Volunteering at the Olympics has a silver lining

2 Aug

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I walked into the ExCeL this afternoon thinking it would be the same as any other shift – keep the journalists happy and catch some world-class judo action. And it was, more or less, until Team GB judoka Gemma Gibbons scooped silver in the under 78kg judo tournament – our first Olympic medal in the sport for more than a decade. Every step of the way the 10,000 strong crowd were cheering her on, including the Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prince Edward was also rumoured to have dropped by to show his support.

I was lucky enough to help out in the press conference after the medal ceremonies for the men’s 100kg contest had taken place with a poignant Russian victory, just for the President. As journalists from all around the world clambered into the conference room, we ensured medallists’ names were in the right place and had our microphones ready to hand out to capture all the questions.

Athletes sat on the stage against a London 2012 backdrop. Top tier sponsor Coca Cola also dominated the table with bottles of its classic drink and Powerade taking pride of place.

The main question during the men’s conference was ‘when is the women’s?’ With one athlete by-passing the conference and another taken to the medical zone for urgent attention, the top table was lacking. But, it wasn’t long before: American Kayla Harrison (gold), Brit Gemma Gibbons (silver), French Audrey Tcheumeo and Brazilian Mayra Aguiar (both bronze) took their places.

Journalists from Press Association, Evening Standard and the Daily Mail all fired questions at Gemma which emphasised London 2012’s message: the desire to inspire the next generation and raise the profile of judo.

It was a fantastic experience to be part of this event – a conference honouring the most successful Team GB judoka this week. Bring on tomorrow.

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