A GROUP of Olympic volunteers from Morpeth got to see what superstar swimmers were like when the cameras were not on them.
The nine Morpeth Amateur Swimming Club members came through the rigorous selection process at the end of last year to be among the Young Games Makers (YGMs) helping out at the Aquatics Centre.
Their responsibilities included carrying athletes’ kit baskets to and from the starting blocks and looking after their accreditation passes.
Abi Oman, Rebecca Proud, Alexander Garland, Andie Hinitt, Miriam Inverarity, Robert Carr, Claire Turner, Lucy Shuttleworth and Grace Welsh also enjoyed the rest of their Games experience both in the Olympic Park and other parts of London.
After travelling down on the day of the opening ceremony, the King Edward VI School Sixth Formers’ first session the following day was in the evening and featured the men’s 400m individual medley which included Olympic legend Michael Phelps and multi-gold medallist Ryan Lochte.
They were involved in the other seven days of swimming action as well.
Miriam said: “We were stationed in a room where the swimmers went in after the race once they had spoken to the major television networks and before they went out to talk to the main press. It was fascinating to see some of their reactions out of the media glare.
“The noise from the crowds was incredible and you could tell how each British competitor got on in their event from their reactions.
“The call room beforehand was interesting because some were happy to talk to other swimmers and some were on their own listening to music.
“Phelps was sitting on the other side to where he was supposed to be, but no-one dared to say anything. It was incredible being there, but because we had done our roles so many times before, we were able to get on with the task in hand.”
Away from the pool, five of the group were able to see the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony and all of them watched the special concert in Hyde Park that included breaks to see parts of Danny Boyle’s showpiece in the Olympic Stadium.
Their accreditation meant they could go into the Olympic Park without waiting in the queues and they spotted many other famous faces, including David Cameron and Bradley Wiggins.
“We have so many great memories from our time in London and the atmosphere was fantastic everywhere we went as everyone we spoke to was very friendly,” said Lucy.
“Even little things like everyone in the crowd at Hyde Park singing the National Anthem when the sound went off from the opening ceremony on the big screens helped to make the experience even better.
“Another highlight was getting our photos taken with the (bronze medal winning) GB men’s gymnastics team at the Westfield shopping centre near the Olympic Park.”
The teenagers were joined by two adult team leaders – club Chair Lynda Garland and Head Coach Jenny Glossop.
To help with their travel, accommodation and other expenses, including meetings and sessions before the games, they did a range of fundraising such as a Swim to London challenge that involved all the swimmers at the club doing lengths of the Riverside Leisure Centre pool during an eight-day period to cover the 300 miles from Morpeth to the Olympic Park.
Bag packs, meals, cake stalls and quiz nights, along with a few grants, also contributed to an impressive total of £9,800.
Mrs Garland said: “It was billed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that’s exactly what it was for the YGMs. It was great to be so close to the swimmers before and after their races and all nine of them did their roles brilliantly throughout the swimming competition.
“A special mention must go to 2004 Olympic medallist Steve Parry, who was working for the BBC. He remembered the group from the British Championships and called them over for a chat and photo and he later sent a lovely tweet about them.
“We’re grateful to everyone who has supported us, especially the Morpeth Lions members because without their impetus we wouldn’t have had the street collection when the torch relay came through the town.
“Thanks go to KEVI for being flexible and allowing the YGMs to attend the training events that were in school time.”