving out uniforms to other volunteers. During the games she is helping with transportation, welcoming coaches and VIPs, and directing spectators.

“I’m really enjoying my volunteering and think it’s a fantastic opportunity to help out in the community,” she said. “I’ve also been able to share why I got involved in the Olympics, and have had missionary conversations.”

Emma Hart

Emma Hart is based at Wimbledon for the tennis events. She is trained to use accessibility lifts, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and other means to help spectators who may have difficulty accessing the venue. Sister Hart is a member of the Ashford Ward, Canterbury stake.

“I have always loved the Olympics since I can remember,” she said. “As soon as I knew the Olympics were coming to London, I wanted to be a part of it and not just watch it.”

Robert Wharf

Robert Wharf is a member of the Bury St. Edmunds Ward in the Ipswich stake. His role is providing security as an entry team member.

“I am at Olympic Park, and I am having a fantastic time volunteering,” he said. “It is something I will never forget doing.”

Adrian Evans

Brother Evans, a member of the Bristol First Ward, was one of the first people to see the Olympic athletes, coaches, and officials as they arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport prior to the start of the games. He assisted athletes and officials as they arrived and will assist them as they leave.

Shauna Hichens

Sister Hichens, from the Slough Ward, Staines stake, is part of a team at the venue where the rowing and canoe sprint events are being held. The team includes members from the local police, the National Health Service, and local councils, and ensures that any incidents such as traffic delays or accidents are quickly publicized.

Paralympic Games Volunteers

Laura Parker

Sister Parker is on the events services team at the Paralympics, which begin on August 29, 2012. Her duties will mainly consist of of ushering people to their seats, scanning tickets, and making sure spectators are in a safe environment. She is a member of the Leicester England Stake and currently attends the University of Northampton as an occupational therapy student.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a chance to be part of something amazing,” she said. “As this was in the summer and I am on break, I couldn’t miss this opportunity.”

Timothy Kay

Brother Kay will direct people to the wheelchair basketball venue from transport hubs such as the underground train and bus stations.

“I volunteered because I thought it would be a good experience,” he said. “At the time of the interviews, I was a chemistry student, but I am now working as a print finisher.”

Pat Orme

At 68 years of age, Pat Orme, a member of the Wembley Ward, Watford stake, is one of the older volunteers. Pat is due to work on the technology team.

Louise Hadfield

Sister Hadfield of the Poole stake has been a member of the Church for three years and is a volunteer for the British Red Cross. She was asked to aid the emergency response team.

“I will be helping out at the Paralympics in Weymouth for the sailing events,” she said, expressing her excitement at being able to serve at the Olympics.

Tony Twigger

Tony Twigger will guide spectators to the different events taking place—gymnastics, boxing, judo, and more. He is a member of the bishopric in the Kettering Ward of the Northampton stake. He is “excited to be part of such a wonderful, worldwide event,” he said.

Nathaniel Chell

Nathaniel Chell is the bishop of the Stevenage Ward, St Albans stake, and will be volunteering at the Paralympics.