If you are a long-term reader of this blog – and there actually are some, actually – you will know that I have feelings for the 2012 Olympics in the same way that Peggy Ollerenshaw on Hi-de-Hi has feelings for her yellow coat*. I ache for them. (Strictly speaking - not Strictly speaking – it's any Olympics. I'm an Olympics slut. When it comes to me and the Olympics, I'm a sure thing.)
Bearing this in mind - and I bear it in mind ALL THE TIME - you will not be surprised to learn that I long ago registered to work as a volunteer at the Games. My mind is not that of a brilliant strategist. My plan is basically this. a) I volunteer at the Olympics. b) That means I will surely be entitled to better tickets to watch stuff. c) I will be Part Of Things and it will be Great. Deluded as I am, even I can tell that I am placing a morbidly obese sense of expectation on the rickety bridge that links (a) and (b). But I'm pretty sure that the bridge between a) and c) is strong enough to support the weight of the whole Olympics. And some of those weightlifters are really big guys.
Things I would like to do as a volunteer: have a cool costume; ring a bell at the end of one of the swimming lanes; write things down on a clipboard; look after Kenenisa Bekele's tracksuit.
Things I would not like to do as a volunteer: wear a matronly, below-the-knee white pleated skirt, unflattering blazer and panama-style hat; lie outstretched on a jetty holding on to the end of a boat before the start of a rowing event; stand around at a tube station all day explaining the benefits of buying an Oyster card in GCSE-level German to people who are Portuguese and NOT SEE ANYTHING.
Since I first feverishly signed up last year to volunteer, I've had occasional emails from 'London 2012' (that's the name that appears in the 'From' field in your inbox. First name: London. Surname: 2012. Like, wow, the Olympics are personally emailing me?). These emails have two objectives. Firstly, to say don't worry, you big Olympics-obsessed freak, we haven't forgotten about you, we just don't start the proper volunteer job process until next year. Secondly, to say read on because we are about to passively-aggressively make you feel bad about not volunteering in your community on a regular basis.
There is an initial bit of chit-chat about how worthwhile volunteering can be; volunteering is for life not just to get seats at the 2012 Olympics, etc etc. Then they lay down their trump card. It reads thus:
Although such experience will not be a prerequisite should you choose to apply to be a volunteer at the Games, it may be of use in the decision you will need to make next year.
I think we all know what this means. It means, 'If you don't do this, obviously it's absolutely fine, it's no problem at all. Only… it's just that everyone who's in the Olympics, including Usain Bolt who basically likes everyone, will think you are a MASSIVE BITCH. Also, you will get given a SHIT JOB.'
So when Jones Major asked me to help him officiate at the end-of-season meeting of his local athletics club, deep in the wilds of Bedfordshire, for love not money, I whooped and shook my clenched fists at the sky and shouted, 'Are you watching, Olympic Volunteering Overlords? This is how much I CARE!'
I didn't do this. I was at work. But I did it a bit inside.
So that is what I did last weekend. I helped with the long jump and triple jump.
Here is the Jones empire:
My incredibly important and 100 per cent VOLUNTARY job was to stick the marker that is attached to one end of the tape measure into the pit at the earliest point of contact between jumper and sand.
It taught me some very valuable lessons. Among them:
1. Pushy parents are sometimes out-pushied by their offspring.
Jacob, an extremely excited junior athlete: [To the Joneses] Are we starting now? Are we starting now? Are we starting now?
Joneses: Yes, in a minute.
Jacob's dad: [Weary] Just wait until they call you, Jacob.
Pushy parents are, however, far from extinct: 'Well done, Kate. Not good enough, but well done.'
2. If you are tasked with a job where you are constantly stepping forward on one leg and bending forward, into a sandpit, over and over again, for many athletes, each taking multiple jumps, this is the equivalent of doing about 100 lunges. If you are a person who, in going about their daily routine, does 0 (zero) lunges, the result of this over-exertion is that you can't walk downstairs properly for the following four days.
3. If, on the occasion of repeatedly bending forwards, you have chosen to wear hipster jeans, you may find yourself repeatedly mooning the car park/grandstand/men's hockey pitch [delete according to the circumstances of your sportsground].
This is the kind of sagacity that will leave the 2012 volunteering chiefs reeling. At this rate, I will probably be firing the starting pistol in the 100m final.
*Tessa Jowell is my Miss Cathcart. Or is it Lord Coe?