Volunteering at the Olympic Games 2012
If you saw the Olympics Opening Ceremony, chances are you also saw Meltwater´s very own Mariah Hamailainen. Out of the 205 women who were chosen to represent each country, Mariah was chosen to lead the Jamaican team with Usain Bolt! Since this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, we asked what it was like to play a role in the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Mariah let us in on how it all came together, what her favorite part was, and even some behind the scenes action:
Coordination skills and Danny Boyle
The first auditions were in batches of 200 people, and our first test was on coordination skills. Because the ceremonies are much about mass movement and lots of people on the field of play, you need to be able to quickly identify where you are to be in relations to other people. The organizers had drawn lines on the floors and gave us coordinates, as: “all the odd numbers goes to C7” to see how quick we responded to instructions. We also had to do catwalk walking to music and dance in front of Danny Boyle (the director of Slumdog Millionaire), who was the creative director for the opening ceremony.
The auditions mainly focused on how you are as a person, and how you conduct yourself. There were no interviews, and no questions asked. I think they were searching for certain kind of people for certain roles, because all of the 205 girls who were chosen to represent the countries looked a little bit alike. I had my hair braided at the first audition so I looked really Scandinavian, and as they wanted to match the girls with the countries they least looked like they were coming from – I ended up with Jamaica.
Shoes, fake lashes, and how London became a little bit smaller
We spent a lot of weekends and evenings at rehearsals, though the rehearsing was mainly for the organizers as they were to coordinate 8000 people. As there was a lot of sitting around, I got to know quite a lot of the other girls very well. Now it feels like London is a little bit smaller, as I have lots of new friends.
We didn’t receive anything for being a volunteer, and I believe that´s why it worked out so well: everyone wanted to give instead of take. But we did get to keep the costume we wore at the ceremony, the shoes and the fake lashes.
Behind the scenes
Before the opening ceremony, we were all lined up in a tunnel, hair and make-up was checked, then checked again. The volunteers had an earpiece and were coordinated the whole time, so when it was our turn to enter the field, I was focused on doing what I was told, walking to the music and smiling. Towards the end, after we had done our circle around the stadium, Usain Bolt and I were to stop, turn around and watch the athletes from his team go onto the field. Then him and I were to walk up the hill to the tree, he was to give the flag to one of the other volunteers before going back to his team. That´s what was supposed to happen. This is what actually happened: we were walking, and we got to the point where Usain Bolt and I were to stop. Except Usain Bolt didn´t stop. I panicked a little bit, and he is quite big, so I couldn´t just gently tap at his shoulder – so I grabbed his arm and said: “Dude – stop!” He looked at me like: “who are you to tell me to stop.” Then he stopped
The closing ceremony
It was fabulous to see all these stars backstage like the Spice Girls, Tinie Tempah, Jessie J and so on – I realized they’re all really tiny in real life! Victoria Beckham is so skinny and small I was really amazed! Downside was that no one showed up from the Jamaican Team – when they lined us up behind the stadium and everyone was paired with one athlete from their country, I realized no one came from Jamaica and just before we went on, the flag was given to me and the guy just said well you carry it! So I did (proudly as well!)
Though not glamorous, it was a great experience to be part of the Olympics. I do not think they could have organized the Olympics without volunteers, and I wanted to make an effort for London. I’m still in awe of the whole two weeks that my hometown got to stage the biggest event in human history – the atmosphere here has been fantastic! It has been an absolutely amazing experience and even though it was a lot of time and energy spent, I’m really going to miss the people and the whole experience.