The Modern Pentathlon European Championships could not have been such a success without the support of 180-strong army of volunteers.
Kieran Buggs was one of those, travelling from Kent to play his part in a memorable week at the University of Bath. He spoke to other volunteers, plus spectators and athletes, about why they had got involved and what they had taken from the experience…
Following the success of the Games Makers at the London 2012 Olympic Games, volunteers are to be found regularly at major sporting events across the country. This week saw the Modern Pentathlon European Championships arrive at the University of Bath, the home of the Pentathlon GB team.
Approximately 180 volunteers make up the workforce, about half of them being technical officials and the remainder employed in various roles ranging from VIP drivers, airport greeters, spectator services and media support – all with the aim of making the European Modern Pentathlon Championships run as smoothly as possible.
Spearheaded by event director Kara Luck, volunteers were drawn from across the country and a wide variety of ages, backgrounds and experiences. The reasons for getting involved also ranged – David Bolwell, a volunteer in spectator services, signed up due to his love of sport, while Steven Murphy became involved as his wife’s nephew was competing in the Championships.
The volunteers played an integral role in the running of the competition over the week and could be found all around the Sports Training Village wearing their distinctive black polo tops and green tags around their necks.
Their primary role was to support the spectators and athletes wherever needed but they were also able to enjoy the atmosphere at the Rio 2016 qualifying event.
Sandra Smith Vokroj said: “I have previously done volunteering as a weightlifting technical official at the London 2012 Olympics but I chose to apply for a volunteering role here as I wanted to be educated in pentathlon. I knew about horse-riding and shooting but wanted to learn more about the other events.”
Sandra is just one of the many volunteers in athlete services, helping tend to an athlete’s needs and ensuring they are in the right place at the right time – especially when the athletes need to be collecting their winner’s medals!
Like Sandra, not all volunteers were fully knowledgeable in how the pentathlon works but learned at first hand. Penney Bell has volunteered at sporting events in various different countries and also worked as a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympics.
Penney, who worked in the spectator services team at the European Championships, explained: “I have never done pentathlon before so knew little about it, but I chose to volunteer as the best way to learn about a sport.”
This differs from Tsimhei Wan, a PHD student at the University of Bath. He had worked at the Pentathlon World Cup in Medway five years ago, therefore already having some knowledge.
“I saw the volunteeer stand on the campus,” he explained. “I thought ‘why not?’ and now I am here!”
The work of the volunteers has been appreciated by the spectators at the Sports Training Village, who provided vocal support to the approximately 140 athletes from 23 countries.
Marie, a first-time pentathlon spectator, said “The volunteers have been really useful, they have been friendly, helpful and knowledgeable and their assistance in guiding me from event to event has been invaluable.”
The effort made by the volunteers has not only been noticed by the spectators. Sally McCarthy, an Irish pentathlete, commented: “I have to say all the volunteers have been great, it’s been the best competition I’ve been to – I’m really impressed.”
The athletes’ quotes have been collected throughout the week by members of the volunteer media team which I have been part of.
Rachel Powell, a fellow media team volunteer said: “Having worked at the Sochi Olympics, it is great reliving the experience of working at an important sporting event.
“Working as part of the media team involves interviewing athletes and guiding media to where they need to be. It’s been good for me as I am able to practice my interviewing skills, whilst also practicing my Russian whilst talking to the Eastern European pentathletes.”
There has been great performances from the athletes as well as from the volunteers throughout the week.
Kara Luck said: “We’ve had a really enthusiastic group of volunteers and I have been pleased. We have an amazing amount of volunteers and I was really pleased with the numbers of applicants, we had so many that we were over-subscribed.
“I want to say a huge thank you to everyone for their efforts over the week.”