Day 17 – Olympics: What happens behind the Scenes

The last 2 Olympic days were among the most stressing ones in my volunteer journey. Athletics as a discipline is quite complicated to organize due to the high number of competing athletes in a short period of time. The Olympic Stadium is a huge venue and finding your way inside it is sometimes quite confusing. I’ve basically lived there for 3 days and I saw all kind of glory, but also down and stress moments.

I will never forget a day like yesterday. I checked in at the Stadium around 8:30 and met the coach and the athlete there. He is in men’s 1500 m. Time for warm up before the race, which should start at 10:30. In the meantime, I was making sure he wouldn’t miss the call to his heat. So I was staying in front of the athletes’ call room and browsing the volunteers’ whatsapp group to check what is going on around. The call of men’s 1500 m heat 1 was planed at 9:50.

There we go, the call for the athletes to gather for heat 1 started. I swept the training and warm up field with my eyes, the athlete was not there… If he misses the last call, he will be dismissed from the race so I stressed a little. Fortunately seconds before the call closes he showed up together with the coach. I was relieved. We came inside the call room to check the name and the number that the athlete puts on his body, it was wrong. The coach mixed up the numbers, and he got scared. The day before, there was a problem with the second athlete, an 18-year-old dynamic girl, she couldn’t take part of the race and he had to assume a part of the responsibility. So he put all his efforts this time to avoid having problems today…

After a long discussion with Athletics officials, we agreed to print the right number again and they told us that everything will be fine. So the coach and I went to the seats to watch Maamoun compete. Minutes later, the athletes of heat 1 came out to the track, but Maamoun was not among them. The coach was shocked and he jumped out of his seat back to the call room.

The officials of the call room got confused and worried when they knew about the problem. But they were helpless, they could only show us the way to the track. The coach didn’t even wait for them, he run to the path which leads to the track, the path that athletes normally take. We were screaming his name through the halls, asking random people and we also got yelled at because we crossed restricted areas. Maamoun disappeared and the Heat 1 race started already. There were 3 Heats at whole. We saw already the athletes of Heat 2 getting prepared to enter the track. That’s when I started loosing hope that we’ll find him in time.

I don’t know how the coach found him. Everything went too fast. But Maamoun was just there, at the entrance of the track, orientation-less. Without losing any other second, the coach went with him directly to Heat 3 athletes check-in a last try to register him there. Heat 3 got delayed some minutes, but it worked ! We took one last run back to the seats to watch. He was there, finally, on the track. He is also 18 years old, standing there, on the track of the Olympic Stadium of Rio 2016 and competing with the best runners of the world. I could see relief and satisfaction on the face of the coach, who worked hard the past 4 years to finally see this.

This day was definitely not like the others. A lot of stress, much sweat and pressure. But the best feeling ever was seeing your satisfied and relieved coach. It was worth the efforts…

To bo continued…

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