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WEST WALES media consultant

Robert Lloyd is spending time in Rio de Janeiro volunteering at the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. He will be reporting exclusively for The Herald newspaper series on his adventures.


It’s the big question you get asked

every day out here in Rio – why did you volunteer?

Everyone has their reasons. Some are big fans of the Olympics.

Others want to play a part in The Greatest Show on Earth. Others are passionate about being

involved in movement which ‘tries’ to play a part in unifying the world and promoting peaceful cooperation. Some are sports mad ‘freaks’ or ‘fans’, depending on your point of view. Others like the opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the globe. For me, it’s a little bit of everything

above. Certainly, the experience of working

in such international company is very rewarding. Being a volunteer isn’t an easy ride.

To get to Rio, volunteers have to cover their own air fare and accommodation costs. In Rio (as in London), the volunteer

schedule for many of us has been demanding – at the close of the Olympics, I will have ‘worked’ 11 days. For some volunteers, tasks can be

straightforward, but for others, like my colleagues on the operational team, the work can be demanding – events have to start on time, competitions have to be judged properly, results and statistics and news information has to be prepared in double-quick time. The professionalism of most of the

Team GB after winning silver at the sevens tournament

volunteers is outstanding. There have been some issues with

Brazil-based volunteers collecting their accreditation passes and uniform and then disappearing from view and not completing their shifts. Most of my colleagues have been happy to perform double shifts and work extra days when necessary to cover any gaps in the system. At Rio, I have been working

alongside doctors from Alaska, a ranch owner from the southern meat-producing heartland of Southern Brazil and a ski instructor from virtually the end of the world, Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. For my Argentinian colleague,

Francisco Manera, it hasn’t been all plain sailing. He visited Copacabana Beach on

a rare day off this week. He put his rucksack down for a second on the sand, turned around and found it was gone. Passport, credit cards, mobile phone, cash - all stolen. A generous whip-round from

colleagues provided a fighting fund for Francisco to continue his Rio adventure. It was a grim lesson for Francisco, but it didn’t dent his enthusiasm for the Games. One of the things people fail to appreciate is the scale of an Olympics. There are 42 Olympic sport

disciplines: 306 events over the course of 19 days of competition spread over four centres in Rio and football matches throughout Brazil. Working on the volunteer team, you

are sometimes inside the bubble. You have to focus so hard on making sure your event works that everything else fades into the background. Brazilian TV, naturally, concentrates

on the Brazilian athletes. Phone calls back home usually fill in the gaps – “The cyclists are doing really well and Murray has won gold again.” Talking to media colleagues back home, they never quite appreciate the

four-hour time difference and the travel time needed to hop from venue to venue to see different events (for each journey, you also have to factor in time to get through strict security). Questions like, ‘Why didn’t you

go and see the golf today?’ have to be answered with explanations of how it’s not straightforward to hop from one end of Deodoro to another end of the giant Barra complex. But don’t think it’s been work, work,

work. I have found time in a busy schedule

to see women’s football, boxing at RioCentro and athletics (including a certain Mr Usain Bolt) at The Enghenao Olympics athletics stadium. The whole volunteer trip took three years in the planning. That may seem like a long time, but

the reality is that my personal Olympics and Paralympics journey goes back further still. A lifelong fan of the Games (one of

my earliest memories is of David Hemery winning the 1968 400 metres hurdles at Mexico on our first colour telly!), it has always been a ‘must see’ TV event in our house. The idea of actually ‘being there’ at

an Olympics first started forming during a summer holiday to Rhodes island in Greece. On a short hop from Rhodes to

Athens International Airport, I was sat next to a young man wearing a tracksuit bearing the words Olympic Games volunteer. It turned out that he was a

physiotherapist with a private practice on Rhodes. He’d shut up shop for three weeks to join the army of volunteers helping stage the Athens Games. I was sold on the idea and hooked on

the possibility of volunteering for a future Games. But it was no more than an idea until

Usian Bolt takes the the track at the Olympic Stadium

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