Behind the scenes with Barques’ Commonwealth Games volunteers
Bursting with a vibrant vision of colours, community and competition, Birmingham has proven to be a magnificent host of the Commonwealth Games.
The events themselves have been an equally exhilarating experience with multiple records broken and new achievements reached.
To ensure the Games ran smoothly, there was a group of people who passionately worked away to guarantee sports were played and records were made.
A dapper sight of cool orange and blue, the crew in question was the Games’ volunteer collective, a 13,000-strong workforce that included two of our very own - our Managing Director, Jilly, and Digital Project Director, Katie.
“Having the opportunity to be a part of something as iconic as the Games with loads of people from across the world visiting the city is so exciting,” Jilly revealed.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t volunteer for the Olympics, so when the Commonwealth Games came up, I jumped at the chance.”
As one of the T2 driving fleet, Jilly’s role was to transport anyone with a T2 accreditation to specific destinations across the city, a position which saw her convey dignitaries from Montserrat, Ghana, Malaysia, Zambia, Wales, Scotland, Mozambique, Australia, Jersey, Canada and New Zealand to name a few.
“It was quite scary getting my first passenger because you’ve got your radio going in your ear, the sat nav and passengers talking,” she explained.
“You’ve got to be on your metal as well as being polite and courteous. It was quite the juggling act.”
Katie’s hospitality skills were equally put to the test as she was a member of the transport team who were in charge of meeting and directing the Games’ volleyball and basketball athletes to their venues.
Located in Smithfield, Katie began her first shift on 30th June, each one of which started at three in the afternoon and finished at 11pm.
“I loved every second of it. Admittedly it was a long shift, but the people were lovely, and welcoming all the athletes has been an amazing experience. The Australian team members in particular were enormous, they’re like gods!”
Due to strict rules about maintaining boundaries, the volunteers weren’t allowed to ask team members and sports personalities for photos unless approached, but Katie managed to meet some famous faces, including Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and the mascot of the Games, Perry the Bull.
Knowing she’d regret not applying for such a one-off opportunity, Katie said she’d never done anything like this before and is incredibly proud to have been a part of the event.
“I loved the positivity that surrounded the Games. Sport is a very, very positive thing at the end of the day, and many people have said how excited they have been to see the city come alive.”
It was an equally exuberant experience for Jilly, who cited meeting Lord Sebastian Coe, the volunteer comradery and the ability to change the sound settings on the Tesla cars she and other drivers used as highlights.
“I was driving Jersey’s Head of Sport, Catriona McAllister and she managed to change the indication noise to a fart sound so that every time we changed lanes, you heard this rip-roaring noise. The passengers and I were hysterical.”
Flatulence aside, the role did carry a level of responsibility with volunteers needing to get familiar with the venues, road layouts and radio quickly as well as cleaning and charging the car after each shift.
“It was a challenge at points, but I enjoyed that. Initially, I thought I’d be litter picking or something, not driving around accredited people,” she chuckled.
On the topic of what the Games has done for Birmingham, both Katie and Jilly agreed that the event has spotlighted the city’s modesty and diversity.
“Birmingham doesn’t promote itself widely and I think the Games have shown everyone how humble, lively and welcoming the city truly is,” Katie said.
Reinforcing this sentiment, Jilly revealed her hope for the city’s people to shout about themselves and their accomplishments more often.
“Every visitor will leave the Games with a good experience of Birmingham. I hope the city’s people have that same experience and are proud of it.”