Diary of a London Games-maker: Meeting Lord Coe

Thursday August 2nd 2012

Penultimate day of archery, but my ultimate shift.  I began at 10am, with nothing much happening in the accreditation office (as usual).  Our team leader was team-leading in the accreditation style and had abandoned us in order to use an upgrade card and watch the last-16 matches from the pavilion.

Our boss had also vanished, so me and my two fellow underlings manned the fort, which mostly meant watching the Olympic action on the office telly.

Thankfully, excitement came eventually with the arrival of some unaccredited archery dignitaries.  World Archery are allowed five guest passes per day, but the names they tell us to put in the system in advance often have nothing to do with the people who turn up.

A Welsh couple were delightfully straightforward, but a pair of Sri Lankan gentlemen were not.  Eventually, after numerous phone calls, arguments, discussions, and computer searches, they got their passes and went away happy, but our boss wasn't impressed with WA.

Time for lunch, we thought.  The afternoon crowds were pouring in for the ladies' finals, and it took a while to get to the canteen.  There we sat with the communications team and compared our experiences.  Good fun, we concluded, but a bit miserly on the the perks.

Perhaps the authorities heard us, for when we got back to the office, vast quantities of Cadbury's treats had materialized.  We thus began a brilliant demonstration of British sporting excellence: sitting on our arses in a car park portakabin, watching TV, and stuffing our faces with chocolates.  This was surely the legacy Lord Coe was looking for.

Health food.

And then, as we watched the ladies' medal matches - Mexico beating the USA for bronze, South Korea pipping Mexico for gold in a thrilling, sudden-death, closest-to-the-middle finale - Robin spotted that our afternoon's efforts had not gone unnoticed at the top.  Lord Coe had just arrived in his chauffeur-driven car!

Grabbing our upgrade cards, we dashed off to the pavilion to see the medal ceremony.  I had to go to the top floor to get a view, but it was a good one (and one I shared with Aggers).  Once the anthem had been played, though, I hurried back to the office again.  We'd just been given some thank-you certificates, fake-signed by Seb, and I wanted to get the real thing.

As a boy, I had a signed copy of this photo on my bedroom wall.

I hung around our car park, hoping to catch him close to his vehicle, but Robin reckoned I needed to intercept him earlier.  So I moved up to the access control point by the side of the museum, and got chatting to the volunteer and security guard who were posted there.

Sally (the volunteer) was from Halifax, and had just finished her chemotherapy treatment.  She said it had been a tiring week (she, like me, finished today), but that she wouldn't have missed it for the world.  She was especially pleased that Lord's had received top marks in the assessments of the venues - the only 5-star rating in the Guardian, she said.  And when she heard Lord Coe was coming, she excitedly got out her camera.

After 15 minutes of waiting, though, I was getting agitated.  It was 4.30pm, my shift had finished half-an-hour ago, and my train back home to York was leaving King's Cross within the hour.  I decided to give up.

As I came back through the car park, however, Robin and Howard were chatting to Seb's driver, and the great man was apparently on his way.  I heard a cheer from the pavilion, and suddenly, there he was.  At the access point, Sally got the photo she'd wanted, and now Seb was walking on, and it was my turn.  I readied myself.

And just as I walked forward with my certificate and pen, one of his security guards barked furiously at me, "Tell your people to stop taking photographs, especially that woman on the gate!"  And he pointed dismissively at Sally, who was smiling happily and obliviously and chatting to various other star-struck fans.  And then he marched on.

I wish I'd had the speed of mind and sufficient nerve to tell him to fuck off, but I didn't.  I walked back to Sally and warned her to keep an eye out for the miserable jobsworth should he head her way again, and she showed off her lovely photo of Seb smiling happily away, and I thought of tabloid headlines about Lord Coe's security buffoon trying to stop a cancer-suffering Games-maker from doing something she'd never forget, something which the man himself hadn't objected to one jot.

Slightly depressed, and with my certificate unsurprisingly unsigned, I returned to our car park just as Seb was getting into his car, and he turned to me and Howard and said, "Thanks guys!" and waved, and left.  And I thought it a great pity that such an obviously decent bloke had to be accompanied by such an idiot.

There wasn't much time to dwell on it though.  It was now 4.45, so I said slightly hurried farewells to my team, all of whom I'd enjoyed working with, and then marched to Baker Street, my bags full to bursting with tiny chocolates, and jumped on the tube and made it to King's Cross with time to spare.

And now I'm heading home, and I'm back in the office again tomorrow, and I'm not sure I'll be able to get back to normality quite that quickly.