Living is Giving - The Sydney Olympics - My Volunteering Experience, 2000
BY SANDRA GROOM
(PROTOCOL ASSISTANT TO OTTAVIO CINQUANTA, IOC BOARD MEMBER FOR ITALY)
Collection day at UDAC, including accreditation, took 3 hours. There was a carnival atmosphere however, with everybody smiling and laughing and getting to know each other. The volunteers processing us wearing their uniforms with pride whilst WE are still waiting for ours!! We are lining up by the thousands, army style, collecting clothing in large bags. “What size?” I was asked. “10 or 12” I reply. The volunteer gives me a 10 in a shirt, pants, and skirt and I try these on. The shirt would fit my husband. The shoulders are almost at my elbows, and the sleeves about 6 inches too long. I poke my head around the curtain and say ”I think this one is marked incorrectly!” She takes me aside and in a conspiratorial whisper confides: “They’ve made them all very big dear, so the fat people feel better!”. I land up with a size 6 and chuckle to myself.
I have not heard from “my” Italians … and I feel anxious! I feel the way I did when I was pregnant, and waiting to go into labour, friends and family keep calling up and saying “Are you STILL here?” – I am waiting to “pop”! I know they arrived on Saturday, and have been on tenterhooks ever since. Every time the phone rings after that, I jump – but I go to bed, and still no word ….. sigh! I cannot bear it, and travel into the city to the Menzies and the Regent, as if to reassure myself that yes, I AM a volunteer, and I WILL get called soon. I am jealous of the other volunteers already working. There is a breathless kind of “waiting” for something to happen amongst the activity …. Well, we ARE waiting to give birth to the Biggest Event on Earth. When I get home, there are messages on the answering machine from family and friends, wishing me luck …. And e mails from the States, South Africa, the UK, and all around Australia. I am in training for my “marathon” – representing Australia as a volulnteer!
We have spoken on the phone, and I “know” him from across the room. He is large, just like the text book ex-cop he is, with a belly which he refers to as his “keg” (as opposed to a six pack young men may have!). He has a moustache, thinning grey hair, a big wide, friendly smile, and eyes that twinkle like Santa’s. I know we will work well together. He listens, he smiles, he is resourceful, punctual, works hard, is a skilled and masterful driver: I always felt safe in his presence. We create an awesome team. Ron is a star at crowd control. He greets everybody, and I smile when he says “Evening Men!” as we pass by, like he was inspecting the troops. He is a great ambassador for our country. Ron imbues me with magical qualities that I can talk my way in and out of anything anywhere, get things done, given, or managed, with my “skill, looks and uniform”. Our boss says he is the envy of the rest of the IOC delegation – he has us, “The Elite Team”!
Ron was stopped one day when he got into town by a Japanese family who took his hand, and said “You must be a very proud Australian” – and bowed low several times. He bowed in return, and thanked them. He said later, he was surprised to find he had tears in his eyes. This big, burly, ex-cop.
The Olympics did that to people.
MEETING “MY” ITALIANS!
I go to the Regent to meet Signor. He has assured me we do not need to meet at a designated spot in the lobby, he has seen my photo, he will recognise me. And he does. I am surprised to discover I feel nervous. Me! Who has led programm es to thousands of people from the front of the room. Signor smiles, introduces himself, and there is an awkward moment as he goes to shake my hand. I have a flashback of my training “Do not Touch!” – immediately put it aside, and hand him the Australian waratah flower and card. His eyes light up. We make a small connection. I know we will work well together. They are an attractive couple: she: slim, elegant, exquisitely groomed, pretty. He is handsome and charming.
SYDNEY SYDNEY SYDNEY
I like to think of Sydney as a bride. All polished, pretty, painted and wearing her very best petticoats. Even the jasmine, the rhodedendrons and azaleas have come out early! And we have summer in spring. Our visitors are captivated and seduced by this beautiful, beautiful place. We do not tell them the weather is not like this every day. Snr. tells me “You should pay to live in this beautiful city!” The Olympics brings out all that is very best in Australians, and for the first time in the 27 years I have lived here, I am present to a powerful national pride, which frequently moves me to tears. A journalist in the States says “the best attraction of Sydney is her people!” At this time – we are! – and I am proud.
THE OLLY VOLLY EXPERIENCE
I have been a volunteer in one way or another since I was 4 years old. I have a very happy marriage, a wonderful family, two lovely homes, an above average income, and a demanding job. I do not volunteer because I have nothing “better” to do with my time. I work dozens of hours a week, every week, as a volunteer. I volunteer because I love what it creates for people – and for me. I am leaving in 3 weeks time to take a group of Australian teenagers to Nepal for two months with World Youth International on a cultural exchange programme. I have worked with hundreds of volunteers in many different organisations over the last 45 years – and have never experienced the sense of pride, belonging, and an extraordinary willingness to support and assist each other with absolutely everything. There is a mixture of pride, respect and curiosity from the public about our uniforms and our jobs – and everyone is ready to chat and laugh with us in the street. I have friends who tell me later “I feel so envious of you. I WISH I had been a volunteer! How did you get the job?”
I feel sorry for all the people who are not volunteers. The community spirit amongst us volunteers is palpable: we are smiling, laughing, supporting, and sharing with each other. Could we have life in Australia like this all the time? – this is so much FUN!!! I feel so proud to be Australian.
There are periods of frenetic activity, punctuated by hours of waiting. I sit at the Menzies (our break out staff area) and listen to everybody’s opinions about the Olympics, the inside gossip, and observe some jockeying for “power” and “position” and “pecking order”. Even us volunteers have a structure. It is amusing to see, and sometimes irritating: I remind myself that people who have low self esteem need to prop themselves up ….. and given a uniform, it doubles their power! This is a minor irritation however, and as always, am blown away by the kindess and generosity of these people, my colleagues and who they are in their lives. The Moms and Dads with kids and businesses and jobs and aging, ailing parents. These are not people sitting around looking for something to occupy their time. They have busy lives and have given themselves to the Games freely.
DID WE SEE ANYTHING?
When Ian Thorpe left to ready himself for the 200m, the protocol assistants rushed to fill every corner of the area around the seating (strictly forbidden, but nobody was watching us, all eyes on the pool.) Through a tiny corner, if I crouched down, and looked through the tangle of cables for the cameras, and the legs of people, I could see a tiny section of the pool, through which swam Ian Thorpe on occasion! I cannot describe the roar of the crows, the monumental, Australia wide support that was there for our swimmers, the mighty roar of the crowd shook the walls. I found myself crying – a mixture of pride, relief, and a clarity that I had watched history unfold.
The men’s 100 m medley: there was more at stake than just swimming, this was about AUSTRALIA, this was about OUR country, OUR pool, OUR team, OUR games. Was there ever a more exciting race than this one, which the Americans have held tightly forever? – and following on the heels of the comment by an American swimmer last week that they would “smash the Australian swimmers like guitars”. When this incredible race was done, our men got out of the pool, and in typical Australian larrikin manner, all mimed guitar playing. The crowd loved it! The Protocol Assistants were high-fiving each other as if WE had just won the race!
At several events, I am taken by the venue supervisor to watch a game when there are empty seats. This is particularly exciting when Italy is playing someone, and it gives me lots to talk about with “my” Italians. Snra waves the Italian flag I have given her. She tells me later, it is magic – Italy wins when she waves it. (Another mythical quality Sydney is imbued with!
However, there is a measure of discontent as some female pa’s complaining about how come they cannot see some events, even if there are empty seats! I tell them, we were told when we signed up, we would NOT see anything! I distance myself from this complaining group. Volunteers who inisist they SEE games are beyond the pale. I do not understand this attitude. When and if I am fortunate enough to see some sport, I am thrilled beyond belief, and certainly do not consider this a perk of my job, and am always clear that if the place fills up, I will have to leave.
HOW MUCH WORK DID THEY DO?
Everywhere we go, Snr. C is feted and fawned upon, and called Mr. President. (He is a Member of the IOC for Italy, President of the International Skaters Union, and Chairman of the NOC for Italy – a busy, and important – and powerful! – man). He is at pains to explain to us in the car going home, after I have told Ron that I heard him called “Mr. President” – he says, embarrassed, “Sandra! Please, you know the kind of people we are! – that is NOT how I want to be called!” He tells me, somewhat apologetically, and yet seeking my approval in some way I think – that the treatment, and the assistance he gets is not big headed, but deserved – for the effort they put in. He too, is a volunteer! - I like that! - and every four years they get a 16 day trip to the Olympics. I agree – I do not see any evidence of a gravy train for this man. He works hard – he works the crowd hard, and is always on duty. His wife is the silent, strength beside him. Today, when he was chatting too long with anyone she whispers in his ear, and he gets back to the job at hand. A woman who supports her husband, knows him well, and knows the routine. Another “unseen” volunteer for the Olympics?
THE FAMOUS PEOPLE!
I am standing ten feet away from The American Basketball Team!!! I cannot believe this! My son would be breathless with joy to witness this! I am so excited, that I fumble so much that before I can get a film in my camera they are on the court, and we can hear the game, feel the atmosphere, but not see it …. I have missed the photo opportunity, but I am happy. We are underneath the game!
At the tennis, I watch the practise courts and saw Mark Phillipousos playing, plus both the Woodies – and the coach, Tony Roach. There are a host of international tennis players warming up, and I stand, still and silent, hoping not to draw attention to myself whilst I surreptiously watch the Masters at work. What a thrill!
Our Prime Minister was at the Rowing one Sunday, and Janet Howard and a team of security men dashed by, looking looking for someone. I heard someone say the “The PM is lost”, and a flurrity of activity ensured. Then John Howard walked right up in front of me, smiling and saying “Good Afternoon! “ I was so stunned. Me, who can speak with a mouth full of marbles under water, for once I had no words except “Good Afternoon!” in return. The Prime Minister of Australia!
Standing outside in the shae one day, and Chelsea Clinton strolled by. Confident, and skilful, shaking hands, working the crowd, smiling, and talking. “This is the President of the United States of America’s daughter” I was thinking! She headed straight towards us as if to speak, and then she noticed Michael Chang the tennis player, standing right next to me. She stopped and had an animated and extended conversation with him, ending in a kiss and a hug. Michael Chang looked stunned.
I helped the ex Minister of Sport John Brown and his wife find the Olympic lounge.
Ordinary, pleasant Australians, who smile and say thank you.
We are taken from the Olympic family lounge to the Vice President of the Modern Pentathlon’s suite. Thomas Bach (The Vice president of the IOC) and his wife are there, and so is Prince Alberto of Monaco. “My” Italian lady sits next to Juan Antonio Samaranch. I see famous and important people everywhere, and am only sorry that I cannot recall who they all are!
WHAT HAPPENS AT HOME
It is 11.30 pm most nights when I get home. I leave around 7.30 am. Every night I type up my diary of the day, wash the shirt I wore today, and iron the shirt I washed yesterday so I can wear it tomorrow. (Only two shirts). My beloved husband and son are not holding the house together as much as I had hoped. The dishes pile up in the sink. The carpets remain un-vaccuumed, the fridge remains empty, the laundry overflows, and the garbage spills over. Thankfully, my Mom arrives on a white charger, and unpacked the shopping I had ordered form Coles on line, oversees the window cleaning man, the house cleaners, makes dog food, washes the sheets and does the ironing. Nobody can do a great job without somebody behind them assisting with the details. My Mom and Dad are my support team, and they are diong their bit for the Olympics by helping me. My Dad has been really sick with bronchitis and I feel somewhat guilty that I have not been able to visit him. I am very tired when I get into bed, but am so exited about all that has happened in the day, I do not sleep for ages.
Ron has been on 2 days break, and “my” Italians are so happy to see Ron return. So am I. The relief driver was good, but definitely not Ron! They both say immediately “Welcome Back, Ron!!!” They hand him a gift, and say “Thank you, Ron!” They do the same for me. What a gift! I have a beautiful Georgio Armani scarf, the finest sheerest silk you can imagine, navy blue, in a cardbaord box, tied with a cotton loop. Ron has an excellent grey silk Versace tie, elegant and refined. Ron says he has never bought a suit that cost as much as this tie probably did.
On our last day, he tells me again what a wonderful thing we have done, Ron and I, and ALL of us volunteers. “We could not have the Games without you volunteers. You have done a wonderful thing for your country. You have personally assisted the Australian economy! I am very grateful to you. (Wow! I didn’t know we were doing that!!!) He says he has been the envy of all the other IOC members, having Ron and I as “his staff”.
Some late nights, Snr. would insist that Ron drive me home to Gordon from the city or SOP. This was strictly against the rules, but much appreciated by me after many long successive days. (Ron jokes he wasn’t willing to inflict me on other train passengers …. “Heaven knows WHAT she might do!”)
We have been told to organise days off for ourselves when we need them. However,
I notice my reluctance to do so, and in leave “my” Italians in the care of someone else. I feel very proprietorial about them! I work 23 days straight, and never feel resentful. If only we could harness this quality and recreate it in our workplaces. I am enjoying myself so much! Our job ends on Sunday , 1st October, at noon. I am already clear I will be “taking care of them” until Tuesday evening, when I put them on the plane for Milano. After all, they are “mine”!!
TRAIN TRAVEL TO WORK
Every day I intend to read the paper on the train, as it is my only time to do so, but never can – everybody talks to me and I talk to everybody, and the spirit of community is very strong. We have a license to talk to anybody during the Olympics, and it is wonderful! People ask about my uniform, my job, where the tolilets are!, the medal tallies, etc. The public believes that a volunteer is imbued with extraordinary wisdom about a vast number of affairs! The trains are a happy place to be, run precisely on schedule, and are squeaky clean. One day I talk so much to one visitor that I miss my stop and have to double back. Travelling to work has never been so much fun!
SENORA CINQUANTA’S DAY OFF!
I carried strawberries, kiwi fruit, champagne in a cooler bag, a white damask cloth and napkins, and glass bowls and Tim Tams on the train – quite a feat, given the crowds – however, everybody is so cheerful and so happy. We are taking Snra. and her girlfriend, Snra. Magri, on a picnic today, and to see the sights. Ron has the car gleaming, and everything is packed in the boot. We drive over the Harbour Bridge to Mosman, through the shops, and down to the zoo, showing them the skyline – Sydney is seductive, at her best, showing off in the best possible way …. And then to Balmoral, which they adore. We walk down the promenade, they exclaim and take photos, and kind Aussies take photos of all of us – I am so proud to be Australian, the spirit is moving and I am in heaven. We drive to Manly, take them along the beach front, point out the Corso, and up to North Head, where the view is spectacular, and there are a crew of St. John’s Ambulance waiting there - in the heat – for what, I wonder?
From there we drive to Duffy’s Forest, to Waratah Park, the home of Skippy – and Snra. C. insists beforehand that she must pay. She says it is “my shot” (her “shout”) – (she is becoming Australian, using our colloquialisms!) and asks if I will take care of the finances, handing me $230 …. I go ahead and buy four tickets, and bags of food for the kangaroos, and in we go – they are in heaven, surrounded by cockatoos, cookaburras, dingos, aggressive emus, which Ron attempts to tame, wombats, and when we get to the koalas, the mother in them emerges, and they are all pouts and tut tuts, and murmuring soothing sounds. We take masses of photos, and are allowed to stroke them, and then we go to the kangaroos, who delight them as there are babies with legs and heads popping out of pouches.
We head to Palm Beach, and a lovely restaurant, and Snra. invites us to join them for lunch. Ron follows the lead of the ladies and orders salmon and asparagus – it arrives, very nouvelle, a tiny portion, I look at the size of Ron and the size of the meal, and ponder how much of his large tummy it will fill. However, he inisists that is all he will have. The meal arrives, and it is one of those delicate, daintily arranged small portion, the size of an entrée…. I look at Ron, but not a trace of a smirk mars his happy features …. I am trying not to giggle, it takes about 35 seconds to eat this dish. Ron must be starving. Snra. Presses him to eat more, he gracefully declines.
Back at the hotel, I give her the strawberries and kiwi fruit I have brought, and compliment her on her astute purchases of pashmina shawls today. She says “Sandra, I will KISS you before I leave! – you know us Italians!!” Snr. thanks us profusely for the wonderful day the women have had and for “keeping my wife busy” – he is smiling and obviously well pleased.
He is presenting medals tonight, and I cannot believe how much I am clucking about this confident, wordly man as if he were a child of mine. I have given him a comb and a tiny spray bottle of facial water refresher, telling him he must be the most impeccable and handsome of the presenters of the medals on TV. He is tickled at this gesture, and says “My wife will carry it in her handbag …” I am as proud as a mother at the Christmas concert, and take a dozen photos of him presenting medals.
I preen and posture with pride.
THEIR EXPERIENCE OF AUSTRALIA (AND US)
Snr. jokes about how “tough” Australian women are, especially me! He confides to Ron in a loud voice, “Ron, if I require a special service, and they cannot help me, I will say “If you do not assist me, I will send Sandra Groom back here!” – then they will help me, yes!” Peals of laughter at this joke on me. Ron, the Aussie, and Ottavio, the Italian, are males, and united. Where we are born makes no difference. I love this laugher, this joking, this unspoken admiration of our toughness. It’s true. Australian women ARE tough! His wife too, likes this interpretation of women. She says it has little outlet in Italy!! Women too, are the same the world over, and Snra. and I are bonded by small smiles of encouragement and what we know about our place in the world. Our love for our husbands fuels our strength. We make jokes about males being the boss, but woman knowing they are.
Some days they say “Sandra, we never have to look for you – you are always there!” and tell Ron, “You are a computer! – a machine! – what you do with this motor car!” They tell the man in the mobile phone shop who has worked tirelessly with me for 3 hours to get his phone sorted out “You are a genius! Thank you!”
One night, Ron, God bless his big cotton socks, sits outside the restaurant until about 11.30 pm to wait for them to take them back to the hotel. A taxi ride would have sufficed, but no, says Ron, not for “our” Italians ….
LOSING “MY” ITALIANS
I am standing amongst world champion fencers, pouring out of a side door, security is holding back the crowds. Snr. has presented a medal, I am to meet them here, but its chaos! They cannot find me, I cannot see them, and my phone does not work in the bowels of the building. I feel sick. What a hopeless PA I must be! - I have lost them! Eventually I hear Snr. call “Sandra!” with such relief on his face. I fall upon them, like a Mother reunited with a lost child, almost sobbing with relief, and pat his face tenderly, hugging her arms to me. They accept this – they are Italians. Oure relationship has moved to another level.
TREKKING IN DARLING HARBOUR
One evening, about twelve of the Italian delegation are going to dinner at a place called Nicks Bar and Grill. Ron knows where it is, and drops us at Sega World at Darling Harbour, and we walk through the thousands, with the party following me like the Pied Piper. I have where I am going. Presenting a confident front, I keep walking, they keep following. We get to Nicks. The wrong Nicks, as it turns out, they have all entered the restaurant, talking and removing jackets and visiting the loo. I have to herd them out of the restaurant, (this feels like a cattle drive!) It is quite a task with 12 animated, noisy, gesticulating Italians, all offering different suggestions and opinions. I cannot speak Italian, and their English is limited. I keep walking, they keep following. It’s a long way to the second Nicks. Now I feel like the Keystone Cops. I meet an off duty volunteer, quickly explain my dilemma, and he runs ahead and comes back with the reassuring news, that yes, (the right!) Nicks is ahead. (This is how volunteers assisted each other during the Games – I don’t know who he is, but I want to say THANK YOU!) I, meanwhile, am trying to maintain my composure, waving my white hat in the darkness for the dozen Italians to follow, and keeping a cheerful expression, as if to say “I know EXACTLY what I am doing!” I was very relieved to get to the restaurant – a brand new one, which I had never heard of before – about a kilometre from the original one. These elegant Italian women in their high heels were teetering about in agony by the time we got there, and they were very pleased to sit down. Meanwhile, I have bluffed my way through another potentially explosive situation.
The stadium is packed with 115,000 people and it seems like 20,000 volunteers when Cathy Freeman walks out in her zoot suit. We, the Olly Vollies, and the crowd roar our approval. This young woman, beloved of all Australians, must feel the stress of winning this race so profoundly. She carries the hopes of the Aboriginal nation, and she stands for reconciliation between us.
I have a wonderful view along with hundreds of other volunteers all lined up and waving flags …. Until half way throughout the race, on the run home, the crowd as one, leaps to its feet, screaming and yelling, people are jumping and clutching their heads and their faces and hanging on to ech other, eyes popping ….I have never heard a sound like it …. The crowd are carrying her on their voices, she is running faster than she has ever run, leaving the English woman and the Nigerian (?) woman behind her …. As she loops the track, the flash bulbs follow her like a Mexican wave …. She comes home 2 m ahead of the others …. If possible the crowd roars ever louder!
“Our Cathy” has won …. The volunteers are hugging each other, some are crying, and jumping and we believe we have helped her win by our support. I feel exhausted, as if I have run with Cathy, my legs are trembling, my heart is pounding, I am weepy.
CAUSING A MIRACLE TO MARCH
Bob Carr is giving the volunteers ticker tape parade on Thursday 5/10/00. How wonderful! There is a party for Protocol the night before. However, I am flying to Adelaide to lead a 3 day training for World Youth International the same day at precisely the time the march starts. I work out: I could catch a later flight, and still be there in time for the training and I am committed to attending both the training and the parade. I call my director in Adelaide, and ask about the ticket, can it be changed? Unfortunately, it cannot , it is a 21 day advance purchase ticket, and electronic. Refusing to be thwarted, I go to the Ansett desk at the Regent, and tell her my story. I am (obviously) a volunteer, and want to be at the parade! I ask her to cause “A Miracle”. She taps away, makes a phone call and does! “No problem, all confirmed – your flight is now at 6 pm!” I kiss her, tell her she is a Champion, bequeath all my grandchildren to her, and leave, very excited. One more example of people’s willingness to “go the extra mile” during the Games.
ROMA IN THE REAR
We drive to the Superdome – there are three Italians in the back seat, all talking at once. It is comical. Nobody is listening to anybody else, and there are at least two mobile phones in active use, and extra curricular conversations occurring all at once. I glance at Ron, and we shake our heads imperceptibly in wonder at this marvel of communication. We are all happy.
He regales us with funny stories on many days, and we laugh until our jaws ache. Our drives are generally great fun. Sometimes they hold hands and talk very quietly in Italian to each other, and Ron and I fade into the background. Other times I “know” when I can be playful and bossy with them. I have brought Andrea Bocelli CD’s to play Italian music for them – they are delighted. We play these late at night, very softly, when they are tired, or when he has come from a stressful meeting. I am learning their facial expressions and how best to support them. With silence. Music. A joke. A request for a plan for tomorrow.
AUSTRALIA VS ITALY – NOW WHAT?
I have become Italian at all the events, waving our Italian flag, which we now call the International flag, as it is the red, white and green. Its spine broke during an enthusiastic moment, and has been repaired with Japanese chopsticks, by my husband, Gerald, with his African engineering, carried by Aussie me. Italy is playing Australia at the basketball. This will require all my protocol skills! Snr. says, with a sly smile, he does not need to carry the flag today, perhaps I will need it to wipe my tears when Italy beats Australia? I think he may be right, Italy is a powerful team, but I smile slyly back, and say “We shall see!”
I find an illegal spot from which to watch the match. The GAME IS FANTASTIC! – The team play a great game, and Andrew Gaze and Shane Heal play a mighty game. It is neck and neck, we are in the lead. At half time, they take the lead. This is nail biting and aggressive play. The crowd is going bonkers, people crying and singing and yelling and jumping out of their seats with excitement. I am shouting myself hoarse – and WE WIN!!!! 65 – 61, basketball history, we are through to the finals!!! I am jigging up and down and hugging strangers! When I collect “my” Italians, I say “Snr. perhaps you now will need my flag to wipe your tears on???” He laughs uproariously and they both place an affectionate arm arorund my shoulders. They congratulate us with generosity.
TEACHING “MY” ITALIANS TO USE THE SEAT BELTS
From the first day, I have had a strict rule. No seat belts on, no car movement. I can tell they are unused to being told what to do, and Snr. good naturedly tells me “In Italy, rules are made to be broken!” I say, “In Australia, we wear our seat belts.” I refuse to budge on this point. He likes to extract his “revenge” in a playful manner, and makes jokes about how bossy I am. It becomes a source of amusement to us all. One day I am slow to put mine on. He is quick to say “Sandra, please put your seat belt on”. I immediately respond: “It is the sign of a great teacher when the pupil begins to teach the teacher ….” He slaps his thigh and roars laughing, chucking his wife’s chin, and saying, “Maria Louisa! – did I not tell you, it will be 20 seconds before a response from Sandra – but no, it took her only 3 seconds!!!” He likes my cheek, and he enjoys “our games”. I suspect not many people challenge this man – and even fewer women – and he admires my boldness.
AM I THE DRIVER’S MUM?
It is 34 degrees and poor Ron has to wait outside in the car for us. I ask him again, has he got water? He always replies “Yes Mum!” to my questions. From the first day, when I placed his accreditation card tape under his collar, he responded with “Thanks Mum!” This is a relationship with a man I have not had before. Based on
a solid foundation of friendship and mutual respect for each other and our skills, a complete commitment to supporting each other, and an almost uncanny ability to “work magic” in difficult and seemingly unworkable situations. Time and time again, Ron and I come up trumps, with a precision and a dedication to alignment. We call these events “miracles” and congratulate each other. At the end of the Olympics, I am surprised to discover how much I miss this man, and our shared commitment to excellence. This is a man who I probably would never have met in ordinary circumstances, given where we live, and what we do, and yet we have created this extraordinary relationship.
PROMOTION FOR “MY” ITALIAN
Snr walks briskly towards me, sitting in the chair I have taken ownership of in the lobby. He is smiling, energised, ecstatic, and very emotional. “Today is a very important day for me, Sandra, today I have been elected to the Board of the IOC!!!” I am thrilled! I want to run around the lobby of the Regent and tell everybody. I congratulate him profoundly. I want to hug him, but feel this is not appropriate. I am so proud of “my” IOC Member and that he has chosen to tell me straight out of his meeting. People are coming up to him and shaking his hand. His eyes gleam with achievement.
RON SAYS GOODBYE
Ron says goodbye to “our” Italians. He has declined to come to the airport, saying he would be “a basket case”. This big, burly cop, moved to tears, by farewelling people we did not know 3 weeks ago. His face is red, he is having difficulty controlling his emotions, his Adam’s apple moves rapidly, he blinks, but is unable to stop the tears from spilling over. He extends his hand to Snr. who surprises us all by throwing his arms around Big Ron. Now my eyes fill with tears, I am transfixed by this scene. A small Italian man, and a big Australian man, bound by the Olympics. I am so moved I forget to take a photo of this happening! Ron gives them both an Honorary Police Pin. Snr. is absolutely delighted, he is an ex cop himself, and is as pleased as can be. Ron tells me later, “I couldn’t believe it! I actually kissed another man today!” A breakthrough for a big boofy bloke with a big boofy heart.
BONZER BUS RIDE
I have left them at the Closing Ceremony, and want to be home to see it myself on TV. Ron has taken the car out as the roads are closed. I walk for 40 minutes to get to the bus stop. The crowds are leaving, and people are tired and happy and smiling, even kids in pushchairs are in good spirits! The bus driver is a young, cheerful, Aussie guy, a young version of Crocodile Dundee. He is elling jokes, introducing people, laughing, teasing people, and I am delighted to be there, and note with much pride the response of our visitors. What an Ambassador for Australia this guy is! Can we bottle him?? This is a delightful way to end a tiring and emotional day. He tells us how to get off, he will stop pretty much anywhere for us. He is having the time of his life, tells me he has left his wife and children in the country to do this, and can’t wait to see them. But “Man! What a ball I’ve had!” Everybody on this bus are talking to each other and having a whale of a time …. I realise that this is the first time that I have been a part of the crowd! I have been insulated in my designated black Statesman with a designated Driver. I am thrilled to be a part of this crowd, and can see why Australia and Australians are being given such a great rap around the world! The driver seems to think I am an Official – and a paid one at that – and I am quick to let him know that no, I am a volunteer – and LOVING MY JOB! I feel very proud.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
A piece from Column Eight in the Sydney Morning Herald: Somewhere in Sydney, a long snaking queue in a bank, and no action. One of the customers says in a loud voice “What we need in here is a couple of Olympic Volunteers to get this handled!”. Laughter from the customers, stony stares from the staff.
LAST DAY ON THE JOB
Today is the last day of my duties, which officially ended on Sunday, but I figure these are “my” people and “my” responsibility until they are on the plane. I want to do this. I press my uniform, and carefully dress, always proud as ever, to wear it – and feeling sad, board the train for the city. The streets are being closed off for the Athletes Parade, and there are thousands of people milling about, and road blocks, and we cannot get to the mobile phone store to have his mobile restored to Italian mode.
I suggest we have lunch, and after lunch, get the phone sorted out. We find an Italian pizza place, and Snr. says, “So you wear your uniform to the end, huh?” We sit down, he orders wine and food. This is the first time that I have sat at a table with both of them and eaten a meal, and I feel a little strange. Snra. hands him a package, which he tactfully places under a napkin, whilst he acknowledges me generously. He then hands me his card, President of the International Skating Union …. and a fine gold chain, with a tiny gold and black medallion, with ‘ISU’ inscribed on it. He says: “This is your gold medal, for being the BEST!” My eyes fill with tears ….. So do his. And hers. We have completed something together, and I feel very happy, very proud, and a clarity that this can never be the same again. I say I will always remember them both when I wear this.
I give them the small gifts I have brought: A cup saying “Numero Uno” for him, which he loves, his male ego well pleased, and Snra. loves the tiny malachite face I have given her. We have developed an ease – not quite a friendship, given the status of our relationship – but an appreciation and a pleasure in each other’s company.
“KISS AND CRY” AT THE AIRPORT
The trip to the airport is uneventful, we are there in plenty of time. I have done this a thousand times myself, and know the ropes. We sail through, and then are greeted by a volunteer. She asks, “May I take your guests through Immigration?” I am stunned at the extent of our Australian hospitality to our guests. She chats and reassures them with grace. I feel a little jealous that she is taking my charges. Too soon, we are at the gate. My heart lurches, and my throat is suspiciously tight. We take photos. There is always the awkwardness when we say goodbye to people we care about. Cheekbones and noses bump, and bags get in the way. My eyes prickle dangerously, and then I am weeping openly. Snra. says “It is not long. Nine months until we meet again. Then, it will be my turn to call you ‘Snra’”. (Gerald and I have had plans for 2 years to visit Europe next year, and they have invited us to visit them). More kisses – they are gone.
The tears are rolling down my cheeks. I feel bereft. I walk to the trains, slowly. For the first time in weeks, there is no rush, I do not have to be anywhere at a certain time. I wish Ron was here. He would understand. I have nobody at this moment to take care of! No organisation or plans or phone calls to make. Our Olympic banners are flying, there are photographs all over the place of our Olympians, our airport shines, the staff are beaming. I feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction for a job well done, and yet feel curiously lost in my own city. Then a gleaming silver train arrives and I am headed home.
My husband, Gerald has organised for me to have a massage at home tonight. I take off my uniform slowly, as if to keep it on, will keep me connected. I shower, and enjoy the heat, and the relaxed pace of it …. And when Marty starts to massage me, I start to cry, and cry for about 30 minutes. He is anxious, “Are you OK? – are you in pain?” But no, it’s a release, it’s a relief, it’s knowing I’ve done my best, and done a great job.
My tears are about the spirit of the Olympics – me, who has never been particularly interestsed in sport at all! – and its the sense of community I’ve experienced. It’s the hundred small wins that Ron and I have had to make their stay memorable, and the laughter and the tension we have shared. Its for all the medals our athletes have won, and all the medals they have lost. Its about what its taken for every athlete to be here, and for every roar of applause we Australians gave the underdogs. Its about the people I have met, and the support we have given each other ….. what do you need, how can I help? Its about my family, missing them, and being in my home again, and allowing the guilt of not being there to care for my aging parents to emerge.
Its about being part of history, as Juan Antonio Samaranch says, “The Best Olympic Games Ever!” – and part of the biggest workforce in peace time, ever – 180,000 people - 47,000 of whom are volunteers. And I have been one of them. I’m proud, very proud, to be Australian. I know I’ve given my Personal Best.
I know I want to go to Athens!!
PROTOCOL ASSISTANTS PARTY AND MUSTANG SALLY LETS HER HAIR DOWN
The Menzies fills up fast, so many Protocol people! – the Italian team find each other, and stick together. Drinks are free. Food is scarce. We have speeches and games. And Karaoke. I get up with another PA, a man, and we do our rendition of “Mustang Sally”!! We get roars of approval from the crowd. I do the “shboom shboom” stuff, and let him do the front stuff, he has a good voice. What fun! We win the prize for the best act. I am told we were the topic of conversation going home in the train that night. “They were a great ACT! – this man and woman, must have been married, as they knew each other well, fantastic performers! - and were so well rehearsed!” I find myself paraded around the room on a man’s shoulders, a victory lap, and people are clapping! (I wonder if this is Strictly Protocol? – and what Margaret McLennan and Wendi Balbi would think if they could see me now!)
TICKER TAPE PARADE FOR THE VOLUNTEERS
The atmosphere on the train to the ticker tape is full on party! Are there any regular workers in Sydney? – as the train seems full of uniformed Olly Vollies, laughing, talking, swapping stories, and taking photos of each other …. Like family, we have been through an experience, (can I draw a comparison to a war? – you have to be in it to know it, you cannot have observed it from a distance). Now we are bonded, like family, we have permission to say and do things to each other, “Will you watch my handbag”, or ”I need to pee” and you know it will be safe with this total stranger who wears his uniform with the same pride I do. The laughter and the love on that train was palpable. Wynyard/Town Hall/and St James Station are bursting with blue and white uniforms. We meet people in black, who were the dressers of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. People in costumes, and the Drizabone clad medal presenters. There are very few protocol people. I scan the news and the papers, and seldom does a protocol uniform feature. Festivities continue through every street, with Vollies blocking up entrances to the station, and station staff directing vollies, who just a couple of days ago, were directing others – more reason for laughter. We chat together, proudly, and take a zillion photos.
I miss Ron. My Olympic partner. We should be marching together. I know he cannot be here due to work commitments, and vow to march for us both. The Italian team are chatting and talking - we have an anxious moment. There are so many of us in HERE, what if there is nobody out THERE to cheer us on?? We march and turn into Park Street. Our jaws drop. There are literally THOUSANDS of people, ten deep, lining the streets, shouting, waving, blowing kisses, and calling “Thank you” over and over and over. We are completely unprepared for this, and many of us begin to cry. People are smiling and waving, and marching in time to the band behind us, singing “Waltzing Matilda” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” – people are waving banners and flags and high-fiving us. Cries of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi,, Oi!” are rampant. (The Italians once asked us, what does Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oink, Oink, Oink mean?”) People are holding their hands out, wanting to touch us, weeping and beaming, the pride on their faces in us is just the most touching experience, and I find I am frequently crying, marching along, enjoying being a “hero”.
Michael Knight is on the corner, signing autographs. There is a boo/hiss from the crowd. An Olly Volly holds up a sign and a group shouts “Sandy, Sandy, Sandy! – Oi, Oi, Oi!”
THANKS MOM AND DAD
My husband is in the crowd, beaming and waving a flag, so proud. I run and kiss him. I am so sad my Mom and Dad are not here ….. how they would have loved this pomp and circumstance of the parade! Dad is not well enough, he has 4 hairline fractures in his pelvis, and Mom is caring for him. I understand, and I miss them. I find a face of a man, about my Dad’s age, he is smiling at me with pride – I take his hand and say “My Dad cannot be here today, so I want to thank YOU for being here instead and for supporting me in this!” He is an old Digger, his eyes fill up, and he takes my hand in both of his, and says “Thank you darlin’!” There is a lady, my Mom’s age close by. I hold her hand and thank her too. Today, for me, she represents my Mom. She smiles broadly, holds my hand tight, and says “You did such a good job, thank you!!!” I feel satisfied, I have included my parents in this great day.
We eventually get to the Domain, where crowds of people are streaming in …. There are colourful food booths dotted around, Thai, Indian, Vego, Hot Dogs, Dutch Koekies, Sushi, Pancakes, Corn on the Cob, and Ice Cream, truck loads of cokes and cold drinks, and the Olly Vollies are lined up – the q eventually extends half way across the park,and meet in the middle, given there are food booths on both sides. There are a hundred loos, and the stage is gearing up, music is playing, the sun is beaming down, and “party” is definitely the mood here. Us Italians have managed to stay together, which is quite a feat in this vast crowd. We eat standing up and talking, eventually winding our way through the crowds to the other side, where we find a spot of shade. People are q-ing up for free newspaper subscriptions for 2 weeks and a special edition, including every vollie’s name, bound books of results of the games, by colour and by game, and Bonds have t shirt stands. Juan Antonio Samaranch’s famous words are inscribed on the chest “The most dedicated and wonderful volunteers ever – 1st October, 2000”. I queue up twice – once for me, and once for Ron. Monica Trapaga is singing her heart out, in a great red dress, Bob Carr makes a truly wonderful speech, and like our Prime Minister earlier this week, is “crowd surfed” – John Williamson sings ….. and then Wendi Balbi, (our Protocol longest serving 4 years volunteer) and Lex Watson are given the keys to the city on behalf of the volunteers by our Lord Mayor, Frank Sartor. I am so proud of Wendi!
DID THE REST OF AUSTRALIA PARTICIPATE?
Reluctantly, I leave, I have a plane to catch to Adelaide. I have a Training Programme to run in Adelaide, and 20 people waiting for me. (It turns out to be the best training programme I have ever led (from feedback received). I am so inspired by what I have experienced, and my participants get the benefits!) I enjoy wearing my uniform on the plane, and am staggered to discover when I get to Adelaide, that none of the Olympic Spirit is there. There is no party atmosphere. People are lined up, resigned and tired. Nobody recognises the uniform. I’ve left the party of Sydney, and am so surprised at this lack of passion! People do not know what we have been up to! I take Olympic Pins for the kids (this is a blood sport in Sydney by now) – and they do not know what they are. People are non-plussed at my passion, my sharing, and my experiences.
Did the rest of Australia miss out on this amazing experience I wonder?
Luckily, I didn’t! The following week, when I get home, I write to Margaret McLennan, of IOC Protocol and Relations. I thank her for my Olympic Experience, and ask her, “Can I come to Athens? What do I need to do?”
OLYMPIC DIARY 2000
AS COMPILED BY SANDRA GROOM
PROTOCOL ASSISTANT TO OTTAVIO CINQUANTA, IOC MEMBER FOR ITALY
Monday, 11th September, 2000.
I have not heard from my Italians … and I feel anxious! I feel the way I did when I was pregnant, and waiting to go into labour, friends and family keep calling up and saying “Are you STILL here?” – I am waiting to “pop”! I know they arrived on Saturday, and have been on tenterhooks ever since!! Expecting a call. I cannot stand it any longer,and I call my Supervisor, Radika Ramnath, who suggests that I give them a call at the hotel and let them know I am available. I do so, and leave a message on their voice mail. Every time the phone rings after that, I jump – but I go to bed, and still no word ….. sigh … I speak to Leandro Gambotti, who is one of our Italian volunteers, who saw them both at the Olympic Village on Saturday night at the Team Welcome Ceremony, and Flag Raising Ceremony. He says they look nice. I feel cheated!! I wasn’t there!!! (Meanwhile, they are “notwanting to work me too hard”)
Tuesday, 12th September, 2000.
Signora Cinquanta calls me, “on behalf of my husband who is in a meeting”. Relief. My first impression is that of acharming, gracioius, woman, thoughtful and very feminine. (This turns out to be spot on!) She thanks me for my message, and for volunteering, tells me how much she looks forward to meeting me, and sayas she hopes to “not work kme too hard!” and “You must enjoy the quiet – from Thursday, it will be very busy!” Now I am busting to begin, and cannot STAND to wait until THURSDAY!! I suggest some sight seeing? – and give her a few pointers, tell her about DJ’s famous flower show, and where to buy her friend in Italy some shoes (why anybody from italyl would want to buy shoes in Australia beats me!) I speak to my driver, the temporary one, until Ron Alexander begins, and we come up with some ideas. Signora unfortunately does not partake of this opportunity. I wait some more.
Wednesday, 13th September, 2000.
I wait in anticipation, all showered, and ready to go, “in case” they call. By 10 am I am going mad, so I decide to do a “dummy run” into the city, and get dressed in my uniform. I feel a bit self conscious. On the train everybody stares at me and asks questions, and I feel rather famous! People stop me every day and ask questions about my uniform, my training, how I am liking it, and where the nearest toilets are!) The buzz of the city is amazing. People everywhere, and the excitement, even on the train, is palpable – with people laaughing and talking. There are many volunteers walking about the city, and I feel better. I go to the Menzies, just as well, as I had forgotten which street it was in, and check it out – canteen, chairs, sofas, TV’s, a computer which provides us with information and schedules and biogs of athletes, turns out to be very handy. Fruit baskets, lollies, smiling volunteers, helping you to be a great volunteer …. Well run. I walk to the Regent,and go through the Mag and Bag for the first time …. I will be here many times over the next weeks …. Thre is an air of people waiting for something to happen amongst the activity …. Well, we ARE waiting to give birth to the Biggest Event on Earth! I have a new pair of navy shoes which I am walking in, and decide to visit the flowers at David Jones ….. looking the best it has ever looked, the Spring Flower people have excelled themselves, and the store is stunning, filled with people, middle aged couples hand in hand, all taking photos, and sighing with pleasure at the colour and the beauty and the creativity. I like my hat. Others do not, and never wear them. My hair pulled into a pony tail makes it fine for me to put it on and take it off without denting my hair do I suppose. I think its chic. When I get home, there are messages on the answering machine from family and friends, wishing me luck …. And e mails from USA, SA, UK, and Aussie. I am in training for my “marathon”! AT 2.30 pm I go to Ryde Road to see the flame run by …. I am immediately swept into the passion and pride fo the Olympics …. I take photos madly, jumping up and down, and feeling intensely Australian!! What a start to the games. Josh and his mates are very cool about the whole thing, although they DID come to see the flame, remarking “So that was it, was it?” very coolly when it was all over.
Thursday, 14th September, 2000.
8.45 am. Signor Cinquanta calls. At last! He apologies for not meeting me earlier, says how he looks forward to meeting me. He must be at Casa italia, at the Sydney Uni, by 12 noon. How long will it take? Anxious to do my job well, I tell him I will check and call back. I call Ron Alexander, our driver, who I have spoken to yesterday to begin creating relationship and “team” – he sounds strong, clear, and dependable – (this too, turns out to be spot on!) We want to err on the side of caution,, I tell Signor the traffic is an unknown quantity at the moment – it could take 15 minutes it could take 45 mins – so wew agree to meet at 10.40 for 10.45 am. I have suggested 10.30 – he declines, too early …. I now rush to get ready, and feellike a child putting on my new school uniform, and am very aware of how proud I feel, and the impeccability of this uniform.
Let me tell you about it. When we collected them from UDAC, it was a LONG procedure, including accreditation. 3 hours all up. We had torush to make our 1 pm training, after getting to UDAC at 9.15 am. What size? I was asked. 10 or 12 says me. The volunteer gives me a 10 in a shirt, pants, and skirt. In the change room I try these on. The shirt would fit Gerald, my husband. The shoulders are almost at my elbows, and the sleeves about 6 inches too long. I poke my head around the curtain and say”I think this one is marked incorrectly!” She takes me aside and in a conspiratorial whisper confides: “They’ve made them all very big dear, so the fatr people feel better!”. I suppress a hoot of laughter, and take a size 6, on her advice. A much better fit. However, my dear Mom has removed the sleeves, cut off many inches of its length, and moved the shoulders to fit my shoulders. She has taken up the legs of the trousers (I am just under 5’4”), and narrowed the trouser leg slightly. I have a atailor made uniform almost. I keep my uniform impeccable. Every night I wash out what I have worn, one day, a shirt and pants, the next day, a shirt and skirt, and at midnight, before bed, iron what I will wear for tomorrow, which has dried on the line today. I press my jacket, and brush it free of lint. I polish my shoes till their navy shines. I experiment with my scarf, another pa has shown me a very sophisticated way to tie it ….unfortunately, I cannot get it right! Some days I wear the scarf srapped around my neck, inside my shirt, it keeps me warm, and others outside, like a tie, when it is hotter … I wear only 5 pins on my jacket, as requested by our trainers – which few people do I have noticed ….. there is something unprofessional about a Protocol Assistant festooned with pins methinks. I am unbelievably proud of this uniform!
My parents are the Support behind The Support – their job, they have decided, is to support me to do my job. I have filled the freezer with home cooked meals and shopped and cleaned and washed and ironed, and my parents pride in me is palpable. My son feels this is a fairly uncool thing to do, cannot seem to grasp the concept fo “volunteering” and “contributuion” – but my husband is thrilled, and very supportive verbally and emotionally – physically he cannot support, because of the demands of his own job, but he is very proud of me.
I feel conscious walking up to the station in my uniform …. And I have to run back to the house to get the waratah flower and welcome card I have them for the,m and arive in the Menzies in plenty of time, and call Ron, so we can meet, beforehand. I recognise him before we meet – he is large, just like the ex cop he is, with a belly which he refers to in coming days as his “keg” (as opposed to a six packk young men mayhave!) with a moustache, grey hair and balding, a big wide, friendly smile, and eyes that twinkle like Santa’s. This is my driver! – I cannot believe my good luck, what a wonderful man: jovial, friendly, a gentle man, and a gentleman. Deferrent by nature, one gets the impression of “upstairs downstairs” that this man concedes to his “superiors” (a good idea in the police force I guess. He was “pensioned out after a nasty incident: he stopped a driver for speeding, issued a ticket to a guy who was really pissed off, drove off on his motor bike, only to be mown down by this same guy he gave the ticket to a couple of kilometres down the road. It was Ron’s word against the driver’s ….. nothing happened, and Ron now walks with a limp, with steel pins in his leg, and has had several ops, with others still to come – and that was 10 years ago.) I know we will work well together. He listens, he smiles, he comes up with good ideas, he is on time, he works hard, he is a skilled and masterful driver, he and I get on very well. His wife is Susan, second name begins with E. Like me. His daughter is Sarah. He loves them both to bits, and tells them unselfconsciously on the phone. He weeps when he tells a story about a cop he hads to work with who he felt he may have been a bit tough with. An unusual man. His birthday is 17/11/50. Mine is 15/11/49, I tell him therefore I am The Boss. He laughs: but that is the way he plays it, he never speaks to our client, unless it is through me, always polite, always on the look out for how he can improve our Game. A great man, I am blessed. And he loves me to bits. Chuckles at my outrageousness, respects my skill “at protocol” as he says it, and thinks he has won the jackpot with me as his pa. We are a team.
I go to the Regent to meet Signor. He has assured me we do not need to meet at a designated spot in the lobby, he has seen my photo, he will recognise me. And he does. I am surprised to discover I feel nervous. Me! Who has led programes to thousands of people from the front of the room. Signor smiles, introduces himself, and there is an awkward moment as he goes to shake my hand, my trainign has been, “do not touch”! Silly – I should have just shaken! I hand him the flower, his eyes light up, we decide it is best to send it to his wife in room 2714. Our car and Ron arrive like clock work (this auspicious beginning heralds the rest of our relationship to each other and with time and works like magic) and despite the cars/traffic, and people we are off to our first assignment. Traffic is minimal, and we arrive there way too early … Ron is a skilled and competent driver, and we drop Snr. C. at Casa Italia, he is thre to meet the Minister of Sport for Italy. Ron and I drive to Botany to fill the car with petrol, and to wash it (Ron keeps this car like a Mom with a new baby, shiny and pampered for the whole 23 days) . We stop at the Antique Centre on the way to see Graham Soljan, unfortunately, he is not there, I see Lyn Doolan, who makes a real fuss – everyone in the Centre does, I feel like a celebrity, the uniform is loved by people! We drive to Ryude, to the Drivers Rest/Eating Area, I am aware of the distinction between Business Uniform and the Drivers Uniform (mine is navy blazer, blue business shirt, scarf and slacks and white panama hat,,the drivers have the colourful polo t shirts, with purple sleeves and a baseball cap – very colourful, very professional. Ron says to me – “Did you hotice how they checked youout? Unbelievable!” Indeed, I am the only business uniform there. A volunteer walks upto me and asks reverently”Are we taking good care of you?” I assure him you are! Lunch is pretty nondescript: the tinest salad I have ever seen, I ask for more, and am given. Vegetables and a grey beef dish. Ron eats with gusto. We are anxious to be back to collect Snr. C. on time, but he phones to say he is at the hotel, he got a lift with someone.
Ron and I attend the Menzies staff Ventue, there is a team of people there to make sure you are OK, coffee, tea, snacks, food, couches, and a great community atmosphere. There are countless army personnel and policemen, security companies, and the biggest collection of “business uniforms” – as the Renaissance, Regent, and Menzies are the centres for the IOC, NOC, and Olympic Family. I am based at the Renaissance, but all hotels are only a few minutes walk away. I feel at home here – Ron at first thinks he should be at the Darling Harbour place for drivers … I ask, no he is welcome – it would be dumb to drive all that way back, we have a parking at the Regent, and it has to be bomb cleared before every trip back to the car park.
We return to the Regent, as our clients are attening a Civ Reception at Town Hall, where the Cauldron will be lit. it begins at 5 pm but the roads are closed off – and finally after many “mock leads” it is established a bus will take the iOC Members to the IOC Olylmpic Family Civic Reception. I escrot them to the Carrington Street entrance, as the bus leaves at 4.45pm. As we wait, snr. C. asks how he can get his mobile phone working locally, curently he is directed via Rome and then back to Australia when he calls me! After they depart, Ron and I visit 3 mobile phone outlets for advice – get lots of info – and then we go and join the throngs to watch the flame come by. We get a good spot, right at the fence line, and my uniform provides me with advantages I might not otherwise have from people, i.e. no pushing! Ron is a star at crowd control, and I feel very safe with him. We are given flags and pins by passing AMP personnel, and wave and shsout and take photos alaong with 500,000 other people in Sydney tonight, all of whom seem to be with us at Circular Quay. I realise I am standing next to Olivia Newton John and her daughter! – Olivia is running with the flame – we have an agreement as volunteers not to ask for autographs – she is very pretty, dressed in white, and rather nervous of the crowds, keeping close by to her flanks of bodyguards. What excitement to see the flame pass by! I am happy to report that in the days that follow, Josh and his mates “get into” the Olympics – like a lot of other Australians who felt similarly …. – and when it is all over Josh says “I wish the Olympics could go on forever!” They are impressed with the city, how beautiful it looks, with the people’s good natured behavioiur, our crime rate drops, the colour, splendour, and creativity of our display, the vitality and cleanliness of our city. How wonderful to be a part of all this!!
I like to think of Sydney as a bride. All polished, pretty, painted and wearing her very best petticoats …. All the jasmine, the rhodedendrons and azaleas have even come out early, we have summer in spring, and our visitors are captivated and seduced by this beautiful, beautiful place. People are so happy and helpful! - journalist in the states says “the best attractions of Sydney are her people!” I am proud. We are to take the C’s to a reception at 10.30 pm at Casa Italia …. However, at 7.45 Signora cancels, with great apologies, and says we will speak tomorrow.
It transpires after this, that at some point in the day I endeavour to get an overall plan of the next day ….. sometimes with difficulty, but they do try to assist …. Their plans change a lot, he is a very busy man, and many invitations come and some have to be changed for others. He jokes I am very bossy and very tough with him.
Friday, 15th September, 2000
Today is the Opening Ceremony!!! I am in the foyer, what what is to become our “routine” – Ron and I meeting for a cup of tea for me, coffee for him – strong, milk, two sugars – at the Menzies. He carries the water bottles, knowing I drink a lot, also knows I need to pee a lot. I carry the fruit and the muesli bars, he is a big man, and needs food. I am there by 9 am with my “passport” stamped (pages for bronze, silver, and gold medals, and also Best Ever and we got Workforce 2000 pins for doing so many days). Signora C calls at 9.15 am, and simultaneously, Snr. C. taps my shoulder – she is upstairs in the room, he is down here in the lobby. She tells me their plans for the day, once more apologising for the many “changements” and last night’s cancellation. Signor and I go the mobile store, and are there almost 2 hours, he has to leave for a meeting with Juan Antonio Samaranch, confident in my ability to sort out his iphone. He is disarmingly/charmingly honest re his technical skills, saying his daughter handles these things for him at home! What eventuates is 1) I get a new sim card for Australian installed on his phone, and $80 worth of phone calls – no problem (his local calls to me have been going via Italia!) – 2) the real problem is trying to get his calls from Rome diverted to this new phone number. I manage 1), but 2) after 40 minutes on phone, I get an Italian Service Customer No, who he can call to get his calls diverted. When I tell him this, he harrumphs, and says “I know the Italians – they will be asleep, there is no such thing as 24 hour service!” He is right. However, I feel triumphant, and return to the hotel happy and ready to take them to Holland/Heineken House, next to the National Maritime Museum, for lunch and to meet the Queen of Holland and Prince Alberto of Monaco. When I collect them, I carry my Italian flag, and my camera, and they leave being serenaded by a musician – I take their photo – they beam! It turns out well. They have had wine and are very garrulous and happy coming home to the hotel. Ron is a magician with the car and the parking – no fuss, no drama, just skill and precision …. And he turns up precisely at the right moment, gliding to a stop in front of us, over and over and over again with machine like precision. He drives smoothly, you could balance a cup of tea on your lap, no braking or swerving, I feel like I am in a Rolls Royce!
We take them to the hotel and leave them to prepare for the Opening Ceremony – which they will go to by bus. We get an “early mark” and go home, whilst the streets of Sydney are gearing up for gigantic parties at all the live sites.
Thre is a “class distinction” even amongst volulnteers – my uniform entitles me to privileges the polo shirt does not – Ron imbues me with magical qualities that I can talk my way in and out of anywhere, get things done, given, or managed, with my “skill, looks and uniform”. The uniform certainly helps: we are considered the “elite team”. Ron puts himself in his words “at the bottom rung of the food chain” – I find this commen sad coming from such a remarkable and intelligent man. I insist he does not say such things, but he does. Others do as well. We are supposed to be a class-less society, but it is not so.
Gerald and Josh are home early for the Opeening Ceremony. We have a beautiful bottle of 1993 champagne with Isis and Josh, and the Simonsig wine is in the fridge chilling. This is the first time I’ve had to wash my haair, and it is lovely to sit with my husband, at home, and watch the Opening Ceremony. And WHAT a ceremony!! The world has heard a lovely little girl, Nicki, sing and swing in the aerial gymnastics wearing a pink floral dress – 3.7 billion people! – and a cast of 13,000! It was the BEST opening ceremony ever, it had everything …. A cast of thousands, Dreamtime, Tap Dogs, horses and drovers wearing Drizabones, stock whips, Victa moowers (did the rest of the world understand their significance, I wondered?!), the Gt. Barrier Reef and colourful tropical fish swimming, marine life, bushfires, corrugated iron, waratahs, wattle, salt bush, birds, Laurie lawrence (swim coach for Australia), etc. etc. etc. – topped off with Cathy Freeman, in a ring of fire, in the middle of a silver pond, looking as if she was walking on water (if anyone can, Cathy CAN!) – surrounded by cascading waterfalls. A hitch as the gigantic cauldron failed to move up …. Gerald immediately says “there is something wrong” – I have not noticed. Cathy stands, proud, strong, without a sign of a problem (in the press next day she says she was very worried, but we did not see that!). It was a crowning moment when it finaally did move heavenwards, with the soaring music, the spectacle overall of the Stadium, bathed in 110,000 wrist lights, fireworks, and their thundrous applause. The ticket holders were all presented with a globite suitcase, full of goodies, i.e. flourescent wants, yellow and green handsocks, etc. The atmosphere was both electric and moving, wondrous without being kitsch, profouondly proud, with no jingo-ism – yet lots of Aussie Pride (something we needed a kick in the pants with) - WHAT A NIGHT!!
(The next day in the paper, a letter to the Editor, very funny – suggests that the Cauldron error could have been part of the show – all that was missing was a bloke turn up in a pair of King Gees and a pair of Blundstones, gives Cathy a quote, and says he’ll be back to repair it!)
Over the next couple of weeks, we discover the difference in eating at the different staff venues. We have eaten in a variety, all seem a long way away, so far the Buring Pavilion wings with grilled fish, salad, cake, fruit and a Paddle Pop! The worst is Darling Harbour, with tin foil TV dinners like ham and pineapple and veg, all the same colour, and looks and tastes the same as beef casserole with veg, and the distinct alulminium taste biting one’s fillings. All the volunteers are so willing to help each other and share information with each other. I enjoy the community spirit very much, and I do enjoy the “power” our car affords us, as Ron and I drive in “no go” areas for other drivers! Ron mounts the kerb if necessary – his job is to take care of Snr. and Snra. C. – and he does this with impunity and balls! There is a mixture of pride, respect and curiosity from the public about our uniforms and our jobs – and everyone is ready to chat and laugh with us in the street. I have friends who tell me later “I feel so envious of you. I WISH I had been a volunteer! How did you get the job?” (I applied, two and a half years ago, and attended trainings. It seems to me that many people do not plan ahead for their lives …. So that they CAN do the things they want to. Carole Sandberg, my coach, fortunately got in just before they closed the gate, at Protocol, I gave her Radika Ramnath’s number …. Just 2 days before hands,and she is SO thrilled she did, and has thanked me so many times for making it possible for her!!)
Saturday, September, 16th, 2000
WHAT A DAY!!! Today, I got to see some of the world’s most famous people and some of the fastest …. Our assistants waiting lounge is directly above the lap pool for the swimmers, and from our verandah position, looking down I could see a bevy of bodies, and the smell of the chlorine the buzz of the people, and the air was crackling with excitement! Greg Norman wishing luck to Kieren Perkins, Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Michael Klim, Susie O’Neill …. And Dawn Frazer doing the same …. When Ian Thorpe left to ready himself for the 200m, the assistants rushed to fill every corner of the area around the seating (strictly forbidden, but nobody was watching us, all eyes on the pool) Through a tiny corner, if I crouched down, and looked through the tangle of cables for the cameras, and the legs of people, I could see a tiny section of the pool, through which swam Ian Thorpe on occasion! I cannot describe the roar of the crows, the monumental, Australia wide support that was there for our swimmers, the mighty roar of the crowd I am certain must assist those big feet of Ian’s …..!!! The place went baserk when he won the gold medal, - the first for Australia in these games, AND a world record!!!! - Italy close behind for the silver, and the Italians going pretty wild too.
When the relay race drew close, speculation was that Ian Thorpe may not have it in him to go for a second gold for Australia. How wrong could they be. This was a race that was so close, it was won by the length of Thorpie’s hand …. And the American guy looked absolutely STUNNED that we had won!! The screaming and whistling and cheering and high-fiving, many people were weeping, and the volunteers jumping and giving the power salute …..! Michael Klim shot off the edge of the pool like a rocket …. There was more at stake than just swimming, this was about AUSTRALIA, this was about OUR country, OUR pool, OUR team, OUR games. Was there ever a more exciting race than this one, which the Americans have held tightly forever? – and following on the heels of the comment by an American swimmer last week that they would “smash the Australian swimmers like guitars” – (followed by Kieren Perkins – some say indescreet – comment “Who listens to drug cheats?”) When this incredible race was done, our men got out of the pool., and in typical Australian larrikin manner, all pretended to play guitars!!!! The crowd loved it!
I feel so proud to be Australian. I feel sorry for all the people who are not volunteers! – Are they getting this in the same way that I am, I think. The community spirit amongst the volunteers is palpable, smiling, laughing, supportive, sharing – this is so much FUN!!!
Today started slowly, many people having a very late night after the Opening Ceremony – which by the way, amongst the volunteers we have gleaned from our members is “the BEST ever in the world” – we are preening ourselves, and smiling a trifle smugly, congratulating ourselves and Michael Knight and Ric Birch and the 13,000 cast who made it happen. Despite a flurry of activity early in the day about going out to visit IBC and IBM, faxes and phone calls, and many schedule changes, it appears after Snr. C has met the Koreat Consol at 3.30 pm, we cannot leave till 4.30 pm, to drive to SOP, meet with Mr. Galady and see the sights IBM has to offer, and then dash to the swimming at 6.30 – is not possible. So, instead, we have a few hours in which to read, watch the events on TV, and share our lives with each other.
At 1.20 pm we take Snr. And Snra. C to Customs House, the Quay Restaurant, for lunch – it is only a few minutes walk, but Ron insists the crowds and Snra. Shoes (high heels he thinks) – we must drive them. And so we do. They walk back, and Ron and I return to the Menzies, where we have lunch.
Meals seem to be deteriorating in standard, however they are plentiful and hot, and there is a mountain of water bottles and muesli bars, and the atmosphere in the volunteers lounge is a happy, excited one. Many policemen and army personnel – making a difference to how the public view them, smiling at strangers, taking photos of tourists, holding little children’s hands – I like to see this sense of trust developing between these three communities.
Ron was stopped today when he got into town by a Japanese family who took his hand, and said “You must be a very proud Australian” – and bowed, and bowed, and bowed. He bowed in return, and thanked them. This is a kind man, a good man, a man who cannot help himself talk to everybody, smile at everyone, assist everyone. He walks like a cop. Talks like a cop. He says “Morning Men!” as he passes gropus on the street, as if he were inspecting troops. He steps aside for ladies and men alike, apologising for bumping people – and the crowd parts when he walks in front and guides me behind protectively.
When we got to the hotel to pick up SC, they are not there. Ron is moved on by the doorman, and it is a ten minute trip around the block to get BACK to the foyer. Eventually they arrive, and we now have to wait for Ron – the roads are surprisingly empty of traffic, Ron is a skilled driver, and we whiz out to SOP. (If things get touigh, he hits the accelerator – SC likes this – a “manly” thing I think). Once, we drive over the kerb when people are wasting time. SC says the Italians do not like rules and regualtions, they are made to break – and thinks we drive very safely.
At the Aquatic Centre: Chaos!! People, more than seats available, were everywhere – the structure we had been taught has altered, and getting a path through the crowd is nearly impossible. Snra. C is tiny, and I have to shield her from the people shoving and pushing – Snr wants to go st to his seats, but I do not know where they are, and as this is my first “venue visit” I need to follow protocol and go to the Olympic Lounge – he is a bit pissed off, I can tell, but I take them to the lounge, and get a volunteer to take them to their seats. Apparently it is a mess with many VIP’s having to stand, as the crowd wants to see Ian Thorpe break his 400m record, and he DOES!!! A world record to boot! – not only that, but he is in the team relay, who smashes the world record, and finally takes it from the grasp of the Americans, who have held it forever …. After the comment by one of their American swimmers, that they would smash us like guitars, our boys get out of the pool, and mime playing guitars – a sweet moment. Never have I heard a crowd roar like this … our golden boys, coming home with another world record, AND putting the yanks in their place!!
I stand in the volunteers waiting area, and see Thorpie, Kieren Perkins, Michael Klim, Grant Hackett, Susie O Neill, and Greg Norman wishing them well, and Dawn Fraser doing the same – what a thrill – and to see Thorpie swim, well evrybody around him looks like babies with water wings, compared to his long, lazy, slow, languid style!
What a night – allthe volunteers are crowded around the stands, trying to peer through people’s legs and cables to see a spot of the pool, as it is sectioned off with blue plastic, but we are united in our triumph! - And Italy comes second after Thorpie!
Sunday, 17th September, 2000
Today, I get into the city on the train again, always packed, and always with lovely people asking questions and looking interested. I call Ron, and we make our plan, I wait in the lobby for the C’s, who are to meet us at 10.30 to go the basketball, Lithuania vs Italy. They are late arriving, and when they do, the plans have changed – we are going to the Buring Hall, out at SOP, for the volley ball, Italy vs Korea …. This causes a flurry of activity, as we do not know where this place is, and Snr. C’s advice as to where the volleyball is, is different to what is in my manual. This causes concern, I am waiting to use the computer to check it, and there is a man on there – and taking his time … Snr. Eventually runs, literally runs, sprints like a 20 year old, to the lift, to go to the Italian office on the 7th floor to check – meanwhile, the man leaves the computer and I am able to check it. My manual is incorrect. His is correct. I telephone, we sort it out, we leave.
Meanwhile Ron has been around the block a few times – but all is well and our trip there easy and uneventful – Ron knows exactly where he is going, and we get there in plenty of time, through the mag and bag, and into the building, I take them to the Olympic lounge, where an attendant takes them trhough a maze to their seating. I go to the loo, back to the lounge, and get in conversation with a couple of protocol attendees … he says 10 mins later – “Come with me, I will take you to a seat where I am in charge” – off we go, and I sit and watch the whole game – Italy vs Korea, and learn about the game – it is my first – and Italy wins 3 to 0 sets! Snr. C. notices me, tells Snra. And they glance over with delight to see me there, and she waves Italian flat I have given her. She tells me later, they were not winning until she waved her flag – I tell her, of course, it is magic! We leave there, with calls to Ron, who has the car waiting, taking with us Snr. Magri, who is the President of International Volley Ball – a quiet man, who I initially think is arrogant. I discover he cannot speak English, and is very charming later on in the day.
We go to the Entertainment Centre, to see Cuba the wodl champs, play Netherlands – Netherlands wins, a surprise, and there is many orange dressed and happy Hollands in the building! - On arrival, we go straight up the stairs to the seating – I come back, check them in, and go straight up to the seats, where I stand gazing around for a while, take a seat – thre is a sea of empty ones – a volunteer comes to tell me “that’s OK, but you understand, if we are busy, I’ll have to get you to leave?” I answer “absolutely” – and so I sit and watch the game!!! Wonderful!
Afterwards, our departure is seamless, Ron arrives like clockwork, and we drop the C’s back at the hotel, and drive to Bondi to take Snr. Magri to the Swiss Grand where he is staying – this is fun for Ron and I as we have not seen the Bondi volley ball centre. What a mass of security we pass through, with bomb checks, police, army, and a yellow “security” cone on the windscreen – we find a parking in the reserved section, and spend a pleasant hour, wandering around Bondi, checking out the people and the courts – how magical it is, how happy and tanned and exciting, the music blares out, people are smiling and laughing, it is more Malibu than Bondi …. Ron buys me the most expensive coke I have ever had in my life – for a coke and a powerade, it was $7.80. As it is years since I have had a coke, I tell him this is a distinction no other man has.
We return to the hotel, have the car “bomb checked” at security again – we have 8 minutes to get from there back to the secure lock down parking at the hotel, and we walk to have a cup of tea at the Menzies. Back to pick up the C’s at 7.15, for their function at the town hall, an international tennis federation event … it takes a long time to circumvent all the closed off streeets, and we manage to drop them outside the front door, with me acting as doorman, as I have taken to doing. It takes a long time to get back to the bomb check site again for the car, before we can park it under the Regent, we walk to have a meal at the Menzies, and back to the car, to collect them – he has said he will call and give us 30 mins notice. We are organised, well organised, but slips occur … as we are leaving, the security gate is activated so we can depart ….. and we drive through, it closes … and the one in front failes to open – we are traped between 2 security doors …. And canot get out, and will be late to pick up the C’s – we yell and fortunately, somebody hears and releases the button to let us out. We are 3 minutes late and apologise. They are unconcerned, look very tired, and we drive quietly back to the Regent – playing Andrea Bocelli – they remark about the wonderful Italian music (I have brought these from home – 3 cd’s)
We drop them off – and Ron insists on driving me to Gordon. He says, “I don’t want you beating anybody up on that train at night …. I’d better protect the public from you.” Sweet man, given he now has to drive to Sylvania from Gordon, I am most grateful, he wont be home before 12. This is strictly against the rules – however, I am tired and very grateful.
Monday, 18th September, 2000
Today was fairly long, with a late start at 10.30 – I am talking so much to a lady on the train, I miss Wynyard, and get off aat Town Hall and have to backtrack …..!! Excitement and conversations abounds everywhere – it’s a great feeling. All the assistants wave and smile at each other and say good luck and enquire about how they are doing. We drive to the Casa Italia, where they are going for lunch and a fsahion show with instructions to collect at 2.45, to go to SOBO. Our plans have changed today – we are not going to SOBO at 2.30, as Snr. C. has met with Mr. Alex Gilady, the Vice president of NBC this morning, and he would like to personally take the C’s on their tour, and not Monica Barra, as planned. Thre is a briefing at 3pm which Mr. Gilady must attend. This is a VERY important man …. Whilst they are at Casa Italia, we drive to visit Russell at Harfords Antiques, he is not there … so we stroll the shop, and head back to Darling harbour for lunch …. Yuck. If I eat another ham steak there I will throw up – there are cigarette butts allaround the outside area, and there seems to be a “lower class mentality” (forgive me for saying this) – with people slopping food and swearing and complaining a lot about the Olympics and the organisors. When I venture that is not what I have heard or experienced, there is a silence …. An unbelievable question – “where the hell has SHE been hiding?” I am still the onlyl “jacket” there, so perhaps I am not credible, being one of “them”.
We collect the C’s at 2.45, and they have Snra. Magri with them, the wife of Snr. Magri we took to the Swiss Grand in Bondi iyesterday. What a stunning looking woman. Snr. C. is gracioius and charming, and insists that no, she does not get into the cab behind us, we will take her to Bondi en route to Homebush. We drive off, with many jokes about me being bossy about my insistence upon seat belts – he asks me is Bondi en route to Homebush possible? I say no, opposite direction from where we are, at the Uni of NSW – Ron comes to the rescue, suggesting we go to SOCOG, whewre we might get a T3 vehicle. Grand idea, it is only around the corner, we do this, and whilst they park, I go and attempt to gain entry to SOCOG …. Not sufficient accreditation, I turn to trhe nearest volunteer and state my case, I have a VIP who must get to Bondi, and two others to get to Homebush, and we are late …. Either a taxi or a T3 car – the phone for the taxi is INSIDE the ubilding, and I am outside – nobody is keen to go and make a call for me, I cannot believe this bureaucracy. Eventually a man says OK, I call Snr. Magri, and place her in the vehicle. I tgell the driver Swiss Grand Bondi, he asks her is she knows where she is gong? I control my impatience, and ask him, do you know where Bondi is? Yes. Well, the Swiss Grand is the wedding cake on Campbell Parade, used to be Bondi Beach Hotel. Oh yes. Well goodbye, I say. I cannot leave, without clearance, he says. I says you have clearance, - but not from HIM, he says. I go back to the origianl man – he comes to give clearance to the driver – the driver says no, it must be HIM, pointing to an orange jacketted man. I approached Orange jacket. He comes and agrees – she can go. Then turns and mutters, that’s worth a pin next time you are here.
Back to the car, amid congratuatlions from the C’s. A race to get to SOBO by 3.30 now! Ron is a champion – Snr. C. calls him a “Computer, a machine, Ron!” when we get there on time, and there is Michelle Barra, pa, waiting for us – she is the dauughter of a very powerful man who is well known to the C’s, in Italia, they greet and kiss on both cheeks. We are taken to meet Mr. Gilady …. Who gallantly kisses our hands and makes us welcome, the VP of NBC is taking us on a tour! And what a tour – what an amazing place – 15,000 people and endless technical miracles! I also meet the head of the whole set up, Somebody Romero – a small self important man – but the C’s are lookinga t me all the time to ensure that I “get” the scope and size, and looking for my pleasure and delight – which of course, I display, it is nice for them to share thiswith me. Everywhere we go, Snr. C is feted and fawned upon, and called Mr. President. (He is a Member of the IOC for Italy, President of the International Skaters Union, and Chairman of the NOC for Italy – a busy, and important – and powerful! – man). He is at pains to explain to me in the car going home, after I have told Ron that I heard him called “Mr. President” – he says “Sandra (looking embarrassed) – please! – you know the kind of people we are! – that is NOT how I want to be called” He tells me, somewhat apologetically, and yet seeking my approval in some way I think – that the treatment, and the volunteers and the assistance he gets is not big headed, but deserved – for the effort they put in – he works for a full year (this is a voluntary role), and every four years they get a 16 day trip to the Olympics. I agree – I do not see, for this man anyway, that there is a gravy train. He works hard – he worsk the crowd hard, and is always on duty. His wife is the silent, acquisience behind him – and yet, today, when he was chatting too long with his friends, or chatting too long with me – she gives a quiete word in his ear, and off he is, back to Mr. Gilady …. A woman who supports her husband, knows him well, and knows the routine – she mauy appear to be a quiet presence in the background. But she is strong. Very strong.
We return to the hotel, and we do a trial run of where we are taking them for the evening – Finger Wharf, Wooloomooloo, Nike are having a hodown – ono the good ship Oddyssey – snacks and drinks, then dinner at a house in Double Bay – and either boat back to Finger Wharf, or a car to take them back to the hotel., Snr. C. is nervous about letting us go – and wants me to ensure the car will be there for him. Now wenow thelayout of the place, it is easy to get them there – when we arrive, I take them to a restaurant where the Magri’s are waiting – and I go to find Susan Starkie, the organiser, and meet Dallas, the driver who is to take them home. I introduce them both to him – and he is satisfied that they will not be stranded. However, after Ron has dropped me at home – bless him – I call Dallas to ensure he has the details, also to take the Magris to the Swiss Grand in Bondi. He sounds nervous when I tell him about the bomb clearnce and the security cone and I hope he knows the Ollympic Route to Bondi …. We shall see.
Tuesday, 19th September, 2000.
I get into town at 9.30 to meet Ann, as Ron has two days off – we meet at the Menzies, and she seems very keen and ready to go We arrange oru split second timing to be at the hotel by 10.30 to go to baseball at Blacktown. I wait in the lobby until 11.30 after speakign to Snr. C. earlier – he is working in his office, and then Snra. Calls me to say the “baseball is deleted” – now we will go to the basketball at 4.30 at SOP. She is apologetic. So now Ann Sinclair and I have some hours to spare. I call her – she says she is going home to do some washing, she lives at the end of the freeway at Willoughby, an easy trip for her. I print out some information re the basketball on the computer, a tally of the gold medals, call Gerald, and invite him to join me for lunch, and go to the Menzies where I read the paper, watch TV of the athletes, and talk to other drivers and PA’s.
Gerald and I have lunch in town – how expensive it is – for a green salad, small, $5.50 and a small fruit salad $4. Gerald has chili chicken for $7. The town is popping – Gerald says Sydney willmiss this when it is gone. We wonder why Josh is not in town amongst all these people all this fun all these girls!
I take a walk after G goes to work, and back to the Menzies, and ready for the C’s at 2.45. They arrive at 3.10 – Ann has the car at Carrington Street, for a quick get away, and we head out to Basketball. We have a few problems, heading to the Sueprdome instead of the Dome, and get it sorted out, then stop in the wrong spot – Ann looks flusstered trying not to look flustered – I get the C’s out of the car, and into the venue, through the mag and bag – and the long walk into the dome. They head into the accredited seating, just as well, as it is a madhouse, more people then seats, USA vs Italy – Snr. Says he knows it will be a defeat, as the Americans are unmatched in the world, the only sport in the world where that is so. I meet Leandro Gambotto, from my training, and he shows me the ropes – head into the seating venue, and hang around, hopiong for a seat. However, there is a great rumbling of discontent, female pa’s complaining loudly about how come they canot watch the game – thre are empty seats! – I tell them, it serves no purpose to complain, just do the job, keep quiet, and don’t make waves – then you see the opportunities. I distance myself rom this complaining group,, who have a vendetta about a man with blonde hair, stressed to the max, just trying to do his job (admittedlyk, he has been very rude, but then, I am not about the applaud the behaviour of some of the pa’s, either …) I have lovely chats with the young policemen – one of whom cannot believe it when I speak about the importance of looking after your health – at 20 you are invincible, at 50 you knkow you are not, and want to live to see grandchildren – he expresses amazement atmy age, which makes me feel good.
BUT – ten feet away stand The American Team!!! – my son would give his eye tgeeth to see this! – but before I can get a film in my camera they are on court, and we can ehar the game, feel the atmosphere, but not see it …. I am happy. I ask the usher nicely to take a photot – she lets me – take two – I did not volunteer to see the games – I volunteered to make a contribution – I am not disappoitned – but some are,, volubly, and I do not think it is a good thing nor a good reputation for SOCOG.
I take photos at half time as they come off court – and then when they go back – my camera is not working well, but I hope I have some for Josh – and at least one blank I know of!
Italy is being soundly beaten,, and we leave early …. I organise Ann to be in the right place at the right time – back to the hotel for 30 minutes – Ann take sthe car to the Bomb Scare – I run to the Menzies for a meal, I anticipate a late night and no food …
Back at 7 pm, we pick them up on the 3rd floor, I have called and told Snr. C – we are looking for Mezaluna’s – in George St – when Snra shows me the invitation – and I discover it is at the Art Gallery … Ann smartly changes plan, and in no time we are there. It looks divine – all lit up and music playing, and Ann and I park the car and talk “ for 20 minutes” – as requested. We drive back, and I wait, waving my Itlian flag when they arrive 50 minutes later – but I have enjoyed it, the music, the sights, the people and the atmosphere.
Off we go to The Slovenia House in George Streeet – illegally park, I jump out to open doors, and they are off – “be back at 8.30 SHARP” – and we sit and chat, and they are back at 8.30 SHARP. Off to the volleyball at the Entertainment Centre, get there just after the game has started, there are many seats (I have called ahead and told Michael we are coming) – and Snr. C. says “there are plenty seats – come watch!” – which I do, seeing the same lady volunteer I saw last time … she directs me to a seat with the athlethes – the Italians! – who I think are not too pleased with my presence, and a comment in Italian along the lines to one of the guys “So, you have scored a woman tonight!” goes down well. The game is tense and emotional, between Yugoslavia and Italy – and goes for 5 sets, Italy winning by a tiny minority in the 5th set …. Italia is screaming and flag waving and beating their breasts, testosterones flying everywehre – with a chant on the syllable of their coutnry – eet-tull-yuh!!! Over and voer, and the Yugoslavs shouting similarly … it is a competition, and afterwards, Snr. C. says “he has never seen a game like it – unbelievable!” the game was won, by hard won point by point, the score went up, Italia socred – then Yugoslavia socred, and so it went …. Exciting and exhuasting, and great fun. I did not tell him I had watched the game, - not becausae he would not appreciate it – he WANTS us to see! – but because Ann in the car hadn’t seen anyting – it seems unfair.
We have our timelines and phone calls set up – Ann is waiting as we emerge … back to the Slovenia House …. And they will walk home. I ask Ann if she will take me home, she agrees, saying it is only another 20 minutes for her … I am grateful.. Tired and grateful.
It is 11.30 when I get home. It is now 12.15, after typing this, and I have to wash my shirt for tomorrow – my men are not holding the house togetrher as much as I had hoped. The dieshes pile up in the sink. Thankfully, My Mom ahs been here, and unpakced the shopping I had ordered form Coles on line, she also monitored the window cleanign man, the house cleaners, and made dog food, washed the sheets and did the ironing. Nobody can do a great job without somebody behind them assisting with the details. My Mom and Dad are my support team, and they are dong their bit for the Ollympics by helping me. My Dad has been really sick with bronchitis and I feel somewhat guilty that I have not been able to visit himl.
Wednesday, 20th September, 2000.
I raced to the hotel after Ann rang when I was on the train, saying it was a 10 am pick up not 10.30 am – getting there sweaty and puffed at 2 mins past ten. Snrs. C. rang at 10.30 and said 10.45 …. So I was safe. Went straight to the Tennis Centre at SOP, where I took them straight to their Olym;pic Family Lounge, and I went to the most miserable little stuffy room to wait, with 6 plastic chairs, a tv and tea making facilities. I took a walk and had a nice lulnch in the staff break out area, and got the autograph of Renee Stubbs, the Australian tennis player at lunch time.
I went and watch the practise courts and saw Mark Phillipousos playing, plus both the Woody Boys – and the coach, tony Roach – all being warmed up and their chicos working on their muscles and it was fascinating to see all the players on the courts – there were so many intrusive, rude volulnteers – standing noses pressed to the fence, gawping as if they were animals in a zoo, eating apples and listening unashamedly to their conversastions ….
I watched part of a match between South African Amanda Coutzee and the Hungarian girl , somebody Kis – who is having the doorman drool at the Renaissance where she is staying. She and her coach came into our room where I sat alone, and unpacked a bag of sponsors stuff for her, and I didn’t realise who she was.
I walked about, and then sat and talked to the other pas’s – there is trouble rumbling in the ranks, with lots of complaints aobut organisation and drivers and their members, which I steer clear of. I am happy. Pa who inisist they SEE games are beyond the pale. We knew wer would not see anything when we signed up!! I do not understand this attitude.
Prince Albert of Monaco came by, having losts his pa, looking for her – who was found watching tennis in the stands, can you believe that??? One of our pa’s helped him locate her. We stood outside in the shade, and Chelsea Clinton strolled by, very low key, and very lovely – taller than I expected, with LOTS of make up on – charming, and very at ease with the crowd, was about to come and talk to us I believe – when next to me she spotted Michael Chang the tennis player, and stopped and had an animated and extended conversation with him, ending in a kiss and a hug. He looked stunned.
I helped the ex Minister of Sport John Brown and his wife to the Olympic lounge – remembered by one of the pa’s as the couple who “had sex in his office and she left her knickers in his in tray.” – that was a few years ago now!!!
They had a very good day, had to leave the centre court stands for it was so cold in the shade with the wind … and sat in the sun – she got sunburnt. As we left, Snr. C. spoke to Prince Guormaind (?) of Belgium ….. our car swept magestically up and we drove off, leaving the Prince waiting for a T3 vehicle I imagine.
Back to the hotel, dropped them off – and gave Ann her little gift for doing such a professional job – and I caught the train home, very tired – but was at hom by 5.30 pm. More work – washing off line, dinner (out of the freezer) washing my clothes from today, ironing my clothes for tomorrow …. Watched the swimming on TV with Gerald – Australia is only one medal behind the States at this point, we are doing so well, in the archery, swimming, shooting, etc.
Gerald and Josh have ben given tickets by Ed for tomorrow night’s basketball between Russia and Australia – Josh is ecstatic!!!
Thursday, 21st September, 2000
We were advised late start – so I woke up t 5.30 am as usual with Gerald getting out of bed and preparing for work … and the dozed. What I have noticed is that even when I get into bed at night, I am so exited about all that has happened in the day, I do not sleep – last night I had a dream about Graham Soljan – my dear gay afriend – in which he was marrying a young, black woman, who already had a boy child …. For some reason, I was deeply upset … I woke up, exhausted, and tried to lie there, resting,but my mind is relentless, and my body wishes to respond.
Today has been easy. I got into work happily to meet Ron, who has been on 2 days break … he, sturdy, reliable, like a great brick wall … ready to make all wrongs right, and to honour and protect Australia – and me. What a gem. What a ;man.. I take them to the car, and they are so happy to see Ron. They both say immediately “Welcome Back Ron!!!” As I am getting into the car, they hand him a gift, and say Thank you Ron! They do the same for me. What a gift! I have a beautiful Georgia Armani scarf, the finest sheerest silk you can imagine, navy blue, in a cardbaord box, tied with a cotton loop ….. I am blown away …..Wow!!! Ron has a Versace tie …. Excellent …. Elegant ….. refined ….. silk …. Grey. Ron has never bought a suit that costs this much …. We walk past a shop en route to martin place to check out the pins …. These ties cost $170 upwards. Ron is gobsmacked. So am I.
We take the Cinquantas to the volleyball, Italy vs Argentia – Italy wins 3 matches to 0. She takes the Italia flag – and believes it works! I am able to watch quite a bit of the game from my position, and am delighted.
I take a meal in the staff dining room after meeting a friend, Carole Sandberg, the same lady I enrolled in being in the Olympics just 3 weeks beore commcement – she is happy, very officious and ahving awonderful time! The venue protocoal managber asks me if I would like to watch the game – I do – she has seats, reserved for Protocol Assistants, “to thank them for their work” – I accept, and see the game, which I thoroughy enjoy. We win, 3 seats t 0. The Argentians work hard for their team, but Itally, as the undisputed Champions, knock the victory in.
The food at this venue is excellent! I have greenery for the first iem in days! – salads – pork loin, fruit and soup. This mronign I collected a lunch box from the Menzies – I thin they mayhave had some complaints – a sanwich, fruit, yogurt, and pastries. Very good. I meet another South African volunteer .. perhaps the 3rd?and we chat.
We drop them back at their hotel, and I ask Ron to take me to see Momand Dad – hew does, Dad is in bed, pale and looking small … unlike my Dad – Ron is lovely with him, bein the policeman, my Mom has made a tea of applie pie and scones in about 20 minutes, and I am so proud of her. When I called to say we were coming, she said the house was a mess …. I said we were not coming for that … she ehad a fresh smock on and her hair brushed, and the best tea cups out. I love my Mom and Dad.
Back to the bomb clearance and the hotel, walked to Martin place to check out the pins for Ron – none there! – back to the hotel, and on the way, visit Versace …. We wander about, Ron very embarrassed …. Everthing costs $1100 upwaards! Even runinng shorts, in plastic!
Back to the hotel, to pick them up for thefencing Italy vs someone! – it is adiffciult venue to access, and we land up in the assistants lounge …. I get them to where they need to go, and the y have decied NOT to go to the restaurants I have researched … but to walk t he city and find one. I like these people.
Inotice my reluctance in leaving them in the care of somweone else. I do.. I make sure they will take them to Darling Harbour. I make two phone calls later to ensure this has happened. It has. They are happy.’
Tomorrow is a Girls Day Out. I have been and bought strawberries and kiwi fruit, chilled a bottle of good champagne and got a cloth and napkins for a picnic tomorrow. Ron will bring he blanket.. A trip to Palm Beach.
Ron drops me at Central, I catch the train home – bring the washing in, put the washing out, heat a microwave meal for me – drive to Woolies to get straberries and kiwi fruit for my ladies tomorrow, I chill champagne …. And write this. I am tired – bed for me.
Gerald and Josh havve gone to the basketball, Austrlian vs. Russia … we have already lost to Canada, which we should never have … so I hope toniht is good. Ed rang and offered tickets to Josh …. I hope it is a good night, a son and father, bonding!
Early start tomrrow for the picnic ….
Friday, 22nd September, 2000
I carried strawberries, kiwi fruit, champange in a cooler bag, a white damask cloth and napkins, and glass bowls and tim tams on the train – quite a feat, given the crowds – however, everybody is so cheerful and so happy – I intend to read the paper on the train, as it is my only time to do so, but never can – everybody talks to me and I talk to everybody, and the spirit of community is very strong. We have a licensse to talk to anybody during the Olylmpics, and its wonderful.
Snra. C is ready by 9.05 am, and Snr. Magri arrives soon after, Ron has the car gleaming, and everything is packed in the boot. We leave, the two woman chatting animatedly and talking over each other! We drive over the Harbour Bridge to Mosman, through the shops, and down to the zoo, showing them the skyline – Sydney is seductive, at her best, showing off in the best possible way …. And then to Balmoral, which they adore. We leave Ron in the car, and walk down the promenade, they exclaim and take photos, and kind aussies take photos of all of us – I am so proud to be Australian, the spirit is moving and I am in heaven with this. Ron glides up at the other end of the promenade, and we hop in, and drive to Manly, take them along the beach front, point out the Corso, and up to North Head, where the view is spectacular, and there are a crew of St. John’s Ambulance waiting there - in the heat – for what, I wonder? All smiling and helpful, Ron’s jocular and jovial manner has him instanly in relationship, and the ladies are very complimentary of our city.
From there we drive to Duffy’s Forest, to Waratah Park, the home of Skippy – and Snra. C. insists beforehand that she must pay “my shot” – (she is becoming Australian, using our colloquialisms!) and asks if I will take care of the finances, handing me $230 …. I go ahead and buy four tickets, and bags of food for the kangaroos, and in we go – they are in heaven, surrounded by cockatoos, cookaburras, dingos, wombats, andd when we get to the koalas, the mother in them emerges, and they are all pouts and tut tuts, and murmuring soothing sounds …. Like all women! We take masses of photos, and are allowed to stroke them, and then we go to the kangaroos, who delight them as there are babies with legs and heads popping out of pouches, and we take more photos – the kangaroos snatch the bags of food, and start toeat the PAPER! - This is common amongst them, and whilst we are anxious it will upset them, they all seem to be doing it ….
We leave about 1.10 to head to Palm Beach, there is talk of whether we will have fish and chips, or whether they want to go to a restaurant – they leave it to us – however, when we decided fish and chips, Snr. Magri asks Snra. C if we can go to an informal restaurant. Not a problem, we proceed to the Ocean side of Pallm Beach, and there is a lovely restaurant, the Boardwalk, and at her invitation, we join her. Very pleasant outlook, and the member for Denmark lunching with his driver – polishing off a bottle of wine, Ron and I disapprovingly note …. – the member’s wife and children are on the beach, while the men eat and drink. Ron follows the lead of the ladies and orders salmon and asparagus – it arrives, very nouvelle, a tiny portion, I look at Ron and the size of the meal, and ponder how much of his tum it will fill. However, he inisists that is all he will have, and a coke …. Snra. Presses him to eat more, he gracefully declines.
We enjkoy lunch, the ladies have some strawberries and coffee, and we are aware of our time, and must leave to be back at the hotel by 4 pm for Snr. C. – he is presenting medals tonight. We talk to a lady in the carpark, with a tiny dog, she tells us of her “massive house, with at least 20 bedrooms, and that her son has done so well” – she asks us how we get to the games, when I tell her the car and driver, she does an about take and says “yes, I told my son the ny way to get to the games is to hire a stretch limo and drive there”. That’s Palm Beach, I guess. Unfortunately, her son died recently ….. money cannot prevent tragedy. I take the fine glasses and champagne and ask them if they would like some – Snra. C. is enchanted, and is willing but Snra. M. says no, insistent, I can see Snra. C. feels she should say yes, just to gracefully accept the offer …but no, I do not mind, they know I have thought well of them.
The ladies check out the beach briefly, love the coast and the houses and the view, are interested in the prices of real estate …. And we reluctantly leave. I decide to stop at ozzie Mozzie Nets on the way, and the ladies are captivated immediately by the pashminas, and both buy one. Snra C buiys a beautiful pale lilac/bluey colour perfect for her colouring, in 70 % pashmina and 30% silk for $280, and Snra. Magri buys a gorgeous rusty, warm colour, just the colour of her tan! – for $250 – both are well pleased wsith their purchase. In the car coming home, they are laughing their husbands will be angry with their shopping, and they will “hide” their purchases …. Snra. M. is laughing at Snra.C. as a bull licked her hand – she says she should “go home and caress Ottavio – don’t wash yourhands!” They fall about laughing at this idea, and when Snr. C. phones, Snra. Tells him all that we have done, ending in a rush with “… and some shopping, see you soon – love you!” They laugh in merriment at this cuckolding of the male. We woman are the same the world over.
We are back at the hotel at precisely 4.10 – and Snra. M catches a cab back to Bondi Swiss Grand, and Snra. C. hurries upstairs to shower and dress. I give her the strawberries and kiwi fruit I have brought – she says “Sandra I will KISS you before I leave! – you know us Italians!!” Snr. C comes down at 5 and thanks me profusely for the wonderful day the women have had and for “keeping my wife busy” – he is smiling and obvioiusly well pleased. When Snra. C. comes we leave for the fencing – I have given Snr. C a comb and a tiny spray bottle of facial water refresher, telling him he must be the most handsome of the presenters of the medals on TV. He is tickled at this gesture, and says “My wife will carry it in her handbag …”
We have a short drive to the Exhibition Centre, with him making jokes constantly – in good spirits, despite a very tough emeting today “many cultures trying to agree is very frustrating”. He jokes “Ron, if I have a special service I need with my phone, I will go back to the shop where you and Sandra spent many hours getting my phone sorted out. If they cannot help me, I will say “If you do not assist me, I will send Sandra Groom back here!” – then they will help me, yes!” We joke about males being the boss, but woman knowiong they are.
I escort them to the fencing, and then they tell us “ go home, and have a rest in the monring, we will only need the car in the afternoon”. Ron drops me at Central, and I inadvertently get into the Q heading out to the Athletics at SOP – WHAT A CROWD – all moving well, all co-operating, and following insstgructions. We have been told to catch the train at 6 am today to get to the venue on time, it seems people have done what they are told, as the transport system is working beatufiully.
A reporter from Sports Illustrated says in the paepr “Sydney should have the Games in 2008, 2112,and every year up till 3000. Why date anyone else when you’ve had Cindy Crawford? Sydney is the single most beautiful city in the world.” Everything is working, the weather is wonderful, the volunteers are being given the big thumbs up and thanks for a fantastic job, I am prouid.
I gave my ticket for the Athletic tomorrow morning to Wok next door – he has not seen anyting yet, and is very happy. This is the ticket we were given as thanks for being volunteers.
Saturday, 23rd September, 2000
Quiet day – only started work about lunch time ….. they have been to lunch at the Waterfront with friends from various sporting organisaitons, and we pick them up, and head straight to the fencing – where we drop them, to be picked up at 8.20 after Snr proesents a medal. We drive to Mom and Dad for tea, and a rest, and have a chat, Mom fills Ron up on scones and sausage rolls. We head back to town, and I walk through the rocks mmarvelling at the people and the merchandise …. Find a shop that sells pashminas for Snra. Back for a meal at the Menzies, and Ron is sitting with his brother! – unknown to him, also working at the Olympics, and Ambo from Queensland!!! We chat and eat …. And somehow I lose an hour! – and get to the fencing too late to see Snr present his medals!!! I am livid with myself! – there are press everywhere, and chamions everywehre, and I cannot get into see him, and he calls me 3 times, and the phone drps out, I am in the bowls of the building …. I am frantic …. Eventually, I get in and search the Olympic Family seating – nowhere to be seen …. Eventually he finds ME! Calling Sandra!!!! I am so relived to see them I take his face in my hands and clasp it … he looiks a bit shcoked!! Thousands of people, and they want to eat at Machiavelli – I call 1223 and get the number, books the talbe, and off they walk, through Darling Harbour with Snr. And Snra Magri – who were very happy and beaming to see me! Ron takes me to the station, I catch the train … and am home about 9 pm. An easy day!
Sunday, 24th September, 2000
Busy day – picked them up at 8 am and went to the Rowing, Ron a star in knowing which streets to avoid given the marathon womens was on. Got there,a nd watched alll the races – Snr presented the medals – I was as proud as a mother at Chrismtas panto at school! – taking photos of him and beaming. John Howard came up to 3 of us and said Good Afternoon! – I was so stunned, for once I had no words except Good Afternoon! Back. Janet was looking for him – I head someone say the “PM is lost” – and then there he was!
Straight from there to the volleyball – Italy vs Germany, ,Germany won – I had lunch at the entertainment centre, and weatched the game! – great stuff! – the Protocol Supervisor Jan McLean is lovely and gives us a seat … Carole is a bit bossy! – but gave me water when parched. From there, they had lunch in the Olympic Family Lounge and then back to the hotel – for a reest for her and work for him – Ron and I do a trial run of how to get to the Weight Lifting and Boxing, so we know where to o – a kind assistant takes me allthe way through the buildings so I know where to go.
We pick him up at 6 pm and st to the weightlifting – once again, a kind volunteer offers me a seat, and I watch the Clean dnd Jerk, and Snatch (I think!) – and watch Greece win a Gold medal, lifting 220kg!!
Back to the hotel to pickup Snra – at 8 pm – the plans have changed again, now they are not going to Casa Italia, but to dinner with the rest of the Italian party. It has started to rain, and there is much confusion at Carrington Street whilst I try to liase with Ron, their driver, and 12 Italians … nobody knows where ther estaurant is, I find out via 1223, and we drive there, Ron meanwhile is bursting to take a leak, his eyeballs rolling.
It is called Nicks Bar and Grill and Ron drops us at Sega world at Darling Harbour, and we walk through the crows, me leading the way … it is cold and raining …. And I hope Snra is warm. We meet up the rest of the party,a nd they all follow me, I am hoping I know where I am going. We get to Nicks – the wrong Nicks, and I have to herd them all out of the restaurant. We keep walking, they keep following Ron keeps phoning to keep contact, and it’s a long way to the second Nicks …. I meet a volunteer, who runs ahead and comes back with the reassuring news, that yes, Nicks is ahead. Ron calls, and says turn around, I am right behind you … and sure enough he has parked the car. And has followed me, and comes to assist.
We get to the restaurant, many Italains in tow, and yes, the talbe is booked, but Snr. C does not want THAT one, he wants anotehr! – the maitre d obliges, and moves people around, I shake hands and leave …. They thank me. It is cold outdoors restaurant, I hope they do not freeze.
Ron takes me home, I have walked miles and miles today and am tired – bless him!
Monday, 25th September, 2000.
The day starts early with a call from Bec, telling us she and Michel are getting married. I cry for a long time. Josh goes to work.
I catch the train late, as Snr has said we will not be needed until the afternoon – I go to Video King in Lindfield and take Josh and flower and a bag of jellysnakes, and catch the train. Just before St. Leonards the phone rings, Snr does not need us till 5 pm. So I dismount at St. Leondards and walk to the folks, buying sushi along the way. I get to Mom’s and Dad goes to bed – in myMom’s arms, I cry for a lost dream the dream of Bec being our daughter in law, and chastise myself for my selfishness – I AM happy for her happiness – just that I so much wish she was going to always be “our daughter”. I go to bed and sleep for an hour, and Mom takes mee to the station – she irons my uniform again … bless her.
At the Menzies, Ron and I meet for a tea, and then to the Regent. Snr. Meets me at 4.45 pm – Snra is not around, although I have left a message for her to dress warmly on the answering machine, she has not responded. She is always punctual, and at 5 pm he is getting very worried …. So am I, she has been shopping with snra. Pescanti, does she have a mobile? Phone calls ensue, no, she does not.
At 5.10 Snra. Flies through the mag and bag in a flurry, still every bit as elegant as ever, all in cream silk and leather and pearls, apologies and flies upstairs to change – 10 minutes. True to her word, she is back on time – Ron has the car, and we make good time getting to the Stadium at SOP. It seems all of Sydney – perhaps the world! – are here, we are for OUR Cathy tonight, at 8.10 pm, running in the 400m for a gold – the place is jumping.
I have a tea in the assistants lounge, and I head to the dining area – it overlooks the track!!! We can see Cathy run!!! The queue for food is long, it is now an houir before the race, so I find a seat next to the window, which runs the length of the dining room, and nobody willmake me move!
The place is packed, and the stadium is packed, 115,000 people and when Cathy Freeman walks out in her zoot suit, the crowd roars its approval …. This young woman, beloved of all Australians, must feel the stress of winning this race so profoundly …. She carries the hopes of the Aboriginal nation, and she stands for reconciliation between us all …..
I have a wonderful view along with hundreds of other volunteers all lined up and waving flags …. Until half way througuht he race, on the run home, the crowd as one, leaps to its feet, screaming and yelling, people are jumping and clutching their heads and their faces and hanging on to ech other, eyes popping ….I have never heard a souind like it …. The crowd are carrying her on their voices, she is running faster than she has ever run, leaving the English woman and the Nigerian (?) woman behind her …. As she loops the track, the flash bulbs followher like a Mexican wave …. She comes home 2 m ahead of the others …. If possible the crowd roars ever louder!
“Our Cathy” has won …. The volunteers are hugging each other, some are crying, and jumping and we believe we have helped her win by our support.
I call Ron and run to the car park, Snr. as said Ron and I can “go home” betweene 6 pm and 10.30 pm when we pick him up, but we decided to watch the race here, and then Ron take me home, as Snr. Has said I do not need to be there with Ron just “to drivew us back to the hotel!” - Ron and I are in Pymble, excitedly discusisng the race, when Snr. Calls and says “change of plan – Ron please pick me up in half an hour” Ron drops me in Pymble, I call Gerald, and he collects me, and Ron heads back to the Stadium to collect the C’s.
I call at 10.20 to ensure all is well …. They are in the car almost at the volleyball, Snr. C. assures me – I call Ron, he says the same. (I can see why they think I am a bossyboots). We have laughed at Snr.’s suggestion that Snra. Compile a report and give it to Sandra for adjuciation on why she was late today! Ron has still to “swap cars and phone” with our new relief driver, John Harris, for tomorrow, and then drive to Sylvania. A long night. I iron my clothes for tomorrow, and drink some wine with Gerald. Wok from next door comes in to say thanks for the ticket to the Athletics yesterday, he had a ball! – and saw the end of the Woman’s Marathon, the East Timorese woman was last into the stadium, and the crowd roared their support – she stopped at what she thoguht was the finish line to offer prayers above, and the official had to explain she had to run around the track.
One memory I will never forget is the swimmer from Equador Guinea – who had never swum further than 100 m before, swimming all alone in his race (false starts by the other two) – for 200m – Australia felt he would drown, he was having so much trouble. His courage and determination have stirred people, and he has been given a zoot suit, and will probably be taken underwing by some giant American corporation and made a millionaire!
Josh has been on the phone and missed all the action, having a huge argument with Isis. I hear him slam the phone down and storm out the front door, leaving it open. I take this as an invitation, and follow him where he sits on the steps. The moment I put my arms around him, he bursts into tears, and sobs as if his heart will break. I stroke him, and murmur comfort. Eventually he quietens. He tells me what is happening – Isis feels she is the interim girlfriend, is mad that he – and I – are sad about Bec’s forthcoming marriage …. And wants comfort from Josh. He in turn wanted to be held “and my hair stroked” – so Josh has no energy left to expend for Isis – the bad news about his film, and the fact the crew do not want to be in it “for fear of looking unprofessional” and the eagerly awaited $3000 he asked for as payment, now both in j eopardy – the news from Bec – and now this with Isis, is too much. He expresses his frustration and inability to communicate to her when she is so emotional, she does not hear, and on his part, he does not say what he wants to say, merely defending her accusations and interpretations. I tell him I know that is not who she is nor wants to be, and give him some coaching about how to “train” your partner into communicating the way you need – or else, trouble lies ahead. I tell him he will remember this day, 25/9/00 – his Uncle Ian’s birthday – Cathy Freeman’s run, Bec’s news, the film bad news, the row with Isis – from this day, many decisions and pathways will unfold – in five years time, he will see this as a catalyst. For the first time ever, I hear him “listening” to me, and getting what I am saying. He says, “I just wish I had your words” – my heart aches for my son, clearly a man, and my pride in his ability to express his feelings and his thoughts is grand. I tell him how proud I am of him, and how much I love him, how I will always be there. I hold him and “stroke his hair”. Isis arrives, looking tearful, angry, and tight. I ask her to hug him, and leave them – it is cold, and when I go outside a couple of minutes later to throw a blanket around them, they are tightly hugging. My love for my son fills me.
Tuesday, 26th September, 2000
Snr. Said he would call me at 9.25 – Snra does, they do not need the car this morning, and will let me know about this afternoon, this evening we must be at Casa Italia by 21.00 – will collect them at 8.30 pm.
I spend the morning sorting e mails, paying bills, vaccuuming the floor, Mom comes and irons some shirts for me. Gerald leaves for Berry, with Geordie smiling and smelling sweetly after her bath and hair do yesterday.
Snra. Calls at 1 pm – can she have the car asap? To go to Leichardt to collect her pearls? I am at home! – however, John Harris, our relief driver, is in the city, and he promises to be there at the Regent by 1.25 pm.
Isis and Josh are happy this morning – James comes to visit – they go out for food, and then head out to a movie. I ask Isis if I can speak to her: it is important to me that she knows that my love of Bec can never diminish my love for Isis ….. Bec is my “daughter” and has been for 9 years, and the two relationships are separate. I want her to know that it is very important to me that she accept that – and put aside her interpretations about “the interim woman” and ask that she trust me.
I have a call from John. Do I know wehre Catherine St in Leichardt is? I ask if h wants me to lok it up in the Gregory’s. He seems to suddenly remember he has a Gregory’s himself. 30 minutes later he calls and says Snr. C. wants to visit L’ostedale di Ernesto Ciommeri at Concordia Hospital. Is that Concord? I say yes, but will check and get on the phone to the IOD at the Regent, who try to help, and tell me the Prince Alfred is the official hospital for IOC members. So I call Concord Hospital, speak to the Liason Officer, and check that yes, indeed, he is there, I call John back to tell him so, and that the Ward Number is 610. I give him the address, Hospital Rd. He calls back and asks is that Concord Repatriation Hospital, or the private hospital in the same road? I feel a little testy, but tell him it is the Concord Repatriation Hospital, and to call me if he has problems.
I feel I should be there! – but having been told I was not required, I did not go in – and have missed taking them to collect the pearls and to the hospital!!! So it is now 3.20 and I am heading in, even if I have to sit there till 8.30 tonight, it is better than not being able to assist when they need me. After all, I trained 18 months for this!!!
Things are happening in the Universe. Jane Toohey just called me and said “I understand you must feel like you are losing a daughter with Bec – your Mom told me – and I thought it was silly to continue not speaking to you.” We had a pleasant, if a little awkward conversation, then my doorbell rang, and she said she would call back sometime.
When I get to town, Snra. Tells me on the phone, that it is not necessary for me to accompany them to Casa Italia tonight, I should “rest” – so I have my photos developed, and the copies for Snra. And put them in an album, which I deliver to the hotel with a message, telling them I miss them. I head home for an early night - but I do miss being “on the job” and taking care of them. They have been to collect Snra.’s pearls today, and I missed out on that, AND the hospital visit!! I am very proprietorial about them! John, the relief driver, takes them to Casa Italia, waits, and brings them home about 11.30 pm.
Wednesday 27th September, 2000
I head into town and am there by 10 am, get more photos for Snra. And buy La Fiamma, the Italian newspaper. I sit at the Menzies and discuss everybody’s opinions about the Olympics, listen to the inside goss, and observe everybody’s jockying for “power” and “position” and “pecking order” – even us volunteers have a structure …. It is amusing to see, and sometimes irritating: I remind myself that people who have low self esteem need to prop themselves up ….. and given a uniform, it doubles the power! This is a minor irritation however, and as always, am blown away by the kindess and generosity of people, who they are in their lives, the Moms and Dads with kids and businesses and jobs and aging, ailing parents, and busy lives who have given themselves to the Games so freely.
I do not hear from Snra for quite some while, Snr. Is not feeling too good, a bit of flu perhaps? The plan is to collect them at 2pm to go to the volleyball, Italy vs Australia. Snra says “wew know the way so you do not need to come if you do not wish” – I am appalled! – “of COURSE I will come!” John Harris joins me at the Menzies, and we see Ann Sinclair the previous relief driver, and eat together. He is sloppy, I am afraid, is not wearing his uniform (oh the fabric is cheap and crushes easily – is it the same as mind I innocentlyl enquire? – oh, the big sizes are not good pants he says – I say, I wash and iron my uniform every day – his jaw drops – EVERY DAY? He says.) He also drives in a way I am not confident in ….. very fast, braking very fast – jerky movements – uncertain of where he is going, laid back, unlike Ron and I who check every detail and every road turn …. John drives a different route to Ron, and there is more traffic, I bite my tongue, he is the driver after all – then turns into the wrong streeet, upon realising this, jerks back out, and nearly hits another Olympic vehicle …. He is vague in his manner, and rolls his words together, it is hard for me to understand him at times, so am certain the Cinquantas have difficulty. Still, he is contributing his time to the Games, and who am I to complain.
I get to sit and watch the whole Italy vs Australia game, which is great …. Italy are by far superior, the world champions, and wip us in the first set – in the second seet Australia rallies, and we are leading for a short while, the place goes bonkers, Aussie flags and competing roars of AUS-TRAYL-YUH! And IT-UL-YUH! What an atmosphere! We win the second set, but Itality triumphs in the next two ….but a great game!
I meet Wendy, another pa with the Italian team, a great lady, with 4 children – I like her very much – and Jeanette Wyeth, a Mom from Mosman, who has 4 sons – there are many middle aged women like myself, loving what they are doing. I wish I had four kids. Leandro is there too, what a nice man he is, and he is getting me some Italian pins to give to Ron and to repay the Ansett lady.
This is what happened: Bob Carr is giving the volunteers tickertape parade on Thursday 5/10/00 – wonderful stuff, and we have a staff party the night before. However, I am flying to Adelaide to lead a 3 day training on 5/10/00 at precisely the time the march starts ….. I am committed to attending both the training and the parade, so call Adelaide and ask about the ticket, can it be changed? Terry calls back, unfortunately, no, it cannot , it is an electronic ticket …. And a 21 day advance purchase ticket. Not to be thwarted, and on the recommendation of a pa, I go to the Ansett desk at the Regent …. And tell her my story, I am a volunteer, about the parade – she works her computer, and I ask her to cause a miracle. She Does! – she goes straight to the top, and comes back, “no problem, all sorted – your flight is now at 6 pm!!” Good on yer, ,Melita!!! She needs a pin, an Italian one, and I do not have one! Leandro the rescue.
After Volleyball, back to the hotel, via a circuitious route through the Rocks, and Snr attends a meeting. We collect them at 6 pm and head out to Homebush to the Stadium, there are two important Italian events tonight. We have with us in the car a man with the name of Montegerri (?) – Snr tells me later he is the President of one of the biggest sporting companies in the world, and his wife is the Anchorwoman on one of the biggest TV shows in the States. This may be so … however, he cannot enter our accreddited gate! – and John drives hiim to Gate 5, where he can enter. They tell me thre is no need for me to stay, John can drive me home, and collect them at 9.20 pm to go back to the Regent. Ron and John have to swap cars and phones tonight,, so it will be late. John drives me home, and I cook a huge chicken and vegetable dish, drink wine, watch TV, and talk to my darling husband.
Isis and I have “our talk” – it goes well, I give her lots of space to say what she needs to, I tell her that I can never love her the way I love Bec – Bec was a child who grew up in this house, Isis is a woman – I tell her I miss the “girly” stuff, like cooking together, or walking the dog, or just this, sitting on the bed, drinking wine, two women talking …… She thanks us for always being generous with her, and says she knows she has “withdrawn” – she believes that Josh told her early in the piece that “Isis would never be good enough for Josh” – I tell her this must be a miscommunication, I would never say such a thing to anybody! – and perhaps she has misinterpreted something, to check with Josh …. We talk for about an hour …. She opens herself, telling me her self esteem is low, despite the fact she has loving parents who adore her – also that she finds our “I love you” in your face stuff very different from her own family, that she finds Josh hard to communicate with, he cannot express himself (this in response to my saying if you wait yoru time, and approach it right, Josh will bare all – she says “I disagree”.) She tells me that she loves Josh and Josh loves her. I tell her I wouild walk through broken glass to have a great relationship with her, the one Josh has chosen – that it is my job to love her, it is hers to BE loved. We end well. Josh and Gerald look up anxioiusly as we return to the kitchen – Josh at the first opportunity asks me “How was it? Is Isis OK?” Both questions get a “very good, yes, fine” response, and he seems to relax. Isis says he was a bit “tense” about our talking. She thanks me for taking the time to talk to her.
After dinner, it is late, I have done the washing, and hung it out, and go to bed. I do not sleep well, Gerald snores like a train, and I am very hot ….
Thursday 28th September, 2000
Josh takes Isis to work …. As she leaves I ask her if there is anything else she wants to say? – she says she said it all last night. It is 10 am and no word from Snra. C, although Ron has already called, so I think I will head into town – the charger on my mobile phone is wrecked, the prongs bent …. Gerald believes it is my ineptitutde with technical things that has caused this, which I cannot understand, have used this phone for two weeks and no problem. Ron and I will try and find a place to exchange it today.
Snr calls me at the station at 10 am to say they don’t need the car until 2.15 when they should be collected from the Casa Italia – will be at a reception for the Mayor or Rome, Francesco Rutelli, likely Prime Minster of Italy, and Frank Sartor, Mayor of Sydney – and to go to the basketball at Superdome. Ron and I have a cup of tea, and I talk to a couple of volunteers at length about WYI,a nd agree to send/give them brochures about what we do. We collect them at Casa Italia, along with Mrs. Nabioli, the widow of one of the long serving members of the IOC, and drive to the Sueprdome – there are three Italians in the back seat, all talking at once, it is comical! I have the Italian flag to wave, we now call it the International flag, as it is the red, white and green, repaired with Japanese chopsticks, by Gerald, Afracan engineering, carried by Aussie me. He tells me in the car, he does not need to cary the flag today, perhaps I will need it to wipe my tears when Italy beats Australia in the basketball?
We get dropped at the wrong spot, I apologise, as we have to walk across the carpark, he says “Sandra, we are not that sort of person! – no problems!” and I leave them at the Oilympic Family Lounge. I find a corrider to weatch the game, only to be chided by an officiouis official, saying I can watch for 5 minutes, but then I have to “go to my own area to wait”. I agree with her, and leave. A few minutees later, I find another corridor in which to stand, and an official gives me permission, and another says twice “I do not see this woman standing here!” The GAME WAS FANTASTIC! – Andrew Gaze and Shane Heal play amighty game …. It is neck and neck, we are in the lead – at half time, they take the lead, nail biting ferociouis stuff, the crowd going bonkers, people crying and singing and yelling and jumping out of their seats with excitement – literally – I am shouting myself hoarse – and WE WIN!!!! 65 – 61, baskerball history, we are through to the finals!!! When I pick up the C’s, I say “Snr. Perhaps you need my (small) – (his is bigger he says!) flag to wipe your tears on???” He laughs uproarioiusly and places an affectionate arm arorund my shoulders …. She does too, and they both congratulate us on a great game, we deserve it! In the car, he tells me “Sandra, pleasea put your seat belt on” – I laugh, and do so – and then say “It is a great teacher when the pupil begins to teacch the teacer ….” He laughs and laughs – chucking his wife saying, “Maria Louisa! – did I not tell you, it will be 20 seconds before a response from Sandra – but no, only 18 seconds!!!” He likes my cheek, and he enjoys the games, with sweets, he pinches them from the volunteers, and Snra says “Where is the one for Sandra?” he says “She does not need, - sweet enough!” He tells jokes and chaffs us a lot, he is looking better than he was, still has a cough.
Back to the hotel to drop them, it is 5 pm, we must pick them up at 6 to go out to the Stadiuim to the track and field ….. we bomb check the car, and off we go to pick them up – she elegant as ever, in black and red, and wonderful pearls …. He regales us with funny stories all the way there, and we laugh until my jaws ache – the one about Henry Kissinger sitting at breakfast that morning, unintentionally in another man’s palce, and reading his paper, when the guy returned, HK is sat there, reading his paper. Does HK leave I ask? Absollutely NOT says Snr – he is HK!!!! And the man whose place he has taken says “And you’re reading my paper too!”
The man who attends a seminar on “Starter of the Gun” for training in Northern Norway, cannot speak Norweigan, is there to show them the demonstration of starter – spends the morning in the seminar, only to dsicover at lunch time the seminar doesnot begin tull 2.30 pm – he has spent the morning in an insurance seminar!! And the “shower of champagne” on all the delegates in Innsbruck …. The “Cardinal from Rome” – a friend suitably solemn and quiet, they pretend he is the Cardinal, and bring him in, the volulnteers have believed him, and many of them are kneeling – he blesses them – the Italian men, it seems, are the ‘fun group” in the IOC, causing jokes and merriment – “especially in our younger days”. He looks good for 62. He says if the Italian athletes are expected to stay in the village for 20 days and be quiet “they will die” – “this is not the Italian way, especially not the Roman way!”
At the Stadium he says “Sandra, good night!” I say “You do not want me?” He says gleefully “No, we do not want you! Go home!” I laugh and take them to the lounge, and then out to the car, and Ron brings me home. He has a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit, rests up his leg, and heads backk to pick them up at 8.45 pm.
They give us each a rucksack of goodies – t shirts, sweatshirt, camera, a table cloth, ginseng tea, and a wonderful book on Australia, phoitographs – I ask him to sign them, he does ….. with a wonderfully touching message. What good people.
I call later to check, he tells Ron “It is the Control Room calling to see if we are OK! Thank you Sandra, and good night!”
Friday, 29th September, 2000
Ron and I meet at the Menzies …. For tea and our daily chatter – it is nice to catch up with all the other voalunteers, and also to get all the daily info off the computer, whose race, where, who is in it, wiehgts and heifghts, etc.
We have lunch and go to Darling Harbour - pin hunting ….. I never knew there were so many pins, this is a whole industry, with people from all over the world trtading and sellingf! We are asked if we are officials by am American couple who take our photo after we give them directions ….. we saunter thought the crowds, and finally make a purchase – the sets of Olylmpic pins are selilng for $221 on special, plus 6 F’free pins” – we only want the Opening and Closing ones, and so we search having intersting conversations along the way – we buy a Closing pin (not officially one sale until Sunday, the closing day) – for $15 and then buy an opening pin, plus a Day 1 pin, both for $15 – I buy a basketball pin for Josh for $10.
Back to the hotel, we pick up the C’s, and off to Ryde Aquatic Centre for the water polo, Hungary vs Italy …. It is 34 degrees, the building is tin, and not air conditioned, people are expiring from the heat, so unseasonal for September! – and the kind Protocol Supervisor allows us to sit and watch the game. Italy loses, what an emotional game this is, how HARD these guys work, trying to drown each other and swim and throw the ball! I sit with Leandro, who gives me two Italian pins – bless him – after the game the Greek NOC tears a strip off the Prot Supervisor, as she refused to give him seats reserved for the Queen of Spain and her team and bodyguard …. Screaming at her saying “You do not respect me or the NOC or the Olympic Family!” – she was great, cool, and just apologised and explained her position. Greece has been a real pain in the arse, complaining and demanding, I guess they are feeling pretty pressured having the put on something like Sydney and being a year gbehind the schedule already!!
We leave the Aquatic Centre about 5, head back to the Regent, and drop them – pick up at 6 pm, to takek them to the Stadium for the Athletics – a quick rush to bomb clear the car, buy flowers for Ron to give Sue, tidy up my face and a wee, and back to the hotel – pick up at 6 pm, and off to the Stadium. They insist they do not need me, Ron takes me home, and goes back to collect them at 9.30 pm. I call them around 10 to see if all is well. Ron chuckles the next day and tells me Snr. C says “She is just like my Mother!”
Saturday, 30th September, 2000
In Town by10.30 am – Snra says Snr is in a meeting utnil 11.30, maybe later, if the President only wants to attend the second half of the football. I do a lot of research, as we are going to two different places today …. Ron gets on the computer and checks times, etc. Snr calls me 0 elated and ecstatic!! – today is a very important day for me, Sandra, today I have been elected to the Baord of the IOC!!! I am most chuffed, and congratulate him profoundly ….. he tells us later how it went, he said to be on the committeee, 115 members is special – to be elected to be one of the 15 board members is very amazing, a powerful job, and o”one of the best in the world” as he says – he was elected very fast, in the second ballot – and tells us, as normal, he made a joke when he thanked people – and said “How come it wasn’t unanimous?”!! He tells us he has been asked before to stand for this position – and has said, “I will not EVER do a deal to get the job” – this is who he is, and I believe it – given the gossip about him is that he was elected for his integrity and his organisational skills to the committee 5 years ago, and Ron and I are very proud!~! We are at the hotel at 12.30 – and they say they will eat quickly, and return by 1.15 pm – they do, five minutes to change – and then back down, where Ron and I have been waiting in the car to go to the Road Cycling, Men’s individual medallists out at Centennial Park ….. A wonderful venue, a wonderful protocol supervisior, asking if I need a meal voucher, cold water, wouild I like a chair? – and I get to view the race, 46.8 kms, these guys are amazing, their clothes and helmets and bikes are extraordinary ….. The venue supervisor is a cyclist himself,a nd very knowledgeable, and shares with me who is who and what is happening, I share with him WYI,a nd he wants to partcipate in our next bike ride ….!!! Says “you are very passioante about this, aren’t you?”
It si very hot,a nd the C’s actually do not even go outside to watch the game, they are sitting inside talking to the President of the International Cyling Federation.
From there, we drive out to the Baseball Stadiium at the SOP, and are given the royal treatment. The volunteers are particularly happy and chatty – is this because of the good press we have received, or is it an added effort, knkowing this is all coming to an end??? We are taken from the Olympic family lounge to the Vice President of the Modern Pentathlon’s suite, where two other pa are – onee is the pa to Thomas Bach (vice president and his wife), and the other to Prince Alberto of Monaco – he is presenting the medals. Maria Louisa sits next to Juan Antonio Samaranch … and I am invited to stay by the protocol supervisor – and get a birds eye view of the race finish. These men are champions ….. 12 hours they have been on the go, with fencing, shooting, swimming, riding, running – and something else? – 5 things – and they finish within 5 minutes of each other!!! This is such a moving event, seeing these men finish, and what they have accomplished to be ehre ….
Back out, and a dash to the city – drop them, and a quick meal for Ron and I at the Menzies, and tidy up, back to collect them atg 8 pm at Harrington St entrance, the 1st Pescante’s have booked a table at Buon Ricordo (I have checked the booking) – and we are taking them there. They say “Sandra, we never have to look for you – you are always there!” Their car does not arrive, so Ron and I unpack “my stuff” from the front, and he drives them to Paddington. Later, Ron tells me they put their seat belts on … this after Snr. C has told me in Pescante car, nobody wears seatbelts …. Snr. C. enquires why? – Pescante says NO! Snr. C. says I am ashamed to tell him that there is somebody in MY car who is more powerful than me and says I must wear a seat belt!!
Home on the train – the Opals are beaten by USA, we have the silver, the Hockeyroos have the gold, and so does the women’s water polo team – female power!!! I call Ron several times to see if things are fine – no response, batery falt … I get him at 12.15 – yes, all is well – he is home, and no problems.
Today we have been told we can q for a ticket to the closing ceremony – there are 62,000 volunteers are 5,000 tickets – qu’s start at 4 am – fter much calling and investigation, we decide against it. Also that we can buy uniforms at UDAC on Monday …. 9 – q starts early I imagine, people are selling stuff on the internet for thousands …. I call Verna – but she calls back, unable to take me, she wants T shirts but has friends from Africa here, and unwilling to spare the time from them.
The phones have come down to $100 but the plan still expensive. I decide no.
Its coming to an end.
Ron and I have caused miracles, trying to get permission for our car, and us, to get Snr. C. into the Aquatic Centre to present a medal after “lcok down “ at 3 pm – and then on to the Cloising Ceremony – abouit 25 phone calls between us and he heqavies somebody, and we finally get the magic ticket for the car.
I am very tired and very satisfied.
Sunday, 1st October, 2000
Last official day, beautiful weather, and a busy one coming up. Its 10.30 and I am still at home, and heading out after writing this. Gerald is sick and misierable and I realise I could never do this full time and keep my jmarriage. Gerald has worked these hours for years, and I have had to cope …. But he cannot without me, the house is falling down, the dishwasher is not unpacked, nothing happens, unless I do it. I have created this. He works very hard at his job, and that is IT as far as around the house goes. He is also sick and not in Berry and thoroughly glum.
I take the train in, and once more, turn up at the Menzies – I have filled my book with stamps, btronze medal, silver and gold (for workign) and am now on the World Record Breaking page! Every day there eis a newsletter which comes out, and today there is an acnkokwledgement of me in there from Ron about my professionalism and friendliness – he is disappointed they have not written up the ‘whole thing” he used up two pages he says!
We pick up the C’s at 12 noon to go to the Entertainment Centre, to see the volleyball, it is the finals, and the Italians are playing Argentina …. Italy wins – we watch the next match …… Ron and I go to the Rennaissance Hotel to hand my phone back in – after trying to givbe it in at the Menzies, AND the Regent …. By 12 noon …. I am told it is the Rennaissance …. Cannot do it before 12, so we are forced to drive back to the Rennaiisance, and I go to the 6th floor to return it – get given an IOC pin, and a letter of thanks, and a SOCOG bag, and the girls there look exhausted, they have seen nothing of the Games, just stuck in this room for 17 days – and looked worn out. Back to the volley ball, and lunch. I watch the second game, which finishes at 2.20, I have had a grand seat and watched the gold medal won …. Wonderful time! Adriana and I sit together, and awe have lunch with Carole Sandberg, she has had flue and looks very tired. She says she hopes my people give me a great gift, whether I have a pin for her, and that we must get together and complete our coaching series soon …. All of which I am disappointed she has said! It seems insensititive and tacky.
We fly to the car, and Ron glides up as ever, and head dout to the Aquatic Centre for Snr. C.’s medal presentation ….. there is no traffic, undestadably, most of the roads have been closed foro the Men’s marathon, and cars are not allowed into the SOP after 3 pm – except us, we feel superior, as we have spent hours organising this special pass to get in and get out so that the C’s can do their job.
We go straight to the Aquatic Centre, and I tell Ron, I will be back shortly so we can get OUT of SOP before they close it alldown …. This is not to be, as I take them in, sign them into the Olympci Family Lounge, and decide to make a last minute check on Shane Griffith, CEAC, who is going to take them in a car after the medal presentation to the closing ceremony …. I track him down via phone and he is watching the Water Polo, I cannot hear himi speak, he calls backs and says he will be out at half time – I wait, and call Ron. Gerald has loaned me his phone, as officially I have been “off duty” since 12 noon ….. and the battery warns me, it is low …. Snr. C’s phone has stopped working, walking in here today …. And I need to keetp in touch with Ron. There is much toi-ing and fro-ing of police officers, making phone calls and checking and waiting around – eventually I have to cll Ron and tell him to go, or he will be locked in till 3 am ….. Now I am alone here with the C’s, with no phone, and now am told, no car either to get them to the Closing Ceremony ….. I ask for a Police Escort to take us there, through the crowds, and am allocatged a young man from Broken Hill, who doesn’t knkow his way around SOP!! Sweet but ineffective ….
I watch the Medal Ceremony with Snra. – she and I are so proud, Snr. C looks very smart and handsome, and walks importantly to present the medal – he gives the honour of the gold to someone else,and presents the Silver – Yugoslavia has won, I take some photos, but my camera gets stuck ….. Snra. Gives me hers, saying “You take better pictures then me!” and I take a lot, then that begins to rewind!!! Fortunately, I have a spare film, which we quickly put in, and continue taking shots.
We leave the Aquatic Centre, after telling Snr. How great it was, and breaking the news they have to walk ….. it is not far, and she has as pashmina scarf around her neck, we set out with matthew, the young policeman – and I miss Ron. I want the cop to stride ahead, and make a space for us …. He saunters with us, despite my requests for some assertion. We are barred from the stadium by barriers, and the marathon runners run by ….. Mathhew takes us via another route, through the mouse hole, and a tunnel, but a volunteer prevents us from entering ….. I explain our case, Snr. Has been presenting a medal, his wife is not feeling too well, we need to get into the stadium … she maintains her position, saying in 10 minutes the race will be over and we can walk through …. Snr. C. goes ballistic. I am shocked. He shouts, red in the face “This is DISGRACEFUL!!! I am a member of the IOC, I am NOT here for my pleasure, I am here to help your country, I have just presented medals, I want to go into the Stadium now!! I am not foolish, I can see I cannot cross there where the marathon is, but there must be another route!” There is no place for me to speak between he and her …. She talks into her radio, and says her supervisor will be along shortly ….. Snr. Fumes, Snra. Agrees with him, and I feel embarrassed. This is the first time they have had to “walk with the people” and this simply cannot be avoided … The supervisor comes, improbably - a man with one leg, on a scooter, whizzing along with the aid of two walking sticks …. A pleasant, diplomatic man, who explains patiently that the barriers will be down in 10 minutes, to go via the moushole is a one kilometre walk …. Can he get us some chairs whilst we wait? Snr. Reluctantly agrees, and chairs are brought, and we sit and watch the end of the run …. Snra. Is cold and has her pashmina around her neck … Snr. Paces up and down, I do not think he likes to be part of the “ordinary” people. Finally they barriers come down, we have qu-d at them for 15 minutes, Matthew does not lead us through … Snr. Calls his IOC friend to join us … but alas, we join the throng of “ordinary” people … however, Snr. Is mollified when he realises that many of the IOC are walking with us, they too, have been stopped by the marathon, and he seems to cheer up.
I walk them to the mag and bag, ensure theyhave their tickets, she is concerned at the fact it will take me two hours to get home ….. I say goodbye – this has been a very stressful 3 hours! Without Ron as a support structure and to bounce ideas off, it has been difficult for me. Unknkown to me, Ron is still at this time, stuck int eh car, trying to get OUT of Olympic Park!
I head out, it is now about 6.30 – I want to be home by 8pnm to see the Closing Ceremony, I ask directions from Police and am sent walking through the volunteers, I keep walking and walking, as the roads are closed, the buses are not in their normal places …. I walk until 7.20, smoothly, crowds are leaving, and as I walk to the bus stop, a bus pulls up, the bus driver, a young, cheerful, aussie guy straight out of a book alights, telling jokes, introducing people, laughing, chaffing …. What a delight, wha a refreshing end to the day, people are tired, but all fall for his charm, he is telling us how to get off, he will stop pretty much anywhere for us, providing it is a bus stop, just to tell him, etc. Everybody on this bus are talking to each other and having a whale of a time ….
I am sitting next to a lady whose son has her wheelchair in the next seat, she and her family – about 12 of them, are here from the Central Coast for the day … and heading home, all in high spirits, all friendly. I calal Gerald with almost the last gaslp of hisi phone, and ask him to pick me up from Gordon West School at 7.40 …. He does, bless him, and we are home just in time for the closing ceremony. He has bought cheeses, olives, biltong, bikkies, and other nibblies, and chilled the wine – my darling man. He is so strung out, so taut, waitinf for the 12th, and THE news about THE bid …. And sick as a dog …. I too, have b een short with him, he is interested pretty much in nothing other than The Bid and Berry, and is not talking or sharing himself much ast all – and with the hours I am working, I am not able to be with him much either.
The Closing Ceremony is nothing short of magnificient. True to form, as Snr. C. said, Juan Antonio Samaranch declares ours “The Best Games Ever ….” Perfect! Australians everywhere swell with pride! The volunteers are given a great acknolwedgement …. The weather, the transport, the traffic ….. how did we manage to have it rain on the one day that there was a “bye” in the Athletics! Nothing short of a miracle …!! The closing ceremony is quintissimal Aussie,, all Hills Hoists, Kewpie Dolls, Ballroom Dancers, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert camp dress ups, Kylie Minogue in drag, Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee, Greg Norman playing golf, Ellle McPherson emerging from a camera with a suspiciously long lens, which looked rather phallic ….Athens was handed the flag, in an unduly solemn ceremony, perhaps heradling the flavour of Athens Olylmpics? – with a bevy of “vestal virgins” (someone said it was not clear whether or not they would be available to the athletes after the games!) slowly, and somberly, in a mode of spirituality and religion, holding hands and walking slowly about. This after the irreverence of Australia!! It ended off with the most spectacular fireworks diisplay EVER …. The River of Lightning, up and down the Parramatta River, and the Harbour Bridge, plus the Anzac Bridge, alight with colour, and an orchestrated symponhy of Bach, Beethoven, and the likes ….. incredible. Some say Sydney has rescued the Olympics from its death throes …. Our humour, and generosity, and love of life has brought a renewed spirit – plus our unbudging stand on drugs, the Sydney Games have been so Clean many athlethes dropped out even before coming here ….. and others were thrown out AFTER coming here. Out-do-able. Pity poor Athens.
Monday 2nd October, 2000 – Labour Day holiday
I am writing this on Thursday, 12th October, as there has not been time since. Let me recall. I rang Ron to let him know that I would be going into UDAC to hopefully purchase additional uniform pieces, as had been advertised for the volunteers. There was much to-ing and fro-ing with the vehicle, as he had returned it, but left all my gear in it, believing I would have that vehicle back with a designated driver, as we were able to have a driver until Tuesday night ….. after many phones back and forth, it became clear that was too hard to organise, and we would use a T3 vehicle. Ron then went BACK to Darlinghurst to collect our car again, and said he would meet me at UDAC, and Gerald agreed to drive me in.
When we got there, there was a queue of at least 500 people ….. I called Ron on the mobile and said, “We’re here … I hope you’re near the front of that queue!” He was half way, and I went and joined him. Once more, into the lovely Olympic spirit of talking and sharing our experiences, nobody better or smarter than anybody else, all just together, united, with now, a common history. It took about an hour before we got inside, and the queue moved slowly, however, we were fortunate, and were allowed to purchase 10 items apiece …. Shortly afterwards, they stopped ten, and only allowed five. Trying to choose what pieces I wanted, and for whom, was quite hard – if you crossed one “access point” – you coulnd’t go back, and it was policed with tremendous enthusiasm by a lady completely lacking in humour! (Unlike the rest of the volunteers!) I bought a green scarf (no blue ones available) for $25, a great blue and yellow raincoat for $65, and eight t-shirts for $35 each. I have asked Edif he would like one – if so, would he make a donation to World Youth for it? Ditto with Mark Naim, one of the coaches in Results Life Coaching …. He asked for two red sleeved ones (medico’s) I hear they are selling for up to $700 each …. THAT would be nice to World Youth!! Ron bought business jackets for both his wife and daughter, shirts, hats, the works! One woman was buying three jackets, saying that “when we go to weddings, we can all wear these!”
Gerald and I headed into the Regent – and crossed a shop along the way selling lovely stuff from Central Java – and on the footpath were two beautiful/ugly sculptures, one a man the other a woman, with hands across eyes, and the other across eyes, the man with huge genitalia, and the woman with enormous breasts! Great fun. It took a while to find the owner, via mobile, and get them loaded, for $180, they will be wonderful in our garden in Berry.
To the Regent – Snr. Cinquanta was alarmed to know that Snra. Had no booking, and we agreed to meat in the lobby, rather than my going to Qantas to check it out, having spent hours on the phone to them, I determined face on would be better. When I got there, it turns out, Snra.’s name is Maria Luisa Garavaglia Cinquanta …. She has kept her maiden name, hence we could not find her on the manifesto, under Cinquanta. Panic over. He seems very worried about the trip home and he insisted on going through the whole thing with me, in words of one syllable, explaining patiently as if to a child, what he wanted. If only he would listen, he would know that I have already handled those things! He also felt the need to go to the transport desk in Carrington Street to ensure the car would be there for Snra. At 12, not 11.45, and nearly drove the volunteer mad with his requests, although I had already organised this, and rechecked twice. After he left, the Olly Volly turned to me and quietly said “Wouldn’t it have been a whole lot easier for him just to have left you to handle this?!” As the plans had changed several times, I couldn’t have agreed more, but I felt the need to defend him, and said “yes, well, I guess he is just a bit anxious!”
He insisted on coming to the driveway to meet Gerald, who had been moved on by the doorman twice, and was growing increasingly pissed off waiting for me (Gerald, not the doorman) – and gesticulated wildly to me to “hurry up” as I emerged from the hotel – which changed with alacrity to a pretty forced happy smile of welcome, when he realised Snra. Was right behind me, ready for a full Italian introduction! At least it got the doorman off Gerald’s back for a while …. But dressed as he was in his King Gees and boots, with two days growth on him, it wasn’t the most auspicious way to meet “my” IOC Member. (He gracious explained to Maria Luisa later that Gerald was “very handsome and charming man”. Ha, ha!)
We left – headed home, and I made a beautiful roast chicken dinner, and slept for an hour. Heaven. Gerald is still on tenterhooks about the IBM Bid, very tense, very short, very withdrawn and focussed. If it isn’t to do with IBM or Berry, it doesn’t exist. I hold thumbs and pray for him daily.
Piece from Column Eight in the Herald: Somewhere in Sydney, a queue in a bank, snaking around, and little happening. One of the customers says in a loud voice “What we need in here is a couple of Olympic Volunteers to get this handled!”. Laughter from the customers, stony stares from the staff.
Tuesday, 3rd October, 2000.
Today is the last day of my duties, which officially ended on Sunday, but I figure these are “my” people and “my” responsibility until they are on the plane. I want to do this. I press my uniform, and carefully dress, always proud as ever, to wear it – and with some sadness, leave for town, going by train. The streets are being closed off for the Athletes Parade, and there are thousands of people milling about. I have a concern that perhaps we will not be able to cross the road to get to the telephone shop to have Snrs. Phone turned back to Italian mode. I do not go to the Menzies! – although, by habit, and for some reason, I go and look …. People are taking out desks and tables, and “our venue” is no longer there. Sniff. I meet Snr. and Snra. At 12, and we attempt to get to the shop. No go. People by the thousands, road blocks, policemen and horses abound. I suggest we have lunch, and after lunch, get the phone sorted out. Good idea. We go to the Pizza place close to the Regent, and get a good seat, Snr. says, “So you wear your uniform to the end, huh?” (I like this uniform!) We sit down, he orders wine and we order pizza, and he asked Snra. For something, she hands him a package, which he tactfully hides under a napkin, whilst he says a few words. He tells me again what a wonderful thing we have done, Ron and I, ALL of us volunteers, that we could not have the Games without the volunteers, that he has been the envy of all the other IOC members, having Ron and I as “his staff” – what a wonderful thing we have done for our country, how we personally have assisted the Australian economy, and he is very grateful. He gives me a postcard of Cathy Freeman, smiling in victory, with a gracious message on the back re friendship ….. and in the corner is an Olympic stamp with his face on it!!! He has the same for Ron. He then hands me his card, President of the International Skating Union …. And a fine gold chain, with a small gold and black medallion, with ISU inscribed on it …. Saying: “This is your gold medal, for being the BEST!” My eyes fill with tears ….. So do his. I say I will always remember them both when I wear this, he says “No, don’t remember Maria Luisa, just remember me! – huh, Maria!!?” jovial humour between husband and wife. I give Snr. a coffee cup, from IBM, which says “Numero Uno” on the side – he is like a child under the Xmas tree, beaming with pride, threatening to use it at every occasion to remind his wife and daughter of who is really the Boss around here. I say, you can put it on your desk with pens in it. No way, he says, I will drink wine, coffee, and tea out of this, and ensure everybody SEES it! Snra. Loves the tiny malachite face I have given her. She may make it into a brooch, or a pendant. They have thick black coffee, I have camomile tea, and we leave.
No problem with the telephone, straight to the shop, First Choice, where Grant Philipp, the Managing Director is on the phone, but smiles when he sees me – Snr. is still making jokes about how this man has been tortured by me, and will do anything to placate me, and get me out of his shop! We wait a couple of minutes (not an occupation much enjoyed by Snr) and just when he is growing impatient, Grant insists that one assistant stops what he is doing to attend to us … the customer is a bit annoyed, but Grant explains, two people have spent 45 minutes, trying to find this receipt for you …. I have to help other customers. The phone “switch to Italian mode” takes 60 seconds. Snr. exclaims in pleasure and pride “You are a GENIUS!! I have a bottle of wine in my bag for Grant, which pleases both Grant and I can see that Snr. is pleasantly surprised and approves.
Back to the hotel, they to finish packing, and me to wait in the lobby, for the last time. I take an IBM pin to Melitta, the kind woman at the Ansett desk who rearranged my flight so that I could attend the parade …. She is not there, but I leave it with her colleague. Later, she has collected it, and it very happy ….
We meet at Carrington St, and there is some confusion about a bus or a car, given they have so much luggage,, he huffs a little when the bus is not immediately available, although we are only expecting it at 3 pm and we are there ten minutes prior to that time. We eventually share with some people – this is not a man used to sharing with the common people – and after we sort out some ownership of the van, we are on our way. The trip is unventful, we are there in plenty of time, I get two trollies for us, and the driver is pleasant, asking if he should wait for me, I say no. Straight to the Qantas desk, I ask, may we q here? – given a yes by a uniformed man. We stand, only to be confronted by an officious Dutch woman, who tells us 3 times that this is the FIRST class q, and we are BUSINESS class, not something Snr. particularly wants advertised methinks! She is fairly snotty, and I ask her “Did you enjoy the Olylmpics?” – she snaps back “I am concentrating! I cannot talk!” Snr. looks at me and Snra. and shrugs, as if to say, “You see, I told you, Australian women are tought!” or “Someone more powereful than you, finally, Sandra!” His Italian charm surfaces. He speaks to her in Dutch. She melts and smooches back in Dutch, beaming all over her face. A volunteer approaches, can she help take my people through Customs and Immigration? Yes please! Both are impressed. We wheel our luggage (I ask, is this Snr.’s computer? Snra. Sniggers “He is the LAST person who would have a computer Sandra, these are his important papers!” (I have met a person less technically gifted than myself at last).
The volunteer is a charming, middle aged woman, ex Qantas employee, obvioiusly loving her job, and well acquainted with putting people at ease ….. she beams and chats and includes and makes jokes, with great grace. Too soon, we are at the gate, or as Snr. has referred to it for days “The Kiss and Cry Area”. We take photos, my flash is not switched on. Some awkwardness, saying goodbye, all cheekbones, and banging noses, people unaccustomed to expressing affection to each other …. Is there anybody else in my life that is the case with? Snra. Says “It is not long. Nine months until we meet again. And then, I will call you “Snra.” I am crying, I cannot help it, more kisses – they are gone.
The tears are rolling down my cheeks, I am surprised at how bereft I feel – a Mother, leaving her children at the school gate springs to mind, yet that seems patronising, but, still, the same sense of loss, of letting go. There is an airport worker, curiously watching me. I put my dark sunglasses on, and compose myself, how do I get to the trains please? I cry some more as soon as I start to speak.
I walk to the trains, slowly. For the first time in weeks, there is no rush, I do not have to be anywhere at a certain time. I have nobody else to take care of. No organisation or plans or phone calls to make. Our Olympic banners are flying, there are photographs all over the place of our Olympians, our airport shines, our gleaming silver train arrives a couple of minutes later – and I am headed home.
Gerald has organised for me to have a massage by Marty tonight. I take off my uniform slowly, as if to keep it on, will keep me connected. I shower, and enjoy the heat, and the relaxed pace of it …. And when Marty starts to massage me, I start to cry, and cry for about 30 minutes. He is anxious, am I OK? Am I in pain? But no, it’s a release, it’s a relief, its all the spirit of the Olympics, its all the sense of community, its all the small wins that Ron and I have had to make their stay memorable, its all the medals our athletes have won, and all the medals they have lost. Its about the people I have met, and the support we have given each other ….. what do you need, how can I help? – its about my family, missing them, and being in my home again ….. its about being part of history, as Juan Antonio Samaranch says, “The Best Olympic Games Ever!” – and part of the biggest workforce in peace time, ever – 180,000 people - 47,000 of which are volunteers, like me. I’m proud, very proud, to be Australian. I know I’ve given my Personal Best.
I know I want to go to Athens!!
Wednesday 4th October, 2000.
A crazy day, washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, tidying up, emptying the garbage, cleaning the toilets, filling the animals bowls, returning urgent phone calls, ignoring 48 e mails, answering our constantly ringing phone – I’ve been out of the loop for a while, and this is hard work, all these responsibilities just waiting for me. I also have to pack and prepare flying to Adelaide tomorrow night to lead the three day Co-Ordinator Training Program for World Youth. Not the best timing in the world ….. but this is how it is right now! Flat out!
Its our Protocol Assistant’s Party at the Menzies tonight, 5 – 8 pm I go by train, wearing a navy georgette ankle length dress, with a lining to the knee, sandals, my navy scarf and coat. The Menzies fills up fast, so many Protocol people! – us Italians find each other, and stick together Leandro Gambotti, Wendie, Adriana, and Catherine. Drinks are free. Food is scarce. We have speeches and games. And Karaoke. I get up with a man called Tony Ruttyn, also a pa, from Goodman Fielder …and we do our rendition of Mustang Sally!! We get roars of approval from the crowd, I do the shboom shboom stuff, and let him do the front stuff ….. We win a prize! – he gets a book, I get a towel! Catherine tells me the next day going home in the train that night, she overheard people talking about “This great ACT! – this man and woman, must have been married, as they knew each other well, fantastic performers! and were so well rehearsed!” I find myself paraded around the room on a man’s shoulders, a victory lap, and people are clapping! (I wonder if this is Strictly Protocol? – and what Margaret McLennan and Wendi Balbi would think if they could see me now!)
I go straight from there by cab to Joshua’s basketball, cheer myself hoarse, they lose … but I get invited to the pub with the boys, and get to dance with Donald, all of them interacting kindly with me, as I was “quite drunk”. Be that as it may, it was lots of fun! The last thing I probably needed was another late night, but what the hell, I can sleep when I am dead.
Thursday, 5th October, 2000.
Up at 5 am to prepare my luggage for Gerald to take in the car with him – we will meet after the march, and he will take me to the airport. I have a big suitcase, the weather in Adelaide is expected to be 33 degrees, but then it could get cold. I also have to pack my toiletries, as I do not want to lug those around the tickertape parade all day. My handbag already has my make up, hairbrush, bottle of water, tickets, purse, glasses, sunglasses, tissues, echinechea, and various other essentials, and is quite heavy enough thank you. I meet Carole Sandberg at the station, she a gold star balloon, so her daugher in Alice Springs can see her on TV! The atmosphere on the train is full on party! Are there any regular workers in Sydney? – as the train seems full of uniformed Olly Vollies, laughing, talking, swapping stories, and taking photos of each other …. Like family, we have been through an experience, (can I draw a comparison to a war? – you have to be in it to know it, you cannot have observed it, as your experience will be totally different), and now we are bonded, like family, we have permission to say and do things to each other, “will you watch my handbag”, and you know it will be safe with this total stranger. And “Do you want to sit down?” – the laughter and the love on that train was palpable. Wynyard/Town Hall/and St James Station are bursting with blue and white uniforms ….. we meet people in black, who were the dressers of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, not officially volunteers, but vollies all the same …. People in costumes, and we realise how few Protocol people there were …. Festitivities continue through every street, with Vollies blocking up entrances to the station, and station directing vollies, who just a couple of days ago, were directing others! – more reason for laughter! The pa’s amass outside Hyde Park Barracks, where we stroll across to Hyde Park, looking for the rest of the pa’s ….. there are groups everywhere, proclaiming their area of expertise “Basketball Stadium” “Equestrian” and “Opening and Closing Ceremonies” – “Penrith Regatta” – but we do not have a sign. Thre are bottles of water being handed out, and miles of q’s at the loos – I get in one, but have to move off before reaching it …. We march together, proudly, and take a zillion photos. We have an anxious moment. There are so many of us in HERE, what if there is nobody OUT there to cheer us on?? We turn into Park Street. Our jaws drop. There are literally THOUSANDS of people, ten deep, lining the streets, shouting, waving, blowing kisses, and calling “Thank you” over and over and over. I am completely unprepared for this, and looking at the other faces, they are similarly affected. People are smiling and crying, waving, and marching in time to the marching band behind us, singing “Waltzing Matilda” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” – people are waving banners and flags and high-fiving us. Cries of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi,, Oi!” are rampant. (The Italians once asked us, what does Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oink, Oink, Oink mean?”) We spot Radhika Ramnath, and Elyse White, two of the great ladies who helped train us ….. they are nearly mobbed by the pa’s, who hug and kiss them and shake their hands. People are holding their hands out, wanting to touch us, weeping and beaming, the pride on their faces in us is just the most touching experience, and I find I am frequently crying, marching along, being a hero. We get to the spot Gerald said he would be, opposite Gowings in George Street, a few anxious moments, I cannot see him! – but there he is, beaming and smiling with pride, I leave the troops and go and kiss and hug him ….. Wendie is taking photos and a video ….. I am so sad my Mom and Dad are not here ….. how they would have loved this pomp and circumstance of the parade! – Dad is not well enough, he has 4 hairline fractures in his pelvis, and Mom feels she must be with him. I understand, and I miss them. I find a face of a man, about my Dad’s age, he is smiling at me with pride – I take his hand and say “My Dad cannot be here today, so I want to thank YOU for being here instead!” He is an old Digger, and his eyes fill up, and takes my hand in both of his, and says “Thank you darlin’!” There is a lady, my Mom’s age ….. I hold her hand and thank her too, today she represents my Mom. She is taken aback, and smiles broadly, holds my hand tighter, and says “You did such a good job!!!” I feel better, Mom and Dad are included. I wish Josh had come. But at 23 he feels parades and the whole Olympic contribution/volunteer thing is a bit naff. I would have loved to have seen his face in the crowd, waving at us, waving at me, acknowledging our contribution.
Michael Knight is on the corner, signing autographs. There is a boo/hiss from the crowd. A volly holds up a sign and a group shouts “Sandy, Sandy, Sandy! – Oi, Oi, Oi!” (a reference to Sandy Holloway, who Michael Knight has slighted for some while, and he has accepted a gold medal for the best games ever, but only on the condition that Sandy only gets a silver one. Australians think this is very petty, and that Michael Knight has committed political suicide with this action.)
We eventually get to the Domain, where crowds of people are streaming in …. There are colourful food booths dotted around, Thai, Indian, Vego, Hot Dogs, Dutch Koekies, Sushi, Pancakes, Corn on the Cob, and Ice Cream, truck loads of cokes and cold drinks, and the Olly Vollies are lined up – the q eventually extends half way across the park,and meet in the middle, given there are food booths on both sides. There are a hundred loos, and the stage is gearing up, music is playing, the sun is beaming down, and party is definitely the mood here. Us Italians have managed to stay together …. In this vast crowd, quite a feat, and weeat standing and talking, eventually winding our way through the crowds to the other side, where we find a spot of shade. People are q-ing up for free newspaper subscriptions for 2 weeks and a special edition, including every vollie’s name, bound books of results of the games, by colour and by game, and Bonds have t shirt stands. Juan Antonio Samaranch’s famous words are inscribed on the chest “The most dedicated and wonderful volunteers ever – 1st October, 2000”. I queue up twice – once for me, and once for Ron. Monica Trapaga is singing her heart out, in a great red dress, Bob Carr makes a truly wonderful speech, and like our Prime Minister earlier this week, is “crowd surfed” – John Williamson sings ….. and then Wendi Balbi, (our Protocol longest serving 4 years volunteer) and Lex Watson are given the keys to the city on behalf of the volunteers by our Lord Mayor, Frank Sartor. I am so proud of Wendi!! And she appears on TV too, several times on the news, and on the two hour video of the march Josh has taped for me.
The Italians move slowly to the outer edge, and decide its time for a coffee, and to sit down …. I am in a skirt and it is impossible to do that on the lawn without disgracing myself. We walk along Macquarie St and have a cuppa …. Adriana pays …. Leandro and Wendi leave, Adriana and I go to Lowes and buy Olympic pins which are half price ….. (Yesterday’s news is already history!) She walks with me to IBM, and Gerald comes tomeet me. We say our farewells, and Gerald takes me to the airport.
I am looking forward to a hot shower and bed. But when I get to Adelaide, Deb tells me we have a meeting of the Directors and Daniel and I. I almost weep with fatigue, I have been up with 5 am, Adelaide is 90 minutes behind us. I generate myself for the meeting, keep going, establish the vision, and get to bed at 1 am Sydney time. Too tired to sleep. Up at 6 am, and off to Stirling, in the Adelaide foothills!
I have twelve wonderful people, all here to be trained as Co-ordinators of our Programmes! (Ten in their twenties, and two middle aged women – one whom I met in Sydney when I went for my chest x ray for Nepal, she was the radiologist, when I told her what I was doing, she said “I want to dod that!” I invited her to come to Adelaide. She did! – after a 10 minute meeting! Barbara Alderdice. The second lady was Celeste Millar, who I had never met in person, but spent many training hours together with on the phone …. With Results Life Coaching …. During a homework session she asked me what I did, I told her, she expressed an interest, I invited her, she came. The rest of the team have all spent between 3 – 8 months in Nepal, and are SO advanced in what they are up to, I have to re-write the program in the breaks in my room!!!
ITS SHOW TIME!!! I do Agreements and Rigour with them really well, so they know who they are dealing with , and we cause many miracles the first day with people – including a 200 – 800 metre run, the Electric Fence, speaking at the front of the room, lots of tears and many breakthroughs. On the second day, the finale is a performance by each of them at the front of the room, singing/dancing/miming to a sexy/silly popular song, going 120% OUT THERE OUTRAGEOUS ….. the standard of the performances are so amazing, any theatre company would be banging on the door – funny, poignant, mad, wonderful. And on Sunday we complete with everybody smashing through a piece of 1” thick pine board to get to their goals!!
What a weekend! I return to Sydney on Monday afternoon, Gerald collects me – after waiting at Qantas, I am at Ansett …. I drop him in town, and go to visit the folks. They are delighted to see me, and Mom looks so down, and so depressed. I am reminded of how little I have been able to be with them. I get home about 4 pm, and go straight to bed …. However, a constantly ringing phone, and Josh knocking on the door, ensures I am up in 45 minutes. Exhausted. I cook dinner, shower, and have an early night.
I am glad to be home.
I write to Margaret McLennan, of IOC Protocol and Relations, thanking her for my Olyympic Experience, and asking her, “Can I come to Athens? What do I need to do?” – as us Italians have already decided that Turina, the Winter Games, is where we shall all go in 2006.
As the newspaper ads have said:
“I am, You are, We are Australian!”
For now, this experience is over. I am so proud. It’s been unforgettable, mighty, and magical. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.