INDIVIDUAL athletes can produce one-off highlights at a major Games, but for the event as a whole to be deemed as a success, everything depends on the volunteers.
That was the message yesterday from two of Great Britain’s Olympians as the recruitment drive for next year’s Commonwealth Games was officially launched at Glasgow Central Station.
Former badminton player Susan Egelstaff was there to represent home interests, while boxing gold medallist Anthony Joshua had travelled up from London to lend his considerable weight to the launch. “It’s going to be an amazing experience, especially off the back of the Olympics,” said Joshua, who is currently recuperating from a minor operation on a foot.
“I think a lot of people around Great Britain are still thinking of it as a home games, so it will get a lot of attention around the country.
“In London the volunteers helped us a lot, and they helped the public as well. A lot of my family and friends got helped by the volunteers, and so did I when I was in the athletes’ village. If I was going to my venue, sometimes if I was late and I needed to find out what bus was coming at what time, I was really supported then.
“Volunteering is great work experience as well – working with people from different backgrounds. It was great at London 2012 and I’m sure the Commonwealth Games will be a success as well.”
Now 23, Joshua did not qualify for the last Commonwealth Games, as each country could only nominate one competitor per weight category in the boxing competition, but, having turned down the opportunity to turn professional after winning gold in London, he is dedicated to competing – and winning – in Glasgow.
There may be less strength in depth at Commonwealth level compared to the Olympics, where Joshua beat Cuban and Chinese opponents on his way to gold, but he still expects some challenging opposition. The fact that not a single competitor from these islands made it through to the last eight in Delhi suggests he is right to take nothing for granted.
“The Cubans and the Chinese may not be at the Commonwealth Games, but the competition will still be tough,” he said. “Whoever steps in the ring has trained to win, so regardless of what level they’re at, they’re in there with a mind to beat their opponent.
“They’re all going to be dangerous. It’s going to be great, and it’s going to be an entertaining Commonwealth Games.”
Egelstaff was part of the entertainment at past Games, winning bronze medals in Macnchester in 2002 and again in Melbourne four years later. Now 30, she retired from competition after the Olympics, but is still very much involved in preparations for next year’s event in her home city.
“The volunteers really made the Games for everyone – for athletes and for the spectators,” she said. “Glasgow is such a friendly city, and I really think this is such a great opportunity for everyone to be involved. It’s not just that the Games are going to come to the city and you can watch it on telly: you can actually be involved.
“London showed what a big advantage having good volunteers makes. It can change the whole Games. There was such a great atmosphere in London. Glasgow will have at least as good an atmosphere if not better.”
The start of the recruitment drive included the leafletting of rush-hour commuters at both Central and Queen Street stations, which brought immediate dividends. “In the first half-hour they had more than 1,000 applications, so it shows people are keen to do it,” Egelstaff continued. “A lot of people don’t realise what a difference being a volunteer makes, but I can assure them it does, to the athletes and the spectators.
“They make such a huge difference. It makes it a much better event if everyone is cheerful and chatting to each other.
“In London every volunteer you walked past had a smile on their face. I think that will come really naturally to everyone in Glasgow.”
Organisers are looking for up to 15,000 volunteers, and the official website, Glasgow2014.com/volunteer, tells you how to apply. Applcants must register by the end of next month,