London 2012: Helping to ensure everything is in working order

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IN OUR feature on London 2012 Games Makers last week, we asked others involved in the Olympics and Paralympics to get in touch with group sports editor Derek Bish and Wattisfield’s Mike Newton did exactly that.

I have the privilege of being a field of play team leader for the wheelchair basketball in the Paralympics.

My role is to lead a team of 13 people making sure that everything from the changing room through to the actual basketball court is in proper working order and that the teams have everything they need for warm-up, practice and playing. In common with many other Games Makers, my recruitment started in May 2011 with an interview at the ExCeL Centre in Docklands.

My first training was an induction at Wembley Arena in the deep snow in February where Jonathan Edwards hosted a motivational event to tell volunteers what to expect in the coming training processes.

I’ve since had leadership training and role-specific training and the only session left is venue-specific training, where we are shown the actual playing sites.

I have two shifts at the Basketball Arena in the Olympic Park and two in the North Greenwich Arena, aka the Dome or the O2 Arena.

I have another six shifts at the Lee Valley and Hackney training centres, where the teams have the opportunity to practise away from the main competition venues.

I note with interest one of the volunteers featured in your article last week will also be at the wheelchair basketball. I hope our paths will cross.

On the whole I have been impressed by the quality of the management and the training offered, but I would be lying if I said I’m fully confident about the work that lies ahead.

The scale of the operation is enormous and the consequences of making an error are huge.

Still, I am very excited about the whole thing and can hardly wait for it to start.

It will be a great thing to tell my grandchildren (if/when they arrive), especially if either of the GB teams pull off a medal.

I got involved in wheelchair basketball in 2003 when my son James joined the Bury Bombers, having just got over the first of three operations for his Perthes’ Disease (malformation of the hips).

I am involved in the wider organisation of the game, having just retired as chairman of the Bombers after several years.

I also set up the Eastern Region Association, which supports the best women’s team in the country, the Eastern Blue Stars based in Sudbury, and also the East Rising Suns, the junior teams (under-15s and under-19s) that compete in the National Championships every October.

It was in the East Rising Suns that Norwich’s Amy Conroy played her first competitive match where she was immediately spotted by the GB coach Gary Peel.

I am a qualified table official and have officiated at many National League matches and other tournaments such as the Sainsbury’s School Games.

As you may remember, James has just competed in the Under-22 European Championships as part of the Great Britain team, where we came fourth, successfully qualifying for the World Championships in Turkey next year.

One of my colleagues from the Bombers, Barry Anderson from Culford, is also working in the field of play and at the moment we’ve established that he will be in my team on one occasion.

Mike Newton (Wattisfield)