Special Olympics athlete Sam Haslam tells how he contributed to London 2012 being the most inclusive Games ever
August 21, 2012
Games Makers Transportation Team
London 2012 is to be remembered now only as one of the greatest Olympics Games of the modern era but also as the most inclusive Games in the history of the Olympics movement.
Inclusion ran through every facet of the Games not least the volunteer programme.
In the autumn of 2010 Special Olympics was invited to be one of 49 organisations to work alongside the London Organising Committee of the Olympics Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to recruit 2012 Games Makers from disability and Minority organisations.
Sam meets members of the British Army and Navy who supported the Transportation team
The time and financial commitment was a huge consideration for all potential Games Makers, especially those from outside London. However, when details were sent out via our Special Olympics Great Britain National Volunteer Office to all athletes around the country, this unique and once in a life time opportunity clearly captured the imagination and for some it was a journey which they could not resist.
From the outset the Athletes and their Family Members/Guardians bought into the whole inclusive approach – that they would go through exactly the same process as “everyone else” the completion of the application form, attending their interview, attending training, committing to unsociable and long shifts – nothing was watered down. The wait to hear if they had been successful and to what role and venue they were assigned seemed to go on forever. But the wait for the 14 Athletes who managed to stay the course from beginning to end meant the adventure was only just beginning.
Only two Athletes lived within the London Boroughs, the remainder, camped, brought the family caravan, stayed with friends and relatives or travelled for more than two hours a day to get to their venues on time for their shift. Supported at all times, they fulfilled their roles with great enthusiasm and energy and LOCOG ensured that they were all in roles where they could interact with members of the public or Olympic Athletes, the media or special guests and, of course their fellow Games Makers – was there ever a more informal yet extraordinary opportunity to raise awareness and break down barriers about the learning disabled community – all working towards one goal, all part of the same team and an opportunity to embrace rather than fear our differences.
Sam with Dai Greene, Captain athletics Team GB
Special Olympics athlete Sam Haslam, was one of those volunteers. Sam has Down’s Syndrome and has represented his country internationally including South Africa and Taipei.
During the Olympics Sam worked within the London 2012 Transportation operation helping the millions that attended the events to arrive and leave safely.
Sam has also caught the odd glimpse of Prime Minister David Cameron and other well known faces of note when he has been assigned to the media area as people arrive and leave via games transport to give interviews.
Meeting Team GB Heptathlon athlete Katarina Johnson Thompson
The commitment from Sam and his family has been immense. The early shifts meant leaving home at 4.00am to catch a train for a two hour journey to start at 6.30am. Sam hasn’t missed one shift.
For Sam this has been a once in a lifetime experience: “It was really cool meeting famous athletes and having my photo taken by them and with them. I have also been having a ‘high five’ with some athletes and opened the car door for David Cameron (UK’s Prime Minister). I liked the London experience and being in the same uniform as everyone else.”
Sam’s Mum, Lynne, has seen the impact the experience has had on Sam and those around him:
“Seeing Sam in his Games Maker uniform encouraged members of the public to talk to him while they were going to and from his shift. The public have been marvellous by interacting with Sam and asking what he was doing for the Games and how he was getting on.
On your marks! Sam checks out the athletics track
“I am so proud of Sam. He got on really well with all the other Games Makers in his team. Even when Sam was asked if he wanted to have a look around the athletics warm up track so he could see a bit of action, Sam said he would love to but he didn’t want to leave his team short.
Sam will volunteer at the Paralympic Games when they commence on August 29th to September 9th joining once again the most diverse team of volunteers ever assembled in one place at one time.
Special Olympics athletes have played a full and vibrant role to contribute to a legacy which, we hope will, encourage a greater openness to and better understanding for all those with intellectual disabilities and from other minority communities.
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