I have just returned from a stint as a volunteer “clyde-sider” for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Much of my time was spent doling out travel and event information to visitors to the Games’ venues, and generally pointing people in the right direction.
So having spent the fortnight working directly with lots of people, I was particularly taken with the new Marketing-led initiative for the city, devised by the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau – “People Make Glasgow“.
For a marketing initiative (I think I am qualified to say this – I have 17 years’ marketing experience myself) this is a remarkably direct claim. And all the more powerful for being demonstrably true!
Any event, or a place (or a coaching session, for that matter) is made by the people. Which is why it is so important to get the right people in the right place, at the right time.
This is certainly true of Glasgow, and of any (successful) Games. In London, the contribution of the Olympic and Paralympic Gamesmakers was repeatedly, and justifiably, praised. What gets remembered are the personal interactions, all of the little “touch points” along the way, as much as the inspirational performances on the field of play or the iconic stadiums.
Philosophy slot: it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. You can tell someone where to go, or help them get to where they want to be – same outcome, but a vastly different experience!
It helps that people going to the Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games want to have a good time, but you can influence that experience by finding the right tone.
It’s not all about high fives with the foam hands (you know who you are!) or handing out free pin badges. Right message, right time, right tone – job’s a good ‘un.
Sporting legacy from the London Games?
I wrote previously on the Olympic and Paralympic “legacy”, to “inspire a generation“.
It is probably too soon to judge the sporting legacy of the London games, but several Commonwealth Games’ Medallists cited their experience of the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 as the catalyst for their sporting ambition. London’s sporting legacy might only begin to come to fruition in 2020.
An alternative legacy?
More obvious is the legacy of volunteering. My wife and I have been “Tourmakers” (Tour de France 2014 stage into London) this year, as well as our trip to Glasgow as honorary clyde-siders, both on the back of our experience as Gamesmakers at the London Games. I am sure we will volunteer again, and we met a lot of others who had been similarly inspired by their Gamesmaker experience.
Yes, there are “professional” volunteers who travel from music festival to sporting event to carnival and back, and also some paid workers in volunteers’ uniform. The big events could not operate without their experience and commitment.
But the contribution from “true” volunteers, giving up a day, or a week or two of annual leave to support an event, is perhaps the real legacy of the Games in 2012.
Legacy for Glasgow?
Once again, it is far too soon to say what the long-term impact of the Glasgow Games might be. But, following the slogan from Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, perhaps the legacy might be the recognition that it does not matter how much money you throw at an event, if you do not get the right people in place.
People Make Glasgow. People made the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
And that no amount of training can outweigh the value of simple goodwill.