Olympic volunteers 'need support'

The volunteering spirit seen during the London 2012 Olympic Games is in danger of "fizzling out", a group of MPs has warned.

They said the Cabinet Office needed to show it was not "missing the boat" in securing a long-lasting legacy for volunteering.

But what do some of those who volunteered during the Olympics think?

Tim Neumann, 40, from central London

Tim Neumann Mr Neumann is an academic at the Institute of Education

He performed in the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies as a Pandemonium Drummer and athletes' marshal.

The Pandemonium Drummers have continued, taking part in over 50 performances since the end of the Paralympic Games.

They have raised a four-figure sum for charities including BBC Children in Need and performed at charity events organised by others.

"We are all very overwhelmed by the developments, I don't think any of us would have ever thought we'd still be going nine months after the event. Especially the kind of high-profile events we have lined up," he said.

"Making music was fun and people wanted to stay in touch and continue playing. Most of the drummers hadn't played an instrument before and thought it was a good opportunity to learn."

He said Games organising body Locog brought them together for the ceremony but what has followed was all their own work.

A number of other groups of volunteers have continued after the Olympics, including Spirit of London 2012, a charity organised by Games Makers which has raised over £2,000 for the Get Kids Going charity.

Mr Neumann said: "We have a number of high-profile events lined up, all because we are organising ourselves - we would have liked to see an umbrella organisation keeping Olympic and Paralympic volunteers together.

"While these initiatives are all laudable and inspiring, they are disjointed - people are longing for a central contact point, where information about these initiatives can be exchanged and published, and where advice on and help with setting up new initiatives can be sought.

"We volunteers would be happy to talk directly to MPs and some have already done so, as we have a number of ideas how this can be taken forward."

Oliver Smith, 41, from Horsham in Sussex

Oliver Smith and his team Oliver Smith, left on the front row, with his fellow Games Makers

"I've probably volunteered at one extra competition this year I wouldn't have normally considered doing as a result of the Games," says Mr Smith. "And that was because of the people I'd met through the Games asking for help.

"But I volunteered in my sport. I knew the people around me, I see them when I compete. It's about being part of a community. I don't know how to get that community within the wider Games Makers community."

Mr Smith, who was a call room team leader for Games Makers at the fencing, had already volunteered at fencing competitions like the England youth championships for many years and taken part in refereeing.

"I am also a cub scout leader - I am one of those people who volunteer anyway. The Olympics was something I couldn't miss.

"The problem was how to foster the community spirit created by the Olympics and getting people to do things that feel worthwhile," he said.

"It will be interesting to see how many Games Makers apply for Glasgow next year - although I'm not sure whether they should take them. It would be good if Glasgow created its own community of volunteers.

"I don't know how to support those Games Makers who weren't in the supportive environment I was in.

"People volunteered for the Olympics because they wanted to be part of something big and make a difference - we need to work out how to get them involved in more local projects and events."

Sarah Barron, West Molesey, Surrey

2012 volunteers line the route of the victory parade The volunteers were praised for their 'outstanding' performance

"I have been a volunteer in various guises for the last 10 years but very sporadically. Since volunteering at the Olympics last summer I have found a new found enthusiasm for volunteering and this is supported by the various groups that have been created for and by other Games Makers," said Ms Barron.

She adds that forthcoming posts are shared in forums in the sporting world and charity sector.

She has a position at the Rugby League World Cup later this year and has interviews for Silverstone and Glasgow 2014. She also volunteers for the charity Make-a-Wish UK.

"There may not be a clear government scheme or plan to capitalise on the volunteering 'bug' from the Games Maker programme - but the legacy lives on in the volunteers themselves," she said.

The Games Maker Choir was another example she cited, which she says is "going from strength to strength".

"It may not be the legacy that was expected from the Games but it's there nonetheless and is bringing people together to share their volunteer experience and to give back to the community - for example singing at the London Marathon this coming weekend."

Mark Welby, 68, Fulham, west London

"It was wonderful being part of the event. But my volunteering spirit has definitely fizzled out. There has been a lack of creative follow up," said Mr Welby.

He volunteered as a Games Maker who helped people at Paddington Station.

"Certainly it was lots of fun and created a great atmosphere," he said.

But he believed there was too much bureaucracy surrounding every event and the time committed to training at the Olympics was too great.

"Rather than give out masses of garments that we may never wear again, volunteering should be made simpler and easier," he said.

Mr Welby already volunteers for the Friends of Wandsworth Prison which offers mentoring to prisoners and is vice-chairman of an educational trust.

"I have recently retired and want to keep busy and active, and do something more worthwhile than just playing golf," he explained.

"It would have to be something I really believed in to do it again. I wanted to be part of the Olympics, even in just a small way.

"For the future we need streamlining in encouraging further volunteering to make the volunteers feel that they have really made a difference and have performed useful roles."

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