For the love of the Games: London’s Olympics heroes

THE country’s heroic athletes may have grabbed all the headlines, but they are far from the only Britons to have risen to the challenge of making the London 2012 Olympics such an overwhelming, mood-boosting success.

There is another group of people, which has brought every bit as much sunshine into the lives of Londoners, and the multitudes visiting for these two weeks, as Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis or GB’s near-invincible cyclists – but without the fanfare.

Except this group doesn’t depend on gold medals or world records or even making a final; they are on their game every single day and don’t get anything back but a smile or some fleeting bonhomie.

They are the Games Makers, the purple and pink bedecked volunteers who line the route to our gleaming new venues, gently, merrily helping spectators on their way.

I have been to every day of the Games, from Stratford to Wimbledon, Greenwich to Hyde Park, and I haven’t heard anything but effusive praise about a single one of them. What politicians would do for that kind of approval rating.

Their brilliance lies in their peculiarly amateurish British jollity, which makes them much more than mere stewards. It would be enough if they just performed their primary function, coaxing people in the direction of the Olympic Stadium or the ExCel. But they also act as cheerleaders, high-fiving and cajoling passers-by with an irresistible enthusiasm.

Whoever encouraged them to be so expressive is a genius. It might have been easier, less problematic, to tell them just to do their jobs. But, by allowing them personality, they have become the living, breathing, laughing face of London 2012. Some even have megaphones, which they employ with visible relish.

Most incredible of all, perhaps, is that they are doing it for nothing but the experience. We endure miserable customer service all too often, and that’s from the professionals. These selfless individuals outperform the vast majority of their paid counterparts without any material reason. It’s a motivational marvel.

Perhaps to some extent it’s because we expect less, due to their volunteer status. Rather than taking their assistance for granted, we are grateful for their homespun, genuine eagerness, like kindly village fete attendants manning the raffle stall.

There is no shortage of candidates for praise where this Games is concerned – from Danny Boyle and his extraordinary crew of performers (also volunteers) at the opening ceremony, to the athletes themselves and, some ticketing issues aside, administrators such as Lord Coe and Dave Brailsford.

Many of those will likely receive further rewards in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours. But what of the Games Makers? It may be unlikely that they’ll receive the gold medals for showcasing this country that they deserve, but a permanent tribute in the renovated Olympic Park would be a start. For truly making this Games, it is the least they deserve.

Frank Dalleres is sports editor of City A.M. You can follow him on Twitter @frankdalleres