Monday, 1 October 2012

Paralympics and my London Ambassador role

Again I find myself apologising for the time it has taken me to get this blog out –
So much has gone on this summer that I feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle or, to be more precise, multiple vehicles.  It is not the case of what to include but more of what to leave  out.  Because the BlackLOG is primarily a diary of what Mrs B and I get up to I hope you will allow me the indulgence over the next few weeks – possibly months – of playing a bit of catch-up.....I’ll try and stop doing anything worthwhile for the next few months while I try and catch up with myself....

Following on from my previous post charting our Olympic adventure (what do you mean you didn't read it...?) So long ago now that a number of people have written epitaphs in praise of the BlackLOGs  demise and have somehow moved on with their lives (thanks for the faith guys....)

I'm not sure if I should be insulted or elated but more people have started following the BlackLOG during my month's break than in the last 12 it a sign that people don't actually want me to post any more????

Oh well, I never was good at taking a hint  -  so I shall pick up with my role as an Olympic London Ambassador and our Paralympics adventure – Yes this will include loads more photos for those of you with stamina to wade through them....


In between my Stansted shifts, the day job and various concerts and visits to friends (Teach, Farmer haven’t forgotten our visit)  we managed to squeeze in the following live Paralympic events:
Equestrian -  
Athletics - 
Swimming - 
Closing Ceremony - 

The inspiration that the Paralympians generated was, if anything, greater than even the Olympians. Not just the sacrifice of four year's hard slog but the issue of dealing with disabilities in their everyday lives and the prejudice of others.....It was amazing - when I first started watching paralympic sports it was very hard to look beyond the athletes' disabilities, but within a very short space of time you simply saw the athlete and not their disabilities....

What are the odds....

When Mrs B and I went to the Athletics (amongst 87,998 other people) we had no idea that we would ever see the two people who sat to the left  of us ever again - imagine our surprise when they turned up at the swimming the following night (amongst 17,498 other people) in exactly the same position (sitting just to the left of us).

Having seen Touch*  I am  well aware of the importance of coincidences shaping the destiny of the human race.... With this very much in mind I took the very English step of ignoring the twist of fate and in doing so have either saved the planet from total destruction or possibly plunged us all into a headlong date with oblivion.  My apologies, if it is the latter, feel free to sue me from the depths of hell.... 

Jack Bauer, oops I mean Keifer Sutherland** in a preternatural drama where science and spirituality intersect with the premise that all events are interconnected.

** That well known cockney actor - I bet most of you didn't know that he was born in London...

London Ambassador role
If you had told me a few years ago that I would freely give up almost 200 hours of my time to help meet and greet visitors to the UK (also returning British holidaymakers although on the whole they didn’t really want to be greeted.... ) arriving at Stansted during the Olympics and Paralympics I would have said you were bonkers.

If you had gone on to say that I would be dressed in pink and purple while doing so I would  have attempted to give you a very wide berth indeed.....

If you had pressed me further and insisted that I would  actually enjoy the experience I would probably have petitioned to have you sectioned..... 

Yet at the end of the experience I can truly say I did actually enjoy my time as an Ambassador for the country.

Some of the highlights  and, on the odd occasion, lowlights of my time as an ambassador include :-

Never work with animals.......
One of the ambassadors on shift came across a couple of policemen and  their dogs.  They established that it was OK to greet the dogs and proceeded to pet them. One of the dogs got so over-excited by the attention that it proceeded to disgrace itself in the terminal building.....I knew there was a reason why I never encouraged members of my teams to give too much attention to passengers  rushing through the terminal.  Imagine that conversation – 

“Yes madam we will return your husband as soon as we have finished cleaning him up.....”

.....or children
Now most of you regular readers will know that I have very little to do with children – often claiming that they don’t exist but clearly they do.....I’m not sure what happened on one shift but I found myself in conversation with one particularly sticky and annoying little urchin – I would estimate his age at around 4 but what do I know? For want of anything better to say (not being expert in things that small people like to talk about): 


Me – “Have you been watching the Olympics?”


Particularly small and sticky child -“yeth” - (He had one of those little lisps which parents seem to think is cute and adorable on their own precious bundle of spite but everyone else thinks is nothing that a few well intentioned clips around the back of the head would not be able to cure in a nano second...).
Me “Have you enjoyed it?” 
Particularly small and sticky child “No” Was it just me or was he getting stickier by the second....?
Me “What was wrong with it?”
Particularly small and sticky child “It’s not Dithney”
Me “True, I can’t argue with that... ”


Particularly small and sticky child “I like watching Dithney, the Olympicth is Poo.....” gave a little giggle (The sort of giggle that manic dictators give after saying something outrageous and just before they pass a death sentence on someone.)


Tempted as I was to discuss the merits of Warner Brothers over Disney I decided to let him wander back to his parents to continue making their lives a living misery......


Perfect timing
Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a woman moving towards to the desk.
She was brandishing a coffee cup.

"Would you mind keeping an eye on my children (pointing towards two young kids sitting about 20 metres away) while I get some...."

I reached down and proffered a sachet of sugar which had been left on the desk during a previous shift. 
She was taken aback and mumbled her thanks as she stumbled back towards her kiddiewinks, no doubt feeling cheated of a few minutes of respite from her children’s constant attention... 
It was the sort of timing that happens rarely in life and sadly will probably be the pinnacle of my existence as a human being – no gold medals for me just the sweet success of  a moment's perfect timing.
Unintentional arrival
American man arriving on a flight from Germany.
"Which airport is this?"

Ambassador - "Stansted" 
Geograhicaly challenged Yank - "So it’s not Gatwick then  - Oh dear, that’s not good driver is waiting for me in Gatwick."

We talked him through how to get to Gatwick from Stansted
My passing shot – “Excuse me Sir.  Would you like a map?  It might help you know where you are.”
Is that an insult or are you just pleased to greet us...
As I passed a couple of blokes in the airport:

Bloke one – “Not another one of those pink bastards they are everywhere...”
I  bit my tongue and said nothing

Bloke two – “Yeah but you have to admit they are bloody helpful....”

How do you make your life-changing decisions?  
Elderly Italian man, opening up a map of the UK
Italian Gentleman – “Excuse me sir where should I live?”
Me – “Do you mean visit?”
Italian Gentleman – “No, stay permanently...”
Me – “Gosh, are you asking someone dressed in purple and pink to make a life-changing choice for you?”
Games Makers
On the whole I don’t have a problem with the Games Makers - they did a wonderful job.  My only complaint is that at times it was like they were the only volunteers in town, with all the media attention on them – yes they had the better uniforms, the free Adidas trainers  and the sexier roles -  getting people into the stadium, carrying the athletes’ bags, emptying their bins.  Meanwhile us London Ambassadors got to wear the horrendous pink and purple uniforms – though on a positive note it was the official Olympic colours and made us stand out like the loser in a sword fight fought in a fresh snow field.  

Not such a good experience with one of the Games Maker drivers however.  We had been given meet and greet boards by one of the Stansted LOCOG team to give to the drivers.  I offered it to one particular driver –
Driver - Looking at me as if I was dirt  “What would I want that for?”
He then threw his short stay parking ticket on the desk and said “I hope you don’t expect me to pay this...”

Me – “I’m afraid parking is not something we are involved in....”

Driver - “What is it with everyone today, why is everyone so rude and unhelpful ..?”
Me - “Perhaps it is not everyone but just someone....I find if you are polite and respectful to people you tend to get a better and more helpful response from them...”

Driver - “I’m telling you, if they expect me to pay I’m just abandoning the car here and going home”

Me – “You can do that but I suggest it would be better if you go and have a cup of tea and calm down”

He stormed off – I later heard that he complained about me for being rude and unhelpful.

If I’d have known I would have had a lot more fun with him and really given him something to complain about
The joys of certainty 
A couple of women came to meet their father and asked where arrivals from Cuba flights would come through.

We explained that there were no Stansted flights to or from Cuba but they insisted that they had dropped him off at Stansted the previous week and he had definitely flown to Cuba....
About half an hour later – after checking with their mother -   the two women returned to ask where the Malta flights landed........
Making a delivery the hard way... 
A delivery driver  arrived and tried to unload around 80 boxes of maps
I explained that the storage area was downstairs and gave him instructions how to get there, promising him that I would meet him down there.  After half an hour he had not shown up so I went back to the Ambassador desk finding him attempting to unload the boxes yet again.
This time I decided to escort him  to the delivery area. I went with him to retrieve his white van to discover that he had driven his van into the Coach area and abandoned it in one of the bays.....

Worse still it was surrounded by security officers and coach chaos had ensued as he was blocking part of the  access to some of the bays and had triggered a security alert......  

Interestingly enough the security guards were more interested in having a go at me rather than the delivery driver.  I gave my apologies  and was amazed when they let us leave with no further action....
Sometimes what you are looking for can be found right under your nose 
A Spanish lady in her late 30s came to the desk and mentioned that her family had not arrived to meet her – she spoke hardly any English and was relieved to find one of the ambassadors had enough Spanish to at least have a sort of conversation with...

At the other end of the desk a couple had come to meet their au pair who did not appear to be on the flight....

The couple got an announcement made over the airport loud speaker system and created a sign with the au pair’s name....

The two parties then sat side by side for about half an hour waiting .....

It suddenly dawned on me that the “family” that the Spanish woman was waiting for was not necessarily  a blood-related family............and
...........Au pair’s are not always teenagers....
Doh!,  I introduced them to each other and let them get on with their lives...

Athletes and the slightly famous
I failed to meet a single athlete during my 160 hours on shift. I did see the back of  Pete Doherty's head (not really a sportsman unless you count snorting cocaine as an Olympic sport - I suspect an unlikely event until we get the Columbian Olympic games..... ) and a side profile of the Football TV pundit Chris Kamara as he hurried through the airport..... 

The only sportsmen that I came across were the Leeds United football team - which turned out to be a low point. One of the women on shift is a lifelong Leeds fan and a season ticket holder to boot (travelling regularly from Cambridge to Leeds to watch their home games). She went across to say hello and they completely blanked her.  Now she was in London Ambassador uniform and giving her time freely, while these over paid pampered stars could not even be bothered to say hello. She made excuses for them saying that they were hungry and had just wanted to get food but I witnessed them shuffle away and just continue hanging around chatting to each other.  She had been polite and friendly and didn't deserve that treatment...   

Most of the time was spent helping people get into London or pointing out where the nearest toilet and/or cash machines (they might having nothing left after spending a penny) were....not exactly rocket science but very rewarding when you helped people find their destination. Probably the most asked question was how could they get tickets for the events. My stock answer was "Use the internet ticket site,  but to be honest you have more chance if you can get hold of a Time Machine and go back three months  and purchase them then...."

Mrs B and I embark on a trip to Japan next month and fingers crossed that we come across some helpful Japanese ambassador’s....
Next week I’ll cover Day 1 of V Festival 2012 with day 2 the following week.....Well that's the current plan.  I’ll leave you with a  pictorial view of our Paralympics and my London Ambassador experience.

Record of the week (although possibly record of the month might be a more apt description with my current blog-rate....)

Olympian by Gene - Particularly apt for this Summer
Golden Touch by Razorlight - 28 Olympic and 34 Paralympic Gold medals, not a bad haul for a small nation...
Going For Gold by Shed Seven - Surely the aim of every Olympic/Paralympic athlete 
 "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" by Coldplay - And I thought you just purchased a ticket.... 
Kiss This Thing Goodbye by Del Amitri - All good things come to an end

Photo Finish

Loads of pictures this week - hope you like a few of The Beast's efforts....

Athletics  - (4th September)

1 of  5

Exposito Pineiro J - Spain
F20 Long Jump

Crucifying his body in search of success...
2 of 5

Tonight we will be cruising at an altitude
of approximately 4 feet...
3 of 5

Fasten your seatbelts it 's going
to be a rough landing 
4 of 5

Assume crash position 
5 of 5

Exit stage left and pick up your Gold medal 
Our T35/T38 4x100m runners celebrate Bronze -
It should have been so much better but in the
fine traditions of GB relay teams they mucked up
one of the changes....
David Weir winning the second of his 
4 Gold Medals in the T54 - 1500m. 

I have never experianced such a volume of 

sound as it followed David around the 
stadium like a vocal Mexican wave.... 
A cheeky celebration for
Lenine Cunha (Portugal)   

as he wins Bronze in the
F20 Long Jump
The Greek Athlete Evangelos Kanavos - 
takes part in an invisible short legged camel race
If you can't win the long jump you
can always try sculpting sand with your feet...
Elana Pautova Russia on the way
to Gold in the T12 - 1500m

Apparently Elana is used to training on a 

surface that is about a foot higher than 
the Olympic Stadium track....
Not a three legged race but blind
runners with their guides...
Swimming (5th September )

The Aquatics Centre - with wings
Makes it sound horribly like an advert for pantyliner
"Giving the building confidence to swan about the
Olympic park  no matter what time of the month it is...."
Despite what it looks like there were certainly
 no half measures from these athletes...
Certainly a different way of swimming
perhaps he forgot his towel and didn't
want to get wet .....
1 of 3

Personally I feel the placing of this
sign seems poorly judged... 
2 of 3

How do you enter a diving pool if you
are banned from diving?
3 of 3

Does this mean all of these Paralympians are

 all about to be disqualified for ignoring the 
no diving sign?
Look at those pesky Games makers
forcing guests to have a good time.
Equestrian event (4th September)

Is it me or have we discovered another floating
competitor? Which leaves the question was this
the Paralympics or paranormalympics?
Apparently having your horse using the arena
as a public convenience is not a reason to be
marked down as it is as seen as a sign that
the horse is relaxed....
I'm guessing that the caption
"Look mum no hands"
is probably not PC during the
Paralympics which is why I 

decided not to use it....
Canary Wharf looms large over the Equestrian
arena in Greenwich....
Mrs B leaving Greenwich after 
the Equestrian event...
London during the Paralympics

The orbit
The Olympic stadium 
The National Gallery - Trafalgar Square 

Mrs B takes on the Underground and
comes away with a narrow victory....
The local buildings in Stratford
didn't want to miss out and
came along in fancy dress
Even Tower Bridge got into the spirit of things
and dressed up for the occasion...
Closing Ceremony (9th September)
After such a full-on Olympic and Paralympic summer Mrs B and I decided we needed closure - OK finding out that Coldplay were going to be playing a full set didn't make our decision any harder....

You know that times are hard  when they can't even
afford to put doors on the royal transport....
The Athletes take up residence in the
centre of the stadium..
Not entirely sure what this burning effigy was
all about - but it looked mighty impressive.... 

London gets to crow about the success of the
2012 Olympics/Paralympic games....
Coldplay - at last I got the Beast in to see them
unfortunately we were seated at the wrong
end of the stadium...  
Some of the entertainers seemed
happy to just swan about....
Not the end of the world but the
end of the Paralympics.....
Probably not what this entertainer expected 
when  they told him he was fired....
Ambassador Program

Annabelle the creator of map hats
- not just for Ambassadors but
also for the Desk...
Captain my Captain

"If you want to get ahead get a map....."

Would you take a map from this man ?

Stephen, an actor between roles ,
plans to take his one man show

"Map Man"

 to next year's Edinburgh Fringe

Two of the London Ambassador shifts at change-over time 

Despite my best efforts I managed
only 2nd as the Stansted Pod took
1st place the Best Map Hat competition..
I got to meet the Mayor Boris Johnson at a
London Ambassadors Managers' drink ....

No pictures of me as, unfortunately, the person who

borrowed The Beast to take my picture managed to
get everything out of focus....

- I can report that Boris did like the Union Jack jacket 

Athletes Parade
One of the rewards for working as a London Ambassador was access to a reserved section on the Mall for the Athletes Parade....

Jonathan (Bronze) and Alistair (Gold) Brownlee - Triathletes
I remember watching them win their medals on my Iphone
waiting to go on shift....They looked like real men, only when
I saw them interviewed later it was like someone had replaced
the men with little boys....  
Mo Farah
The original Mobot
Gold 5000m
Gold 10,000m
Jessica Ennis
Gold - Heptathlon
Hannah Cockroft
Gold T34 - 100m
Gold T34 - 200m
David Weir (honest)
well at least it's a good shot of his 4 gold medals
T54 - 800m
T54 - 1500m
T54 - 5000m
T54 - Marathon
Sir Chris Hoy
"Make mine a double...."
Gold - Team Sprint
Gold - Keirin
Lee Pearson - Equestrian
Gold - Mixed Team Championship

Silver - Individual championship test grade Ib
Bronze - 
Freestyle Dressage
Nick Skelton
Equestrian Gold Medallist 
Rebecca Adlington - Swimmer
Bronze in the 400 m freestyle 

Bronze in the 800 m freestyle


Ellie Simmonds - Swimmer 

Gold S6 - 400m 
Gold S6 - 200m 
Silver S6 - 100m
Bronze S6 - 50m
David Anthony GB Wheelchair rugby star 
or Murder ball as it is affectionately known .... 
Hope to see you soon for a catch up on our other summer events....


  1. ...I hope you didn't give the Union Jack jacket to Boris... but then again, if you did, he might turn up wearing it on HIGNFY.

  2. Scarlet Blue said...
    ...I hope you didn't give the Union Jack jacket to Boris...As a politician he certainly didn’t expect to pay for it….
    but then again, if you did, he might turn up wearing it on HIGNFY.I’m not sure Ian or Paul would let him get away with it….


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