Apr 24

My first Fell Race

Me, powering up the Stretton Hills
Up on the hill

I did my first fell race this weekend. Organised by Mercia Fell Runners, it was a 5k race with about 350m of ascent targeted at Novices only – those who had never done a Fell Race before. There were 78 entries and 58 participants who headed to Church Stretton to give it a go.

Lots of nervousness before the start, talking to a number of people who had turned up – with about 60% of them women. There was a definite reluctance to have tried this sport through a more regular race, with concerns about being able to do, but it was made clear that this was all about giving it a go.

They had made the course fully marshalled, so no need to be trying to work out the route. You ran between cheering volunteers who were very happy to cheer you on and give support.

I joked before hand that I would be last – my uphills are slow, by downhills are slower, but didn’t quite make that target, there were 3 people behind me 🙂 I was however last in my class. But never mind, it was a great day out and a lot of fun, i just need to keep training!

Aug 11

The Commonwealth Collective

Selfie of me in volunteer uniform with Edgbaston Cricket pitch in background
On duty at Edgbaston

Ah, my time is done, the Games are over and now to reflect on the time I spent as a volunteer as part of the Commonwealth Collective.    After failing for 2012 but getting in for 2017, (You can read all about my experience at the World Athletics in 2017) I decided to try and be part of another multi-sports event – the 2022 Commonwealth Games held in my local city Birmingham.  


I registered as a volunteer in September 2020, when covid was hitting everything and this was hope for the future, that things would change. I got invited to an interview in October 2021, over a year later, with a role confirmed in Feb 2022. These things take time – there were over 500 volunteer interviewers talking to over 20000 applicants from a pool of around 40000 people.

The Role

Unlike 2017, this time the role I was offered stuck all the way through – I was invited to be part of the Protocol Team based at Edgbaston (for the Women’s T20 cricket) – they’d selected “confident and culturally aware candidates with excellent communication and interpersonal skills” which is a nice piece of feedback on how I came across the interview.

Chatting in the various Facebook groups later, it turned out that few who were selected for this role knew exactly what we were in for but all was to become clear in our training in April.  In essence we were there to help out in the Games Family Lounges, which were basically hospitality lounges for the team staff and guests, Commonwealth governance, politicians and designated VIPs. This involved greeting them in the drop off zones, directing them to the lounge, helping with transports back and answering any questions they had. There was a bit of door opening and sorting out coffees, but most of it was to be present and supportive as needed. So similar to what I finally ended up doing in 2017 (just interacting with guests), but indoors with a smaller, select bunch of people.

The Team

Having talked to quite a few volunteers, our team were very lucky across the board.  We had relatively short shifts of 6 hours, either afternoon or evening. We had a purpose built room at Edgbaston, with a catering crew that did this all the time at the event, we had air conditioning (very nice with these temps). We were also never overly busy, as cricket was not seen as a hot ticket, the max attendance was 111.  A better experience for me than 2017 in general, but with some of the same considerations

  • I come across as having great interpersonal skills but exercising them is hard!  I was exhausted after every shift and had to have quiet time. People-ing is just hard work. In contrast, I watched team members totally feed off the energy, chatting to people, working from group to group checking all was OK. In contrast, they could not be put on a post on their own and be expected to stay there, 😊  So a mixed team was always going to be needed.  I do think that if I am lucky enough in the future, I would prefer a more task based role than a general people based one.
  • These games appear to have far better volunteer organisation than 2017. There were very few stories of roles being dropped, massive changes being made or people being unhappy. There were definitely some issues, with some of the (paid) Team Managers not necessarily doing what they needed to do and some volunteers having a hard time, but overall, it seemed to be a lot happier and more organised.  The general feedback and tone of comments in the “back channels” were very positive. It also helped that these channels were also positive when it came to the balance of experienced vs novices. I understand the selection process looked hard to give new volunteers a chance, combining them with old hands, so this mix worked well.
From the balcony,the medal ceremony at the podium for the T20 cricket, with New Zealand, India and Australia in Bronze, Silver and Gold.
The Medal Ceremony

The Experience

Overall I loved it. There were frustrating moments, but I’d made the decision to just go with the flow, to not get annoyed at anything and focus on what I needed to do; by doing that I made sure I had a good time and presented my best face to our guests.   The team was great, pulling together to make sure we delivered the best experience possible.

I am honoured to have the chance to be part of this, of being able to showcase Birmingham to the world. As always, the energy and enthusiasm shines through, and guests, teams, athletes and media were all positive about it. 

We had some really interesting guests in the lounge, from regulars such as the Anguilla delegates through to the VIPS such as Malala and Theresa May. We even got a royal visit from Prince Edward, but that was not on my shift. 

The Aftermath

There’s always a thread across the social groups about how events like this will be the best experience ever, you’ll never have done anything like it and you’ll make friends for life. For some, that is the reality. For people like me, it’s never quite like that, because we all have different approaches to people and events. It was an amazing time, I really enjoyed it, but I never quite get the transformational experience that some others have.  I have no regrets in doing it, but also no post event blues that many in the groups are talking about. On to the next thing I say!

Crowd of people all in the orange and blue voluteer uniform at the after-party
The Volunteer After-Party
Aug 13

Volunteering at the World Athletics 2017

Start of the 100m semi finals, London 2017


October 2016. I’d filled in the form and finally hit submit. After failing to get selected to volunteer at the Olympics, was trying again for the World Athletics Championships, heading to London in the summer of 2017. And so the wait started. The numbers being talked about were 15k applications, 10k interviews and 4k volunteers to be chosen. Would I get through this time?

Finally, in late November, I got the yes..for the interview. Off I went, for some ‘team building’ activities and a chat. I’d applied to be part of the marketing/branding team giving my experience. What do they look for? I’m still not sure. Then waiting and waiting. We were supposed to get the results by end of April, but nothing arrived. Twitter started to show acceptances coming through, but refreshing the email still showed nothing. Mid May – a phone call! I’d got in. I was offered a role of ‘Mascot Escort!!’. Not quite sure what that had to do with my experience, but I was in, I’d give it a go.


During training, the reason for the delay became clear – I’d only just made it in, as the formation of the mascot team was a late addition. No matter, I was looking forward to this, they had great plans, we’d get to be in the experience village and the stadium, it sounded fun!

Hero the Hedgehog. London2017

Hero having fun


One week before my first shift, an email. Oh no! The role no longer existed, they’d given it a go for the Para games, but apparently, volunteers were not needed. But, not to worry, they’d shifted me to a team to support the charity, i was going to be carrying a bucket to collect money. Oh 🙁 Not what I signed up for. I thought about it over the weekend and rang them up, I needed to withdraw, this was not for me. But, somehow, I was talked into at lest trying 1 shift and seeing how it went.


Early Saturday morning; collecting ID and uniform. Oh look, I was still in Mascot team according to that computer, with access to plenty of places. But no, shift check in confirmed, I was on the bucket brigade. Found the team, changed into yet another t-shirt, handed a bucket then out into the park. We positioned ourselves, and hoped we could get people to stop. No bucket shaking allowed, according to the police. no talking about the charity..according the the police. So we just stood there and hoped. No smiles, little interaction. Definitely not for me. That was it, I was going to cancel the other shifts.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt at start of 100m


But..a glimmer of hope. Chatting to one of the other volunteers, they suggested I could join their team, working in the Hero Village, helping the spectators, getting them involved. A chat to the Team Manager and it was on. Back to checkin, and it was sorted. Team changed, shifts adjusted, a new role confirmed. It also turned out there still was a Mascot team, it was had just been reduced (although there were still not enough people to manage the queues for photos)

Hero and I have a moment

Hero and I have a moment


I found my niche! I danced my way through 4 shifts, getting rained on and sunburnt. My mission, to make people smile as they entered the village. And I think I succeeded wth about 98% of the people. The ones who didn’t? All well dressed men, looking very corporate, obviously not here to have fun. Oh, and small toddlers who mainly looked at me as though i was mad, they weren’t quite sure what to make of me.

Exhausting work, but a lot of fun. Unlike bucket collecting, people reacted to you and they were having fun too. Honestly, I’d have preferred a role that used my actual skills and experience – how about social media?? 🙂 But if I couldn’t get that, I made the most of the role I had and had a great time.

Gatlin, before 100m semis

Gatlin, before 100m semis


I’ve volunteered before, at World Rowing Champs, at rowing events, at Park Run, at the London Marathon. But this was the first big Athletics event – and 1st big event since ‘volunteering’ became so popular. Volunteering has become ‘professional’ and some of that leaked through. There’s definitely a core group of people who are racking up major event volunteering, most are great, some, not quite so welcoming if you’re not following the ‘correct behaviour’. For many, this may be the first time volunteering, so this behaviour may not be known!

The team recruiting the volunteers was not the same team running the championships, so some volunteers, recruited in good faith, were left disappointed. I wasn’t needed for Mascot team – the paid team had it covered. Even in my second team – the charity team – things did not quite go to plan. Almost all collection had to stop after Thursday, and most of the team got cut. This happened in quite a few teams – I’ve read about timing, ticketing, stadium teams all being impacted. I think most were accommodated, but not sure if everyone had the time they expected. Some teams had not enough people and were busy trying to recruit people for more shifts. Others were calling up volunteers just days before the event. Is this a combination of not quite getting numbers right and late drop outs from people who had not fully committed?

Overall, I loved my experience. I’d give it another go. But hopefully, lessons will continue to be learnt about balancing an over-abundance of applications, with the needs to the organisers and the reality of the events. Yes, this is coloured by my experience of team changes, but having talked to others (and read the facebook groups), not everyone had a good time.

Nov 09

The Lord Mayor’s Show

I’ve watched the Lord Mayor’s Show for years on telly, but despite living in London, it’s one of those events that I’ve never watched live. Like Remembrance Sunday, London Marathon, Trooping of the Colour etc. But I’m slowly working my way through them.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the oldest of the big London events in origin, with the website stating it has its origins with King John in 1215, when the elected Mayor of City of London was made to come along to the next door City of Westminster to swear allegiance to the Crown. And so it continued over the centuries, by horseback, boat and now coach and horses, an annual parade of military, guilds and charities.

It was easier than I thought to find a place, wandering up along the Strand about 10:30, I stopped in the first clear place I saw, which happened to be right opposite the entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice, where the Lord Mayor alights to swear his oath – this year it’s Alan Yarrow, the 687th version of the position. It got a lot busier later, but this was about an hour before the front of the procession got there and over 2 hours before the Lord Mayor.

I took a LOT of photos – it was a long parade – and they can all be found on Flickr. But here’s some of my favourites.

Marching along with the Marines. I have NO idea what this guy was doing.

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

Gog and Magog – the giants take part in every parade

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

A lot of the military units had members in WW1 uniform

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

Some of the uniforms were even older – one group were all dressed as soldiers from Waterloo. They even had a French group, with a Napolean.

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

I wonder how big the market is for Guild Robes? I’m guessing there are only a couple of makers

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

At the end of the parade were all the horse and carriages, bringing along the officials. So dotted all lover London are these carriages that get brought out may once per year? They were gorgeous!

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

The guys in red are Watermen – when the parade was on the Thames, they were the ones that powered it and they are still involved now. The guys in black are Yeoman Warders.

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

Trumperters announced the arrival!

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

And finally, at the end, the Gold State Coach, carrying the Lord Mayor – and this year, a Magna Carta as well. The coach can normally be found at the Museum of London and it’s well worth a look. Under the weak November sunshine, it looked gorgeous!

Lord Mayor's Show 2014

If you’re in London, it’s well worth a trying to see this parade.

Sep 05

London 2012 Taekwando

Taekwando was one of the original tickets that I had. Well, not me, one of the two tickets that my sister had received in the very first ballot. The second event was later that day, diving. So down she came from the Midlands to make a day of it. First up was the Excel Centre, setting off early to brave the transport. No issues with transport, no issues with security meant we were there early. With the Excel, with plenty of different sports taking place, they herded you into holding areas, where you could get food and drink and wait around for the session to start. Once in the holding area, there was no getting out, so there was no wandering around looking at the different bits. There were huge queues for water here. Although there were 6 spouts, only 2 of them could be used to fill up bottles, so it was slow going.

London 2012 Taekwando

Sarah had bought budget seats, so we were up the top in the far corner, but it was still a pretty good view of the action. In fact, even the cheapest seats I’ve bought had good views – just further away than others. After a warm up act of ‘stunt’ kicks and tumbles, the action was under way. We got to see 2 British athletes, one of whom, Sarah Stevenson, was a favourite to win. Unfortunately, she didn’t and didn’t get through to the reps as her opponent lost later. The other, Lutalo Muhammad, also lost, in what appeared to be a far closer match. As his opponent got through to the final, he had a second chance in the reps and ended up with a Bronze later that day.

My sister is a 4th Dan (I think) in karate, so was able to cast an expert eye over proceedings, or at least an eye of someone who is used to fighting bouts. According to her, they were not aggressive enough and didn’t punch enough, but it’s a different sport so what do I know. I’d rarely seen fighting bouts, so had no idea what to expect but had a great time.

London 2012 Taekwando

Aug 30

London 2012 Paralympics: Opening Ceremony

I went to the Opening Ceremony last night. At this point, everything is slightly blurry! So much going on when you’re in the stadium that I don’t think the brain settles on one thing to remember. I was entranced with the umbrellas, slightly bored with the parade, clapping with glee at some of the flying athletes and in awe, and tears, at the flame lighting. I loved the ceremony, even if it ran way over, providing anxiety about getting home!

ON walking in, for the warm-up show, this is what was greeting us. None of the pastoral scenes from the Olympics, but a big stage. With lots of umbrellas dotted around. the story still had routes in The Tempest, but it was a different take, using Miranda as the focus, who takes a journey to find knowledge.

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

The umbrella scheme continued, as all of the initial dancers used them for props, for a canvas for the light show. Everybody danced around the big central umbrella, danced with them or flew in on the large ones around the edges

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Science, that’s what the rest of the show was mainly about. Science and the wonders that it can show and the wonders that people can do. Stephen Hawking was one of the star turns, complementing Ian McKellan. Hawkings’ words were projected onto the screens and rang round the stadium, about discovery and investigation and being curious. I was amazed. This was all about science and its power. I loved it.

It was a fairly short first act before we got onto the athletes parade. There were 164 countries and inevitably, they took far longer than planned. During this 2 hours or so, people were up and down, grabbing food, drink, loo breaks etc. There were polite cheers for the teams, some louder than others. Commonwealth nations were generally welcomed well, European nations were also well cheered, depending on who was there. But for most, this was just a waiting period. Finally, finally the GB team came out last, to huge cheers, flag waving and a standing ovation. The crowd was just, a little partisan. This is what we’d come to see!

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Some of the athletes did not stick around, doing a lap and heading straight out again. But most settled down into the seats provided to watch the third act. IF the first was umbrellas, the second the athletes, the third was all about apples. Back the science again, taking inspiration from Newton.

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

We had flying people in wheelchairs, men whirling with skirts on fire, a boat carrying Miranda traversing the sea in search of knowledge. It was a call out for the wonders of books and learning. It turned the stadium into the solar system and into the Large Hadron Collider. Hawkings and McKellen were back as narrators, guiding us on the journey. It was the breaking of glass ceilings, the demonstration that ambition should not be constrained by what others thought – or expected – you could do. That ended up with the largest ever co-ordinated apple crunch!

Then we got punk, with Spasticus Autisticus pounding out around the stadium and Alison Lapper rising in the middle of it

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Finally, the torch came into the stadium on a huge zip wire from the Orbit, before being passed to Margaret Maughan, Britain’s first ever ‘official’ Paralympic Gold from the 1960 games, who lit the petals.

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

The final event was Beverley Knight singing I Am What I Am..but at this point the stadium started emptying. It was running late and we had to get home! One benefit of this, is that if you were outside the stadium, you got a great view of the fireworks!

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

The mad dash for the exits started. The crowd was controlled, I got on a Jubilee line easily then remembered – change at West Ham for District. yay – the tubes were running later than my app was telling me and I was on my way home. No buses and few taxis available, but I finally got home just over 2 hours after I left.

Brilliant night, loved the show and I’m going to have to watch bits to work out what happened in some of them. Loved that the focus was science and learning and the power of the human spirit. Bring on the Games!!!

Aug 29

London 2012: Showjumping

My final event of the weekend was one of the first ones I booked – the showjumping at Greenwich Park.

Getting there

I’d decided to eschew the most obvious route, which was DLR to Greenwich and took the overground to Blackheath. Again, as with almost every trip I made, there were no issues. A long walk, but no issues! Guides were plentiful on the walk, pushing you across the heath to the entry point. This was way at the south of the venue, on the heath, before you entered the Greenwich Park area, but served its purpose. A few queues, a few holds to minimise congestion and security was traversed safely again. Then another, very long walk down to the arean, which was by the Greenwich buildings.

London 2012 : Show jumping

The Venue

Greenwick Park is big – that’s why they could hold the cross-country there. The area itself was wonderful – it held the all the jumping and dressage events. A large, separate catering area, toilets in every block (which had drinking water on tap), and plenty of great volunteers again. The water situation again led to long queues – it was only after I’d queued that I was told the washroom taps were potable as well, something that was not spread around. Seats were good, all the sightlines were good, so overall, an excellent place.

London 2012 : Show jumping

The Event

Equestrian events were one of the very first sports I started following. As a child, I’d learnt to ride a horse and taken part in a few dressage and show jumping events. Not very well, but it’s a sport I knew enough about, including taking trips to various showjumping meets. So unlike all the others, I’d seen it before!

This was the second round for the individual event and the first round for the teams. The target was to get a great score for the teams and to qualify in the top 40 for the next individual round. I had a great seat up high in one of the side stands, directly above the finishing fence, so got some lovely photos!

London 2012 : Show jumping

Although photos were great most of the time, not when it was raining. Open stands means umbrellas, for those that had not prepared for the weather by bringing ponchos and waterproofs. Which meant grumpy people who couldn’t see. But when the sun came out, all was brilliant!

The other thing that I could see was annoying to the jumping fans was the fan reactions. Like everything else, most people in the arena were not horse fans – so when British people came in the tendency was to cheer. Loudly. This had obviously upset some of the horses, as there were clear warnings before the British team riders came in to keep the noise down. Which was surprising, as I’ve been to indoor arenas and the crowd is generally loud!

London 2012 : Show jumping

So once the rain had stopped and the crowd cheering was contained, I had a brilliant time. Some great horses on show, the best jumpers in the world. One thing about showjumping is age is less of a barrier, so riders ranged from teens up to their sixties – and the fans had an even wider age range.

London 2012 : Show jumping

I left the same way I’d arrived, via Blackheath. Lewisham Council had set up a big screen on the heath and the Andy Murray tennis final was playing. So nothing for it but to stop, sit and watch more sport, cheering along with everyone when he was doing well. And then huge, huge cheers when another gold medal for Britain was grabbed. Another medal seen on the TV, none yet seen in person.

Aug 19

London 2012: Football

For my second event on the middle Saturday, I dashed out of the Olympic Park, jumped on the Jubilee Line and headed right across London to see some Football. Here’s a sport I could easily see for 9 months of the year on the TV and would find it easy to find a match to go to every weekend but I’d only ever been to one football match before (Celtic vs Ajax in the Champions’ League). But as it’s the Olympics AND I’d never seen Wembley Stadium, thought it would be good to add to my list of sports.

The journey was great, the people management was great and it was all nice and smooth. The only issue was when my self-printed ticket did not work properly. for some sports, they appear to have been emailing tickets to people to self print and the scanner was not picking it up correctly. The volunteers in this case were little help, seemingly suspicious that is was a paper ticket, but a little perseverance and the scanner eventually worked.

London 2012: Football

Wembley is well used to hosting large crowds and it appeared the match stewards were the same ones as would normally be there. The football stadiums had their own rules – you were not supposed to take in DSLRs for example. They also would not let you take alcohol into your seat, unlike all the other venues I went to. But overall, it worked well.

The match was Mexico vs Senegal. I sat next to quite a few Mexican fans, although it appeared that many in the stadium were neutral – British fans after some Olympic experience. The first half was OK, not brilliant, but average football. The second half picked up a lot more and there was a lot more energy in the match.

London 2012: Football

Having only really watched football on the TV, there was not as loud a crowd as some league matches, with little singing or chanting 🙂 But somethings seem to be the same – the deployment of stewards at the end, presumably to prevent a pitch invasion??

I left 5 mins early for the match, which was a shame, as it went into extra time, but it meant my journey home was easy. Those staying on were not as luck. The Stadium and Wembley Arena both emptied out at the same time and that led to the tube stations being closed for a while.

I’m still not convinced that football belongs in the Olympics. There were plenty of comments during the games about the difference in attitude between footballers, with their salaries and their dramatics on the pitch, comparing that to the attitude of the other athletes. Even if restricted to the under-23’s, the sport definitely needs to learn lessons from those who struggle to get enough money to make training sessions.

London 2012: Football

Aug 19

London 2012: Water Polo

Once the Olympics had started I decided I hadn’t got enough tickets. My sister was sharing the one’s she’d got in the initial lottery, I had bought some in the follow up lottery and from the EU site. But now I’d been to my first event, I’d seen the empty seats and LOCOG were releasing new tickets everyday. it was time to turn on my lucky clicking finger and get searching on the convoluted ticketing database. There was such a demand created for tickets that everytime some were released, the site ground to a halt, putting people in queues, with long wait times. If you only had 3-4 minutes max wait, you were probably going to be fine. Anything longer, no tickets for you!

Although I’d constantly look for events such as Athletics or Swimming or Cycling, the exciting ones, so did everyone else. They were very rare and I was unlucky. So I looked for other events, that I may not have seen, just to experience the Olympic atmosphere again. First of these was Water Polo. I’d watched it occasionally, seen the odd ‘how to play water polo’ feature, but had never experienced it live. Although, to be fair, I’d never seen most of the sports I went to live.

Water Polo was being held in a temporary structure, next to the Aquatic arena. Purpose built for this sport.

London 2012: Water Polo

During the session, I saw two matches. First was Romania vs Montenegro, then Australia vs Croatia. And I loved both matches. The action was fast and furious and interactivity very ‘vigorous’ – by which I mean it seems to be a pretty heavy contact sport. Players seem to develop a very exaggerated swimming action that just seem to land heavily on the opposition! I’ve no idea what was going on underwater, but I’m guessing there was as much jockeying for position.

Most of the action was around the goals; in that it was similar to handball, which I saw later in the week. One team has the ball around the goal, passing between themselves until they try to score, then it gets thrown to the other end for a repeat. Very little action in the middle of the pool.

London 2012: Water Polo

This sport had another odd volunteer role. Showjumping had the muck scoopers, who ran out in the breaks to clear up the horse muck from the course. Water Polo has the ball boys, whose job is to swim out and place the ball in the middle for each half. They sit there in their dressing gowns, collecting the balls when they get thrown out, just stripping off to put the ball in the middle of the pool. I wonder if they had a set of trunks in the volunteer colours?

London 2012: Water Polo

Aug 06

London 2012 Beach Volleyball

My third Olympic sports trip was to see the beach volleyball. There’ll be no legacy from the construction of this area – for some reason, beach volleyball takes place in the heart of government, right next to Downing Street on Horseguards Parade. There was obviously some interesting thinking going on when this decision was made, but it paid off, the location is gorgeous!

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

The whole of the Mall is cordoned off during this part of the games, which can’t make getting around London by car too easy, but makes it easy to get to the event. Volunteers were everywhere, dotted every 10m or so, keeping you moving, keeping you on the right side of the road and moving you through security. As at the tennis, security was easy, just a small fast-moving queue and straight through the scans.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

Inside, the same stalls as in the Olympic Park, non-branded as usual, loads of loo blocks and loads of volunteers ready to answer your questions and keep everything fun. Initially feeling quite empty, the grandstands soon filled up.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

There were 4 matches on the programme, each scheduled for an hour from 8pm. Two men and two women’s matches. The women’s clothing seemed to disappoint the men in the audience, they were fully covered up. Apparently special dispensation has been given from the governing body for the London Olympics to allow more clothing to be worn and I think they’re right. It was COLD out there especially when it started raining. But the entertainment – a group of dancers who appeared between matches and in time-outs – were dressed for the sun rather than the rain.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

I’ve seen beach volleyball on TV, so rules are pretty straightforward to understand. Just in case, they played the how-to video for the crowd before the first. However, the whole set up of the evening appeared to want to distract you from the sport. There was music between each point, there were calls from the announcer. There were congas and dancing and crowd shots. And all the time, people just coming and going, moving around. This was not a tennis or golf crowd, no respect for play here. In fact, that was the deliberate atmosphere encouraged by the organisers. The game itself seemed to be less important than the party. Fun, but not quite right for me…

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

So go with a bunch of friends, have a beer and have a laugh and you’ll have a great time. Enjoy the view!

Jul 30

London 2012: A day at the tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

Saturday was the first of my eight events (that I currently have…I’m looking for more!). It was a day at the tennis, Wimbledon, somewhere I’d never managed to get to when the Championships are on so I was really looking forward to the opportunity to take a look at the place.

First impressions – small! A lot smaller than it feels on the TV. Then how well put together it is. It’s obviously a permanent structure that has developed over the years and it knows how people move around it. It’s just been plastered with Olympic branding.

Getting there was straightforward. Train to Putney (where I found the street lined with people waiting for the men’s cycling road race to go by) then one stop on District Line to Southfields before the 15 minute walk to the venue. Getting back was just as straightforward – no problems at all with getting transport. I’d turned up just as the gates were opening, so the queues were very, very long but they moved quickly and security was easy to get through.

We were called to go along to the hill for a ‘special surprise’. Sitting down, waiting for it to start, I was surprised at how many young women appeared to be in the audience – had there been a student offer? It turned out that they weren’t the typical tennis audience…they were part of the special surprise. A ‘flash mob’ of dancers got everyone cheering before the Pet Shop Boys turned up for a few songs

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

After all that entertainment, it was time for the tennis. I had a seat on centre court and settled in for the day. We had the pleasure of four matches, including seeing the two reigning Wimbledon champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and British player Anne Keathavong. The celebrity spotting was high as Michelle Obama popped in to see Williams.

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

It was definitely not like normal Wimbledon; it was bright and brash. Music was playing in between matches and the people watching seemed to be a different crowd from what you saw at the regular games – more noisy, less likely to quieten and sit down for serves. There was also more of a patriotic crowd – turning up to see their national players and then seemingly going. That contributed to the lots of empty seats that were obvious, both in blocks and scattered around the grandstands.

This was the scene for the most watched match on the day, the Federer match. Plenty of court side seats available – the most expensive ones. This was a theme of the day in many, many venues. Given how short the supply was, how many wanted to go but could not get tickets, why weren’t these being filled? For the final match of the day, with a British player, it was even worse.

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

The unfilled seats became the national story on Saturday and because of my tweets, by comments got picked up by the BBC for a news story and then I ended up heading east to take part in an talk show on the World Service, talking about empty seats and all other things Olympic, which was great fun 🙂 There were about a dozen people, BBC reporters, bloggers and other people who had been at the event discussing seating, cycling and the other events of the day.

BBC World Service at the pub

Jul 29

London 2012: The Opening Ceremony

Did you watch it? 27 million people in the UK are reported to have watched the show, the biggest UK TV event in the 21st century. At £27m, that’s a cost of a pound per person, pretty good value I think. You’ll have noticed that last week I went along to the technical rehearsal and had a sneak peak at some of the elements, but we didn’t see it all, so I tuned in on Friday ready to watch the whole thing.

My initial reactions too the pastoral scenes were fed, in part, by the media. It was cute, it was old fashioned, what are they going to do next

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

The songs from around the nation, had me welling up; I love a good patriotic hymn. And the the drums started, filling the stadium with sound and feeling, driving the clearing of the pastoral scenes and turning it into an industrial nightmare.

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

This was the bit that had me gasping in the stadium, sitting quite low down and not being able to see it all, it was brilliant to see the whole picture on tv, see what has happening across the stands and then to see HOW the ring was forged. All I saw was the rings moving from the sides and then the bright molten one rising from the ground to join them, in, for me a symbol of hope. This was just amazing.

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

We didn’t see the James Bond cutscene in the rehearsal – we heard the music, saw the helicopter, but had no idea what was going to happen. So a just laughed out loud when watching the clip. How did they get teh Queen to do that – and what other country would try something as insane!

Dancing Nurses, flying Mary Poppins, the Child Catcher and Voldermort. What a fun sequence. You could see that everyone was getting into it – especially the children. They performed Monday, Wednesday and Friday, did they ever get any sleep because they were obviously excited!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

We heard the music for the next change scene, with Chariots of Fire, and caught a glimpse of Atkinson at the end, but the skit (and video) again were hidden to save the surprise, another brilliant execution. The final bit that we saw on the Monday was the dance section. One thing they did not show on the TV was everyone banging their heads to Queen – we’d practised it in the run-up to the song, and I saw the queues in the stadium, but they did not show the audience. A pity, because that was a fun moment!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

For us, that was it. We did not get the reveal of Tim Berners-Lee (and wonderful touch, tweeting from the middle of the show), We did not see the memorial dance nor the torch scene, which was one of the best kept secrets ever. I loved that they used young athletes for this, nominated by Olympic heroes. All of the speculation passed for nothing with that decision, doing something really different. passing on the toch to the future.

The challenge for the UK was always ‘to beat’ China. but how can we play that game. We didn’t plan to beat them; Danny Boyle just played a different game. A massive pageant, staffed by volunteers, with humour and awe-inpsiring moments. With all that symbolism, then why did the show close with Paul Mcartney doing what he always does. Nothing different, the same old Hey Jude with no surprise or re-interpretation. for me, that just brought a small sour note to the whole show. So off the TV went before the first verse was done and that was my night over.

Jul 28

London 2012: the torch relay

London 2012 Torch Relay

Our office is in Southwark and on Thursday 26th July it was perfectly placed for the torch relay. Just after 10am,t he torch was due to go right by the office. Some crowded the windows for an overhead view. Caroline and I decided that we needed a ringside seat. So 45 mins before, we headed outside with our chairs for a meeting – and, to be fair, we actually did have a meeting, before packing away and getting ready for the torch to come by. Right on time, the sponsor buses made their way past

London 2012 Torch Relay

And then finally the torch..just a brief glimpse as it ran by to the kiss point on the corner

London 2012 Torch Relay

And on Friday, we had another chance to see the flame, as it came down the Thames on the Glorianna. A slight mistiming meant we were slightly too late to see the flame go by the closest point, but a mad dash down the bank got us to London Bridge where the final (but one) stage of the relay was to happen, as the torch got passed to City hall for safe keeping before its star turn tonight.

In both instances, what was so, so apparent was everyone’s enthusiasm. This was an EVENT…something everyone wanted to be part of. They stood on balconies and in windows, on cheery pickers on on top of walls. They ran down the side of the towpath and tried desperately to get a glimpse of what was happening at London Bridge, standing on tiptoes to peer over the heads, or raising arms high to snap photos in hope of getting a shot. The buzz was palpable and excitement was high. This was not just tourists, but office workers and local families, out to take part in the biggest event they are ever likely to see in London. Let’s bring on the Games, London is ready!

Torch Relay

Torch Relay

Jul 25

London 2012: Queueing for Cosport tickets

I’ve been quite lucky with my Olympic tickets. Following my initial disappointment of not getting any tickets in the initial ballot, my sister asked me to accompany her to her Taekwando and Diving events. I also got a ticket in the resale, – for people who did not get any in the first round – and I’m off to the Modern Pentathlon. I then did some digging, realising as we’re EU members, I can buy tickets from any EU agent. Off to take a look at Cosport, as recommended by a NZ friend (they’re official agents for US, Canada, Australia and certain EU counties, which means no issue in my buying from them).

The Cosport website was a LOT simpler than the London 2012 one. You could see everything that was available on a single page, instead of having to keep clicking on different events. Far simpler to glance and see what tickets were there for the events you wanted. Buying was simple and they sent plenty of information through before the event.

But then came the collection. I’d decided not to have my tickets posted, deciding that as I’d have to make a trip to the post office anyway to pick up the tickets, I may as well pick them up at the desk and save postage. In hindsight, not the most sensible idea – given how their first day of collection went. Following up on the stories earlier in the month about Cosport selling sponsor tickets, you then had complete chaos at the collection point on the first day. There were long, long queues, 7-8 hours for some. There was no organisation and no news about what was happening. for some, who’d ordered multiple tickets, they were not seated together. They were the lucky ones – many tickets seemed to have gone missing and could not be found ‘out back’

By today, things had improved. They had a tent up to shelter you from the sun. They gave out water and wandered around the lines, checking up on if you were OK. I waited 55 minutes before getting in and out in 5 minutes, a pretty simple process. But the delays are still there and some problems are – there are still issues about tickets lost and seats not together, so there have been some major mistakes made

So the queues may have been sorted – the general organisation seems to be lacking at the moment

Jul 24

London 2012: Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

I’m still on the reserve list for the Olympic volunteers. I’m not happy about it and I’d rather be taking part, but one compensation I did get was a ticket to the Opening Ceremony Technical Rehearsal the Monday before the games start. This was to be a major test event for the ceremony and for all the transport and organisation around it. So how did it go?

Transport: Travelled in from London Bridge to Stratford; returned Stratford to Waterloo. Had no real problems either way. Getting there was straightforward – although the station may not be a easy to traverse during the games. Getting out of the stadium was harder; somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand people exited the Olympic Park at 10.15 all looking to get home – with the Central Line broken. There were queues, but they kept moving and I got right onto a train and got a seat. The train was filled up completely before it started moving, so it was a pretty warm journey back. There routes to and from the station were well supplied with friendly Gamesmakers keeping everyone informed. However, I see issues arising if the trains are kept regular, because the queues and jams will quickly build.

Olympic Park

The Olympic Park: Slightly underwhelming. Lots of concrete, no where to sit around the stadium. Outside of the Stadium island, nothing was open and it looked pretty sterile – although the wild flowers were good. I was only in the bit immediately around the stadium and the rest of it is supposed to be better, but nothing brilliant there.

Olympic Park

The commercial bit: almost all the stalls were open around the stadium itself. This was the first time for all of them and they seemed to be doing Ok for the main. When I approached the bar, the servers were calling me over, so they could have their first customer. Later on it got a bit more hectic – a lot more queues were seen. This seemed to be a combination of slowness due to not quite sure what doing, slowness due to Visa restriction – and the payments, which were NOT fast – and the bars running out of soft drinks and water so people being turned away. Water IS going to be a BIG problem – there were long, long queues for the few water fountains that were available, so I think something needs to be sorted there

Olympic Park

The Gamesmakers: definitely some first day nerves for some, but overall everyone was brilliant. Bright, bubbly, keeping everyone moving. I did see a few occasions of them not quite knowing what to do and passing it along chains, but for a first day, think they did OK.

The Ceremony: Wow. Just wow. I’m still buzzing from it. But you are going to have to wait until Friday because we all promised to #SavetheSurprise – and watch the hashtag on twitter on Wednesday evening for peoples reactions. I wasn’t sure going into the evening what to expect and the first part did not fill me with confidence. The very first bit was slow and full of some of the clichés that have been talked about. But then, it took off and kept delivering. We didn’t see everything, but what we did see was absolutely amazing. Watch it!!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

May 18

Gamecamp, The Upgrade and London Bloggers

I’ve been out and about the the few days…a Gamecamp was held at the weekend, then I went to a book reading and finally another installment London Bloggers Meeting

Gamecamp 4

Gamecamp May 2011

The fourth round of Gamecamp, it had, according to the numbers I totted up, 225 people passing through its doors, the largest ever. My involvement this time was less than in previous ones, (holidays and work getting in the way), but I spent most of the day on the door, so at least met (briefly) almost everyone who turned up.

I did squeeze in a few sessions. The first was a pretty practical session about tips for improving games. Succintly they are:

  • Think hard about the controls and what you need the player to do
  • Out time into the tutorials, not leaving them until last. Make sure they reflect the context of the game
  • Involve the audience in testing. Not your friends or fellow developers, but complete strangers
  • Recruit the right users. It’s not demographics, it psychographics
  • Think about success factors up front. Define what a successful design/game experience is before you go into testing!

Other sessions i attended included one a philisophical discussion about the mechanics, aesthetics and dynamics of game design and one on character journeys, or rather the lack of them, in video game design.

The Upgrade by Paul Carr

The Upgrade book reading with Paul Carr

Monday night was a trip to the only Uk reading by Paul Carr from his new book The Upgrade, on the surface a story about how to live your life in hotels and have mad adventures but underneath, more about how Paul changed – and saved – his life by stopping drinking. I loved the story, reading it in less than 24 hours and suggest getting it! As I bought a Kindle edition, he had nothing to sign. Instead, he annotated the front page of the electronic version, as seen in the photo 😉

London Bloggers’ Meetup

London Bloggers May 2011

I’ve been going to this meetup for years and it keep going from strength to strength, thanks to Andy Bargery. last night was sponsored by Hotwire, with the presentations and panel discussion all about travel blogging. Another successful night.

Mar 13

Opening up TED, June Cohen, SXSW

  • Started releasing talks in 2006. as talks grown online, the audience has gone fromn 1000 people in a room to 100m around the world it changed the organisation, from conference for an elite audience to thinking about how to serve the global community. So everything rallied around the notion of ideas worth spreading. A complete turnaround
  • Will now be opening up API, to allow developers to build Ted apps, to continue with the philosophy of radical openess.
    The idea of having people running TED events makes lots of people nervous for us; most organisations would find the levels of openess challenging and frightening. They found the steps frightening as they took them. For all of the scenario planning, but have learnt that the unintended consequences have been overwhelming positive.
  • It started with the content, in 2006, podcasts, then websites in 2007. Was a controversial decision at the time; TED was know as an elite conference, expensive and that was part of the appeal, that it was private. But the impact was limited; deciding to put talks online was against widom – would there be any audience, this is against standard business – keep commodity scare and price high to keep the value.
  • In the first year, when we put talks online, we increased our fee by 50% and sold out in a week with a 1000 person waiting list. They’d sold out before, but not as quickly. Putting the talks online was not about selling seats – it had sold out always – but the goal was to spread ideas. Every decision has been around this question. Will it spread ideas.
  • We were looking to reach people everywhere, both in geography and in media habits. It needed to live on any platform and adapt as things change.It also needed to adapt the open model, eg releasing under creative commons. We wanted it to spread…out of our control, as long as it was non-commercial. We used embedable players, was very important to get it out there.
    Focused on for a small screen – the mobile. Focused on tight focus, engagement through tight shots etc, they designed the shoot for that model.
  • Ted talks start strong, they do not include the introductions as that is boring online. you need the speaker to get right to it. It has to grab them in 5 secs.. The talks look to evoke contagious emotions, evoke human connections.
  • They needed to find visionary sponsors, as it is expensive and time consuming. IF you have great content, you can find these sponsors who share the vision. You need plenty of support and a great team
  • Open translation project – people were asking for it. Took a few years of development, launched under 2 years ago Subtitles in 80 different languages, dynamically changing during the talk . 16000 translations, 600 translators. All volunteers. One question often asked, is about quality, how to maintain it. We thought about it for 6 months. We needed a systemthat worked in languages we did not understand. We did a lot of talking with others doing it. This was not wikistyle, we assigned places. There are 2 translators for each talk, a translator and a reviewer. You give them credit; and holds them responsible. There is also a feedback loop, to give responses. Finally they have guidelines, about principles, what to think
  • IN 2009, we were really only reaching English speaking. IN 2010, huge areas of the world opened up. Hitting around 65% of the worlds population. Theoretically. THere are bandwidth issues etc, so looking at other ways. TedTV is one pilot project to get the content out there. Broadcasters can take talks and build own programmes.
  • Next thoughts were about connecting people. Two weeks ago they launched a conversation tool; to propose an idea, stage a debate or ask a question. They have time limits, constraints are good. Significance completes what they were thinking about when starting putting content online – allows the conference experience of people/debate/conversations to move online. The stage is only half of the experience, the conversations are the other half.
    Opening up the whole programme – TedX. They could not produce the conferences themselves; they made a programme, with guidelines, etc. They do not charge event holders, TedX can’t make a profit. ALl about spreading ideas further. They launched with excitement but a lot of nerves. They put a lot of thought into guidelines. What has been fascinting has been the level of professionalism, experience and enthusiasm and they have learnt a lot. They thought there would be a couple of dozen events; there have been 1500 events, in many languages.
  • Open Sourcing the code – opening up the API. To spread ideas, need to reach people on different platforms. TED has a small team and can’t do it on own, and don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. There are so many platforms to reach. They want to be surprised by the apps. All talks and the metadata will be accessible. Looking at launching on mid year…but will work with developers to ensure what they do meets needs.
  • Openness works when there is a clear goal that inspires; where there is a passionate userbase; where there are clear guidelines – with rewards and consequences; allow community ways to police itself; Finally, make your contributors rock stars. THey thought about making the speakers rockstars, now it has expanded. THey make them feel honoured in the community.
    Openness is not easy; it goes against human instincts to protect what you have. it is challenging to fight against that but have to push through that fear. The rewards have been extraordinary.
Sep 16

Photo Exhibition

Thanks to F1 Fanatic, I got a couple of tickets to the preview showing of a photo exhibit of Rainer Schlegelmilch’s FQ photos. Called the Golden Age of Formula 1, it has 44 prints from the early 60s through to 2003. Some gorgeous images there, showing how the sport has changed. Well worth a visit if you like good photos, even if you don’t like the sport. Jo came along with me and decided to purchase a couple of the prints. (pointing to her orange sticker that declares ‘sold’)

The Golden Age of Formula 1: Photos by Rainer Schlegelmilch

Jul 04

F1 FOTA Fan Forum

F1 FOTA Fan Forum by Santander

You may have noticed a stream of blog posts live-blogging the F1 FOTA Fan Forum last Thursday. This was the first event of its kind for the sport, coming out of blog comments on James Allen’s website. It was first come, first served for places and 150 of them were taken up within 24 hours. I saw a lot of tweets about people travelling from UK and further to attend, but for me, it was just an 10 minute tube ride (and an understanding boss to grab an extra long lunch). Santander, the sponsors, has obviously put a lot of effort into the day, with a good lunch, I assume covering the venue and the recording and then a couple of freebies for all attending.

The day was tweeted out by many of the teams and recorded for later release on YouTube, so all available for those who could not attend. There were plenty of press there as well and it was fun watching statements made as answers to questions being turned into news articles across sports sites. I even got nabbed by the BBC to do a quick sentence into a mike (not sure what for) as did others, with a write up on Andrew Benson’s blog.

There’s been a lot of response to this through blogs and comments; given my line of work, I was probably most interested in the responses about increasing fan access through social media and the web, increasing data and behind the scenes information. That’s definitely been an influence in my liking for the sport, as it makes it far easier to understand what it going on. It’s good to see the teams will continue on this path and there is pressure to increase what is being released.

The afternoon was a bit like a typical tech event I attend, mainly male with a handful of females and had the same sort of vibe, with lots of waiting to talk to the speakers and associated F1 team members. Although I’ve never seen autographs been signed at tech events 😉 Overall, it was an enjoyable event, one I’d like to see repeated although maybe at a slightly more job friendly time – the speakers apparently hung around after to chat, by which time I was back off to work.

Jul 01

F1 FOTA Fan Forum – New Teams and Driver Skill

This is live blogged at the Santander F1 FOTA Fan Forum. It will possibly contain errors and missed sentences. For the full story, make sure you catch the videos later.

Updated 4/7: added video

Luca Coliani
Tony Fernandes
James Allen
Martin Whitmarsh
Jock Clear
Paul Di Resta

?? How are the new teams?
TF: we are pleased, we got there late, building 5 months, remarkable job. every race we have improved. we deserve to be there, we are closing gap. it has made a little bit of excitement, a few dreams come to. FOTA tries very hard to help new teams, we don’t have the resources, we may one day, but important that teams have time to build, it is good to encourage them, I fully support more testing for drivers, to get new drivers….we have been treated well.

Matt Clifford: should new teams have been buddied?
PDR: the way relationship btw force india, mclaren..when Vijay came, we could get car developed, get product form mclaren, to give best possibility to maximise this. they have had good stability, it can only improve as they go forward.

Lee Cripps: In light of passing opps the slower teams create..should there be a 2 tier championship?
MW: No. you mention Le Mans, we’re considering going back…get people enthused about the different levels…that they win the level..who caress, we are interesting in an outright win…F1 should be a meritocracy, it should not be easy. since mclaren, 106 teams went. we should accept teams can fail but create an environment in which they can succeed. Lotus are doing well…Tony will make it a success,s will develop that team. HRT and Virgin, what they are doing, to there, is fantastic, people work hard in those teams, they are trying like hell, if it was effort alone..they need to build the infrastructure..it is not easy.

Ben Dixon: as tracks are redesigned for safety, so larger run off areas, penalty is not as big over tarmac rather than gravel…what can be done?
PDR: there are arguments..at the weekend, it was a street circuit,large runoff. the new tracks have carpet, and it does incapacitate. in grass, you become a passenger..they are looking for solutions that will not compromise driver. Tarmac run off gives driver a chance to slow down

Ian Spencer: there are debates about hard driving, where line has drawn. So drivers that are pushed off the road, they are not penalised. in terms of balance, should we not properly enforce the code?
PDR: i think it is difficult, it has come up in briefings, the drivers do push it other. the rules need clarifying, especially with new wings etc. Montreal, saw drivers not penalise for actions on track….

Nick Loan: would it be fair to say it is boring as less emphasis on skill..or has it always been tech?
JC: an argument that frustrates me..there is no substance to that comment. all sport has technology involved, look at skiing, tennis etc. we have a tech heavy sport, the fact is, to use the equipment takes a huge amount of skill..the guy with higher skill level drives it better. the car is much harder to drive these days…talking to Damon in 94, when driving the latest car..he says the car are so sharp you have to be even better now. skilful drivers win championships…