Rio volunteer tells of her Olympics experience
London Games Maker Eleanora Murphy recently attended the Rio 2016 Olympics after being offered her dream job of an interpreter. Here, the laboratory nurse documents her unforgettable experience
BEING part of the 30th Olympic Games at London 2012 was incredibly special for so many of us as the 70,000 Games Makers that, after such an experience, I and many others decided to apply to volunteer for Rio 2016.
I was one of the lucky ones. After an online interview and several tests to prove that I was as good at other languages as I claimed to be (I have an honours degree in French and German and I also speak Spanish), I was offered my dream role, interpreting for the media at Deodoro Stadium.
There was no way I was going to turn down such a unique opportunity, especially if it meant the chance to travel to somewhere new and use my languages. Given the distance between London and Rio de Janeiro, most of my training for the role was done online beforehand.
Before I knew it, the time came to book my flight and this is where the fun and games started.
The airline managed to take payment for my flight twice, and then took two months to refund me, so two weeks before I was due to fly more than seven thousand miles south of London, I had no ticket.
Fortunately, by then, my lovely manager for the Games, Pedro, had made contact with me and helped me enormously to sort the problem out, resulting in a free upgrade to business class.
When I finally got to Sao Paolo, I was fast tracked through immigration and customs because of my link to the Games, and even though this was standard treatment for everyone in the Games, it didn’t stop me from feeling like a minor celebrity, at least for a few minutes.
As I collected my bright yellow Games Maker uniform, I had many happy memories of doing the same at London. Although, when I wore it for the first time, I felt a bit like a jaundiced Oompah Loompah, especially as I have such pale skin in comparison with my Brazilian counterparts, who all look amazing in yellow.
I finally met my manager, Pedro, at the venue, who was very warm and went out of his way to put me at ease, taking great lengths to show me all around the areas where I would be working and explain what would be expected of me.
With every shift after that, I was greeted with a huge smile and a hug, exactly what I needed to start the day in a good mood.
Before my first shift, I had the chance to go and see the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony at the Maracaná stadium.
As I missed out on this opportunity at London, I was very excited to be able to watch the live show and was not fussed that it was a rehearsal.
I stayed in and saw the actual ceremony on the television though, and found that some of the effects worked much better on the television screen than on the stage. Of course, we were regularly asked to ‘keep the surprise’, so even though I and probably most other spectators took lots of photographs, I managed to resist the urge to post the photos until after the actual ceremony had been broadcast.
Work finally started and, given my complete non sense of direction, I arrived very early for my first shift rather than take the risk of letting people down and being late.
Deodoro Stadium is based on an army barracks, so security is pretty tight, just as we had visibly heightened security at London 2012, but of course the typical woman in me can’t resist admiring a man in uniform.
The soldiers all look in incredibly smart and one th thing I found really im impressive was that they ar are all required to display th their blood group on their un uniform.
This makes such perfect se sense to me, as it is one of th the most important things to know in case of a m medical emergency.
My first big job was to in interpret an interview from Sp Spanish to English with th the captain of the Ecuadorian women’s ru rugby sevens team for OBC (Olympic Broadcasting Company).
They had just been beaten 55-0 by the Australians, and in spite of this it was a great match to watch.
She was very gracious in defeat, although part of me wished that she could have spoken a little bit more slowly, so I could get absolutely all the salient points of the interview.
Given that I have hardly spoken Spanish in almost 20 years though, I was still pretty pleased with myself, and how I performed.
During a shift, I became unwell and my lovely manager came to the rescue.
He took me to get looked after, insisting I should just relax and stay calm, because ‘I’m the translator now’ as he said.
Fortunately it was nothing more serious than ‘the poor little white girl not coping so well with our tropical heat’, which brought the smile back to my face at a moment when I was close to tears.
It’s almost impossible to believe that it’s winter here in Rio, as it’s often 30 degrees or warmer.
It was just another of the many times I experienced the Brazilian warmth and kindness.
I have had the privilege of meeting some famous Brits too. John Inverdale, Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Clive Woodward were all charming and very generous with their time, chatting about the Games and life back home in the UK as if I and they had known each other for years.
I came to Brazil with maybe half a dozen words of Portuguese and after just a few days I was bale to hold an entire short conversation in the language.
Even with three other languages under my belt, I have surprised myself with the speed at which I am learning.
I have been made to feel ‘amazing wonderful and fabulous’ as one person described me when introducing me to a new colleague.
I have met countless people, made many new friends and absolutely had the time of my life.
I can honestly say that the decision to work my socks off to afford this trip to Rio and have this incredible and surreal experience is the best thing I have ever done, and I will never forget it.
n EXPERIENCE: Eleanora Murphy (far right) with fellow interpreters; (left) pictured with her manager Pedro