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Meet the smile makers
THEY were the smiling faces who said hello to the world. The Games Makers, an army of volunteers, whose spirit and friendliness was as much a part of London 2012 as the athletes who took the breath away.
Here the Star shares the story of two volunteers from St Helens, who had the time of their lives.
WHEN Dawn Oates arrived back in her hometown on Monday night she brought with her a collection of Olympic memories that will live with her for a lifetime.
She will remember mingling with athletes and spectators at the Olympic Park and recall standing yards from the Prime Minster during rehearsals for the Opening Ceremony.
And she will look back and smile as she reflects how after being interviewed by BBC London News, her face was recognised by commuters the next day on the tube.
She will also laugh about the day Australian camera crews visited camp sites where she was staying and provided commentary for them about the patriotic decorations on her tent.
Dawn worked 12 hours shifts that started at 5am and was tasked with organising other volunteers in the Last Mile Wayfinding Team, which guided visitors to the Olympic Park.
The 53-year-old mother-of-two from Sutton booked annual leave from her job at St Helens Hospital, where she has worked for 36 years as a personal secretary in the eye clinic, to take up her role as a Games Maker.
This week she summed up her experience to the Star: “It has been an absolute pleasure and honour to represent my country and my hometown as a volunteer at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“I have made many great new friends and memories throughout my journey, which I will remember for the rest of my life.
“My whole Olympic experience was wonderfully completed on the last weekend by the arrival of my family, who helped celebrate my son Liam's 21st birthday at the Closing Ceremony Celebrations at BT London Live in Victoria Park, London.”
BEFORE setting out for London to take up a role as a volunteer at London 2012, Donna Martin (above) stressed that she wanted to be part of the ‘Olympic community’.
What she experienced was something beyond her wildest dreams.
The 36-year-old from Dentons Green Lane said the shifts were long, but admitted she “loved it”.
“Just to be there was incredible,” she said. “The people were lovely and the other Games Makers were really nice.
“I had a behind the scenes role, which involved scanning tickets, processing people in and out of the stadiums.
“I also helped organise the athletes when they left the Olympic Village.”
“You needed to pay attention to detail, because for that person coming through the gates, it may be the first time they have gone to an Olympic venue.
“The atmosphere was really good natured. All London was like that and that may not always be the case. And the police and armed forces were exemplary.”
Despite her busy schedule, Donna did manage to get a glimpse of one or two events, including the women’s hockey.
She believes London 2012 more than lived up to expectations. “We put our own stamp on it and rediscovered our sense of pride in our nation.
“We hoped we would match Beijing - but we blew it away.
“There is going to be a legacy, encouraging people to try different sports. Even if one kid picks up a tennis racket and they excel.”
Such has been the impact on Donna that she has signed up to volunteer at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.