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Friday, October 2, 2015

The Gambler - Kenny Rodgers

Sunday was a strange day. We had the excitement of going through the same match day routine, although it was tinged with sadness as we also started to ‘bump out’ – pack up. We packed the first van of stuff we hadn’t needed, but was stored for Leicester, the next venue. Post protectors, flags, etc. to send over. Luckily we didn’t have to go with the van, the two paid employees did this, so we were left to go through the same routine as yesterday.
We started work at 7am for the second day on the trot, and finished 12 hours later. Working in Logistics has been incredible fun, but very physically demanding. We watched the Spectator Services volunteers turn up at around 12 on Saturday, and 9am on Sunday, there to add the colour to the event, but we knew that we’d be there long after they were home telling people what they’d done. Weirdly they finished at around 3-4pm, yet there was an evening party to thank us. As this started at 7.30, the only people there were paid staff and those logistics people that could still stand. It was probably one of the few things the team got wrong. Well –intentioned as it was, there is nothing to do in Aston for 3 hours to kill time, so people went home. The logistics team could have joined the party late, but Spectator Services were never going to hang around. A shame as there was free beer, that the Logistics team that stayed could never possibly drunk all of it.

Saturday’s game started at 4.45pm, and spectators started to arrive about 2pm. The weather was typical September weather. The children had gone back to school, so the sun was out shining, and we were experiencing an Indian Summer. The volunteers were dressed in blue, the South Africans in Myrtle Green, and the Samoans were also dressed in blue. Neutrals had their own club or country shorts on, so the event was very colourful. WE had to take some crowd control barriers out as there were insufficient at one point, so I could see the build up around the ground. People were sitting in Aston Park, with a beer enjoying the sunshine, At the nearby roundabout by the Witton Arms, the South African fans had taken it over, so we Christened it ‘Robben Island’.

A late run to find some missing bins meant that we were too late to get back as the roads to the ground were closed. Try as we might to get through, showing passes that allowed us pitch-side, it still wasn’t enough to get us along the Witton Road. WE fetched our Manager, but still the jobs-worth would bend and let us in. We were sent to a back gate to the ground that was locked. We ended up parking about half a mile away in the Villa Staff car park, which was full and another jobs-worth was trying to stop us parking there as well. In the end we parked the van in a tree. For me, the Jobs-worth had been too officious, as the Official Vehicle behind us, carrying the President of the Samoan Rugby Union was not allowed through either. An Official Guest turned away. Crowd safety is important, but so is common sense, and hospitality.
Later that day, we went out again to collect some bins, and chairs, the South African fans on Robben Island were still drinking, and using a supermarket trolley to put the empties in, to keep it tidy.

Sunday’s match was a much quieter affair. Starting at noon, it meant that people arrived a lot closer to kick off and there was less of a buzz around the ground, and afterwards, people didn’t hang around either. The weather was still good, and there were far more children around all waving flags and wearing rugby shorts whether it be one of the teams playing or their own club shirt. During the match it was obvious who the neutrals were supporting as the 40,000 in the ground were chanting ‘Ur-a guay, Ur-a guay, Ur-a guay,’. What was strange though, and it has happened at other grounds were England weren’t involved was to hear on both days ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’. This has even happened at the Millennium Stadium. The game was one sided and a little flat. Uraguay’s effort was put into containment although, they could have scored a couple of times, as the referee didn’t spot the big Aussie lock lifting a leg in a couple of mauls near the line. The atmosphere would have been so much livelier had they scored.
I spoke to policemen, security and the stewards at the ground. All of them loved the rugby fans, the occasion and the event, and hoped that it would return to Villa as they loved being part of the event, rather than the antagonistic attitude of soccer fans, where they were constantly on their guard.

After the game, and on Monday, our focus was to bump all the rooms out, ready to load 2 lorries on Monday. It arrived in 3 vehicles, and we managed to get it all into 2, although the fun we had hand-balling the office chairs onto the waggon, so that the DHL driver didn’t have to go to Leicester with them, was a real art form, as everyone was lifting and shifting, including the driver, who joined in the fun as well. I am not sure how we managed to get them all on the vehicle without pallets, or stacked without falling (although one guy did catch a falling chair with his head.) We haven’t heard from the Manager at Leicester, so whether they all stayed on board the lorry, and were unloaded safely we don’t know.
At 4 o’clock on Monday, it was all over for us as volunteers at the World Cup. I have never worked so hard physically, or enjoyed work so much, without getting paid at the end of it. I made one or two contacts that may lead to my next job, but regardless it was worth every minute, and would do it again. I am not sure that in a couple of years’ time I could cope with the physicality of the job though. I walked over 10 miles every day, most of the in Safety Boots, carrying water, tables, chairs, boxes.

I’m not sure whether this will be my last blog, as I have tickets for a few games after today, starting with the England Australia game Saturday, Canada v Rumania Tuesday, a quarter final – I may sell the ticket dependant on results, and the Bronz Final and Final, which I shall attend for the sporting occasion as my hope of England being there sadly evaporated on Saturday with the meltdown (again) of the England team against the World Champions elect (in Welsh eyes).

The Gambler was England 2007's song - after a bad start and everyone wrote them off, they came through and got to a final. That spirit is desperately needed tomorrow.

Happy Days - Squeeze


Match days were the only days that we had to wear the Uniform. The Uniform was two shades of blue, neither of them too garish, so the clothing will be useful to wear after the event for watching rugby, walking the dog etc. The cap, of course is a different matter, but will serve as a souvenir for the event. We were told that we cannot sell before the end of the event. Sadly some people have already tried on eBay. I guess that they will be contacted to remove the items pretty damn quick. This is the third biggest sporting event in the world, and someone buying the kit poses a security threat – are they sports fans or terrorists?
On match day we had a variety of jobs to support the teams. These varied from making sure the press had stationary supplies, and water, to more exciting jobs like carrying the kit from the kit van to the changing room or pitch-side. One of my jobs was to take the water and Powerade (the event is sponsored by Coca Cola) to the changing rooms, match officials rooms, ball boys, and Anti-Doping etc. The players could order bottles of water, Powerade, or Powerade Zero. South Africa and Australia’s bottles were in the hundred’s, Samoa didn’t want Powerade Zero, just full fat and the amateur team, Uraguay, only ordered 55 bottles of water. Not a lot considering the warm weather, and the fact that a player can lose up to 7 litres of fluid per game. They probably aren’t used to what is on offer, and the fact that the other teams would carry some of the water away with them. We had strict instructions that the Eskys (drinks/ice butts) were not to leave with the teams, as at other grounds they had done. The Captain’s Run was Friday, and there were smaller orders that day. The Captain’s Run is when the teams run through moves etc. on the actual pitch and the Captain takes the training session. The water orders were smaller on those sessions. On Saturday morning we went with the drinks into the South African changing room. There was still a lot of drinks around, so we decided to consolidate and put them all together on the table in the changing room, rather than scattered around including cases in the shower room. I bent down to pick up the cases in the shower room, not knowing that the showers were automatic and I got wet, twice as I tried to do it for a second time from a different angle and the showers switched on again. I got wetter. Then my colleague showed me how to switch off the automatic bit to remove the cases in a drier manner.
On match day we had a variety of jobs to support the teams. These varied from making sure the press had stationary supplies, and water, to more exciting jobs like carrying the kit from the kit van to the changing room or pitch-side. One of my jobs was to take the water and Powerade (the event is sponsored by Coca Cola) to the changing rooms, match officials rooms, ball boys, and Anti-Doping etc. The players could order bottles of water, Powerade, or Powerade Zero. South Africa and Australia’s bottles were in the hundred’s, Samoa didn’t want Powerade Zero, just full fat and the amateur team, Uraguay, only ordered 55 bottles of water. Not a lot considering the warm weather, and the fact that a player can lose up to 7 litres of fluid per game. They probably aren’t used to what is on offer, and the fact that the other teams would carry some of the water away with them. We had strict instructions that the Eskys (drinks/ice butts) were not to leave with the teams, as at other grounds they had done. The Captain’s Run was Friday, and there were smaller orders that day. The Captain’s Run is when the teams run through moves etc. on the actual pitch and the Captain takes the training session. The water orders were smaller on those sessions. On Saturday morning we went with the drinks into the South African changing room. There was still a lot of drinks around, so we decided to consolidate and put them all together on the table in the changing room, rather than scattered around including cases in the shower room. I bent down to pick up the cases in the shower room, not knowing that the showers were automatic and I got wet, twice as I tried to do it for a second time from a different angle and the showers switched on again. I got wetter. Then my colleague showed me how to switch off the automatic bit to remove the cases in a drier manner.
We had an urgent team brief mid afternoon when we were told that we were required to move the ITV desk from pitch-side before the game, bring it back on at half time, remove it again and then bring it back on at full time. The presenters were Craig Doyle, Sean Fitzpatrick, George Gregan, and Francois Pienaar. All three have won the World Cup, with Pienaar being captain of the South African team in the iconic 1995 Final, where Mandela used sport (in this case Rugby) to unite the nation. Pienaar has also played for Saracens, so it was particularly exciting for me. I did also experience a great deal of trepidation. We only had 50 seconds to remove it from pitch-side. All week I had been wearing Safety Boots issued to me. They were too big, even with two pairs of socks on, and I had been tripping up stairs etc. I would have to run along the pitch pushing the desk with 40,000 people watching me. Luckily I did it without tripping although the wags in the crowd were all shouting: ‘Heave’, as if we were pushing in a scrum or a maul towards the line. After the game we had our photos taken with the presenters and I got to shake Pienaar’s hand. The hand that shook Mandela’s in that photograph, the hand that’s lifted the Cup.

The other pitch side job we had was to put out photographer’s stools and collect them all up again afterwards. They were really useful branded stools, that had gone walking at other grounds and so we were there to stop them walking. This meant that we were pitch side for both games. Not the best location from some points of view, but great to watch the tries being scored, whether a flying winger or a forward at the bottom of a maul. One guy, who ploughed his own furrow all week, had his face painted in the childrens’ zone both days, which was against the issued guidance for volunteers, but provided us with amusement, as to what he was going to do next. 
The real thrill for me was to go and fetch the South African teams’ kit on Saturday evening. We pulled the trolley through the players entrance into the corridor outside the changing rooms, whilst the kit man passed us the kit to put on the trolley. We were asked to pull the trolley out of the way, which meant that for an hour, we were watching the comings and goings from changing room to changing room. Years ago, players used to swop shirts straight after the game. For some reason this was deemed offensive, and they were instructed to do it in the changing rooms. This meant that the South Africans were taking their shirts into the Samoan changing room to swop. Oh for the old days as players went back into their own changing room bare chested. Bryan Habana had a jaunty pair of budgie smugglers with the South African flag on. The Samoan team had traditional dress on. Interestingly both team’s tTeam Manager was a woman. I think I missed my opportunity in life there with the game becoming professional long after I had to make career choices.
The wait meant that I missed the England Wales game. In light of the result, it was probably for the best as it meant that I went home tired but happy at my day’s rugby experience.

Cradle to the Grave - Squeeze Glenn and Chris back to their best