LONDON 2012: The volunteers getting involved

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HUSBAND and wife Tony and Jean Cornell will have a summer they will never forget after signing up to volunteer at the Olympic Games.

The couple, both 69, are just two of the thousands of volunteers who will get involved with London 2012 as the country’s capital prepares to welcome the world’s leading sportsmen and women to its doorstep.

Despite both volunteering, the pair from Mildenhall will be taking on entirely different roles, with Tony meeting and greeting spectators at the mountain biking and canoeing venues and Jean driving dignitaries around London.

“I was looking for something to do when I retired,” said Tony, who will also meet and greet at London’s O2 Arena during the Paralympics for the wheelchair basketball events. “The excitement has been building in our house for a long time with my wife also taking on driving a BMW around London.

“I’m very much looking forward to it and we have got our uniforms, which we will get to keep as a nice souvenir.

“Our friends and family have encouraged us to do it and as it’s got nearer some others wish they had done the same.”

London 2012 has been described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this country, but Games Maker Ken Rodwell — who will join Tony Cornell in welcoming spectators and teams to the O2 Arena for the wheelchair basketball events in the Paralympics — remembers the last time the Games came to this country.

Newton Green golfer Rodwell, 75, said: “I faintly remember the 1948 Olympics being held in London as an 11-year-old when our 100-yard sprinter was a certain MacDonald Bailey.

“He wasn’t successful in the final, but he did get a bronze in the following Olympics four years later.”

At the other end of the age scale, 20-year-old Jack Burrows will be meeting and greeting athletes and spectators during the Games at the Olympic Park.

Burrows, of Bressingham, near Diss, hopes to catch a glimpse of one of the Olympics’ biggest stars during the event, with the likes of Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis and Michael Phelps attending the park during this summer’s biggest sporting event.

“I’m a bit nervous, but I’m really looking forward to it,” said Burrows. “It’s just come round so quickly from the application process a year-and-a-half ago.

“To be part of London 2012 will be amazing — it’s exciting to know I’m helping it run properly.

“Seb Coe has said that without Games Makers they could not run the Games properly.”

Zach Ward, of Horringer, near Bury St Edmunds, wrote about what it meant to him to be a Games Maker when on work experience with Anglia Newspapers in April, and the excitement is building further with just one week to go until the start of London 2012.

“It’s sort of hit home,” he said. “I’m really excited, but also nervous as I want to make sure everyone we look after has a good time.”

Ward, who has just graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a degree in journalism, will be acting as a personal assistant and driver to delegates from many of the Olympic bodies and nations around the world, with his first shift being on Wednesday.

Writing in April, Ward said: “Although I’m only contributing a minuscule amount in comparison to the whole event, it gives me a good feeling to know I will have played a part.”

Someone else who will be behind the wheel of a BMW 5 Series during the Games is a man who has dubbed himself Olympic Taxi Man through his own Twitter account @OlympicTaxiMan and will be updating his progress throughout.

Jeff Hume, who works at Free Rein Ltd in Hadleigh is hoping his Olympic volunteering will help him raise £3,000 to help fund a horse-riding simulator for Riding For The Disabled — Hollesley Bay Group.

He will be covering central, east and south London, as well as the out-of-London venues at Lea Valley White Water Centre and Hadleigh Farm in Essex.

“Some people think I’m daft for not sitting at home and watching it on the TV, but others say it’s a chance of a lifetime,” he said. “It’s not coming back to this country any time soon, so my instinct was to get stuck in and make the most of it.

“I’m going as a spectator as well, but being involved with it you have an opportunity to see the sights of the Games you wouldn’t sitting at home.”

He begins his volunteering at 6am on Saturday, running right through to August 12, but has breaks during that, meaning he will be able to take advantage of his tickets for equestrian, diving, hockey, basketball and fencing, as well as the technical rehearsal of the opening ceremony.

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