At less than three seconds’ notice, I am shoving my oversized accreditation and lanyard inside my polo shirt (bad for the TV cameras) and sprinting up the trackside access stairs – normally strictly reserved for medal ceremonies – up onto the field of play. Suddenly I am front and centre for 45,000 people at Hampden Park stadium, in the middle of the athletics arena for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“Where is he?” I have to shout in the ear of a steward over the immense noise of the crowd.
“Up there, somewhere.” She points to the stands, presumably in the rough direction that Will Sharman, the English silver medallist in the 110m hurdles who has just received his medal, has dashed off to. My job – assigned still less than five seconds ago – is to find him, keep him in sight, and get him back down to the Competition Management area below the stadium as soon as possible.
I run off the trackside and up into the stands, looking for my missing athlete. After furtively looking up and down every aisle I find him, eventually, on a sort of hidden platform taking photos with his partner and son, cradling his silver medal. Another volunteer, presumably from spectator services, looks very relieved to see me.
A few minutes and a few thousand photos later I manage to convince Will back down the way we came, so he can be channelled through his various press and other post-event obligations.
We jog down the steps towards the track. As I open the gate onto the field of playWill laughs;
“You could have hurdled that.” I’m not quite quick enough with a response.
But as we reach the top of the medal ceremony stairs and I am about to breathe a sigh of relief and hand Will back into the efficient stage management of the stewards, the gun fires in the women’s 1500m final, just a few feet from where we’re standing. Will looks me in the eye and asks, with a masterful balance of humility and confidence, whether he can watch the race from here.
So there I am, crouching at the top of the stairs, watching the women’s 1500m final of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, while an English silver medallist gives me a running commentary on his teammates’ tactics and positioning.
I have a lot of stories from my volunteering experience at Glasgow 2014, but this is definitely my favourite.