Games Makers Micky Stevenson and Tina Harding thought it would be great to bring together half a dozen Olympic volunteers over a Chinese meal – just as a way to keep in touch after the summer’s antics. They ended up hiring the Hilton London Metropole for the evening of February 2 as the numbers soared into the hundreds.
“Within an hour there were fifty people interested,” said Stevenson. “It was into the hundreds after one day and then we knew we needed to find a venue.”
Stevenson, who is from Nottingham, and Harding, from Sussex, were among the thousands of volunteers who made the Games happen during the summer of 2012. Harding worked on accreditation at the Park Lane Hilton and Stevenson was part of the transport team at Earls Court.
Several venue viewings took place in the lead up to the party. Choices included the Piccadilly Hard Rock Café and Park Lane Hilton. Even Lords cricket ground became an option seeing as the pair had a fellow Games Maker contact working there. “We just kept outgrowing places,” said Stevenson wide eyed and enthusiastically. “In the end we knew we were going to have to hire a venue to hold around 350 to 400 people.”
In a bid to raise money and mark the volunteers one-year anniversary of their orientation training at Wembley arena, the pair planned and organised an evening of dancing and a gala style dinner.
Although those attending seemed to show more than enough interest, it was difficult to get such huge institutions to take them seriously. Where was their Olympic spirit?
“At first Tina and I knew that people weren’t that interested, they didn’t really know what it was or what we were doing.” But after presenting photographs taken by Stevenson of 300 Games Makers outside the National Portrait Gallery, management began to take notice and more venue offers arose.
Just as the Olympics could not have happened without helping hands, 70.000 to be exact, neither could the party go ahead without Harding and Stevenson’s enthusiasm. The two got a team together of fellow Games Makers they had met along their Olympic journey and were set to go.
“What is important here is that all of the Games Makers have come together. We’ve had people baking cakes, knitting and even the table decorations have been made by them too,” said Harding.
“The hotel supplied only the rooms and tables. As far as decorating, that has all been done by the volunteers. It’s self-funded, there has been no corporate sponsorship. Everyone has funded themselves.”
The Games Makers emphasised the importance of equality within the Olympics. “Games Makers come from all walks of life, we’ve seen dustbin men, surgeons, even a helicopter pilot. The whole thing about the Games is the idea of inclusivity and the legacy is important,” explained Stevenson. “That is why the dress code to our event was either Games Maker uniform or a suit or tuxedo. That way people already had something if they could afford nothing else.”
Using the party as a jump off to launch their Spirit of London 2012 charity, both Harding and Stevenson are confident that they can encourage those who currently volunteer to carry on and those who never have to take it up.
“We’re fundraising to send an athlete to Rio. We were set a goal to raise £10000 in eight months. We had already raised £2000 in two weeks so it looks like more than one person is being sent to Rio.”
Working with the charity ‘Get Kids Going’, all funds raised from the party will go towards sending 17-year-old Team GB Paralympian Sheikh Sheikh to Rio in 2016.
Both Sheikh and Louise Hunt, also a GB Paralympian, attended the anniversary party as VIP guests. The Games Makers were also surprised with personal messages from Eddie Izzard and Baroness Tanni Grey.
When the bid for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was made in the name of London, the promise was to create a legacy that would inspire a nation in so many ways.
Stevenson explained “Spirit of London is about volunteering and going forward to make a difference. If we don’t do that then the Games are just a memory, something that happened in London 2012. We are bringing the legacy forward.”