Woke to hear and read lots of Social Media complaining about last nights woeful Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony. In fact all the day time TV talk shows condemned it. By the evening news the organisers could no longer hide behind their implausible reasoning. Even the State Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk weighed in and criticised the ceremony or lack of it. I was personally affronted by the fact that,
The program was organised by an American company and not by Australians. Is this a case of the cheapest quote being accepted rather than being granted to an Australian organiser of which we have several world class people right here in Queensland.
There was too much singing and dancing and there was no volume to the singing making it difficult to hear. The dancing was repetitious to the point of wondering how long can this go on? Most of the music was unknown to most people.
A 15 minute boring video of the next games location in Birmingham appears to be an advertisement for the gay community. There was nothing about athletitism in the video. It was all about signing and dancing in front of a few landmarks. All dancers were in colourful costume with boys dressed as girls and vice versa.
Athletes were not seen marching into the stadium and not given the rousing reception they are entitled to. They were hidden from view.
The Australian Flag Bearer, Kurt Fearnley was not seen.
Tonight, on the news, the Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk commented she had heard that a volunteer party organised for Saturday 21st where the volunteers are expected to bring their own, food, drink, chairs and blankets. On top of that there is no parking so only public transport is available. Can you imagine trying to lug an esky with food and drink, a chair and perhaps a pillow and blanket on public transport then another 800 metre walk to enter through only two gates? She has promised that her Government will ensure free food and drink will be supplied. That is good news and will probably ensure the large numbers of volunteers who were originally going to boycott proceedings will now attend.
Tuesday 17th April.
The rest of the month seems to be rushing at us. We leave for Canada and USA on 1st May and I am beginning to feel a bit underprepared. Today I organised a Travel Card and some real US and Canadian dollars. Our air tickets are paid and printed. Our Amtrak Train tickets are also paid and printed. Our three internal flights within Canada are also paid and printed. Out hotels in Niagara Falls CAN are booked as well as a hotel in Mississauga near Toronto Airport. I still have to book a car at Niagara and we are all done.
Saturday 21st April
Right from the very beginning of my journey with the Commonwealth Games, volunteers were called Games Shapers.
This afternoon and evening was a Games Shaper Party.
Donnis and I caught the bus to Southport and joined the hundreds of other volunteers walking to the Broadwater Parklands for the big party.
First we had to run the gauntlet of security then queue to obtain our free meal and ice cream tickets and free bottled water. WTF!!! The free meal ticket was only given to the volunteer. Our invited guest got nothing….well I suppose an ice cream and a bottle of water is a bit more than nothing. The three meal tickets I was given were worth $5 each. Most meals were between $11 to $16. So, if I bought a meal valued at $14 and handed over three tickets worth $15 there was no change given.
We arrived on-time and were amazed at how full the park seemed to be. In the next hour the numbers swelled and the small space around us got smaller as more people arrived.
Not long after we arrived and received our tickets we found fellow driver Ross.
Ross called and told us we would find him in the park and he would be wearing a yellow and blue shirt to stand out in the crowd. Yeah Ross, everybody in the crowd was wearing a yellow and blue shirt. Oh said Ross well I am wearing blue shorts, white ankle socks and white sneakers. Hahhahaha. Good one Ross. About 97% of the crowd was wearing the official uniform which included the blue shorts, white ankle socks and white sneakers. Before us was a sea of people dressed in blue shorts, blue and yellow shirt, white ankle socks and white sneakers.
We spread a blanket and wished we had chairs and were pleased we didn’t. Just lugging a bum bag or back pack was enough. Carry a chair each on the bus then a 1 Klm walk was more effort than we wanted tonight.
There were a couple of bands.
There were lots of speeches by various dignitaries and speeches by athletes and interviews of volunteers. They all told us how great we are. Nay they said we were fantastic. They said it often. Chairman, Peter Beattie was there. He gave a good speech, considering as chairman he accepted the blame for the bad closing ceremony. He went up in my assessment. It’s a pity those really responsible did not put their hands up and admit they were wrong. Later I joined a queue of people who wanted to be photographed with Peter Beattie. Although I did not take my camera or phone with me I explained all I wanted to do was shake hands with “the boss”.
At a guess I would say there were several thousand people in attendance most wearing the yellow and blue shirt.
After sitting on the ground for a couple of hours became uncomfortable. Time to leave early and get the bus home before the fireworks began and before thousands of other people left at the same time. Lots of volunteers had the same idea.
As we arrived on the bus at Harbourtown we could hear the fireworks at Broadwater Park some 7 Klms away.
Sunday 22nd April.
As I write this we have 8 more days and nights before we wing it to Canada. It is time we unpacked our winter clothes and sort through what we want for the trip.
A Commonwealth Games Driver depot workmate, Ross, gave me a Quilpie Boulder Opal Pendant. http://www.gemstory.com.au/boulder-opal-field-quilpie.html I should mention that Ross fossicked for the small pebbles, cleaned them, polished them and attached a cord so it can be hung around the neck.
The pebbles have a thin vein of opal running through them. Especially when wet, the opal fire of red, blue, yellow, green and purple flash their colours when moved in light. Quilpie is about 1,000 Klms west of Brisbane, located in a harsh arid landscape on the edge of the desert. I gave the pendant to Donnis sister Joan as a reminder of her time visiting from Canada.
Tuesday 10th April
Up early at 4am for a 6am start at the Commonwealth Games. Also up early was Joan, packing her bags. After Donnis dropped me at the Games shuttle bus service she then had to take Joan to Brisbane airport for her return to Canada.
On arrival at the depot I was handed two folders, each containing car key, phone and a country flag. One folder for Malaysia and one for Samoa. After almost 4 hours without either team booking a car I called each of them. Malaysia seemed a bit stunned there was a car set aside for them while Samoa said they would need a car within 2 hours. Just as I took a sip of my coffee and a bite of muffin, Malaysia called and made a booking so I drove 500 metres to collect them. After waiting 10 minutes past the meet time they called and cancelled. It seems the team decided to catch the light rail which runs past the gates. Grrr! I drove 500 metres back to base and returned the folder etc. I had already handed back the folder for Samoa. Now I was car less and relegated back to waiting.
My second attempt at a fresh coffee resulted in a sip plus a bite of muffin before I was offered a car to drive a Nigerian team. Well, not team really. The athlete was a 100 metre para sprinter, the rest of the “team” was his team manager and interpretor and an Australian volunteer assigned as local shopping guide and companion. We went shopping for three hours. The Nigerians had a wonderful excursion and were just amazed at the size of the sports store. I pointed out it is a smaller store compared to others. They were astounded by Robina Shopping Centre and the Bag Store had more stock than they have ever seen. I think the range of choice was overwhelming. I arrived back at base in time to finish my shift.
I would like to comment that so far there has been a lot of waiting around for jobs. Mostly the drivers will complain in a light-hearted joking fashion. We all feel the same way. We volunteered to be drivers and we want to drive. Waiting is boring. The only way to deal with it is by good humour, otherwise the annoyance soon becomes anger. Anger becomes infectious and leads to aggression and even quitting. We have three shifts per day and about 60 drivers per shift. In addition to the Games Village Depot there are other depots, Central and North who also have a huge bunch of drivers waiting for work. Now it seems our village TX (basically means taxi) shifts are being taken over by those depots. Our depot is now concentrating on CGA (basically bookable vehicles where the driver stays with the passenger for the length of the booking which sometime includes going to dinner or shopping or even events) bookings.
It seems large organisations use a lot of acronyms. The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games is a large organisation and is no stranger to acronym infection. There are hundreds of acronyms most of which are included in a large book which nobody reads or understands. Lately new acronyms have begun to appear on signposts at various venues. The signs will have several “nyms” ( oh look, I have created my own acronym) with an arrow pointing left while another bunch of “nyms” appear with a right pointing arrow. Drivers look for a “nym” they know and wonder about the rest. So far things have mostly worked.
Still smiling and making jokes with the other drivers. We are having fun and remind ourselves we are.
Thursday 12th April.
Today is Donnis birthday. At last after all the surprise parties and dinners and trips and visits her day finally arrived.
I went to the Commonwealth Games and started at 6am. Before I mention what happened today let me tell you how the day ended. On the shuttle bus back to Runaway Bay the atmosphere amongst the drivers reminded me of the Camp Granada songs by Alan Sherman. ( have a look at the song here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3_xiUYMnXA )
The song starts with a young boy writing home to his parents complaining about all the things that have gone wrong at the camp and how the rain will not stop and he wants to come home. Suddenly the sun comes out, the rain has stopped and there are things to do so he now wants to stay. My relationship with Commonwealth Games Fleet has been like that. Nothing was fun and it was waiting waiting waiting and in the beginning, lots of rain. Today we were busy busy busy and my relationship with CGF changed and everybody else on the bus put in a full days work. In fact we all worked an hour beyond our shift and we were enthusiastic.
Now back to my day. It started slow when I was handed two folders containing keys and phone, one folder for Jamaica and one for Bermuda. After two hours of no action I called both Chefs de Mission to remind them I was their driver for the day. Eventually Bermuda called back and we arranged to meet. I handed back the folder for Jamaica to despatch. I had two athletes and an official who wanted to see the Mountain Bike Races at Nerang.
(one athlete, Tyler, is a marathon runner due to race on Sunday)
I agreed to stay with them until they wanted to come back to the Athletes Village. I got to see the ladies race.
Once back at the Games Village Depot Bermuda decided they did not need a car for the rest of the day. Luckily my old partners in crime, Mauritius needed a car to take an athlete to Coolangatta Airport. No, he was not fleeing the country, it was a domestic flight. (By the way there are now 13 athletes who have absconded, 8 from Cameroon, 2 from Uganda, 2 from Sierra Leonne and 1 weightlifting coach from Rwanda. He said he was going to the loo and never returned…One of the Mauritian athletes said, jokingly, I think, that he was going to abscond too. After dropping the airport passenger I dropped two officials at a shopping centre and took two athletes to Greenmount Beach and told them I would be back in an hour. After collecting the shopping officials I went back to the beach but the athletes were missing. One official went looking for the them. The other was not well so we waited. After half an hour I was beginning to wonder if they had all absconded. Eventually they arrived back, apologetic and the official looked relieved to see them again. I arrived back at the depot about an hour late in good spirits because of my busy day.
Friday 13th April…Oh what an ominous sign…Friday 13th!
It started out as a good day. I did not have to start until 4pm and work until 1am. I had breakfast and checked my email. Then the Friday 13th curse struck me. I was gobsmacked. I was stunned. I was angry. I, and many other drivers received an email telling us our Sunday afternoon shift, our last shift and one we were looking forward to was cancelled. Just like that. No discussion no warning. Cancelled. The mood on the shuttle bus was nothing like the buoyant happy people yesterday afternoon. That enthusiasm had evaporated this morning and it was difficult for anybody to make a funny comment.
I met up with fellow drivers, Ross and Keiko. Keiko is Japanese and has lived on the Gold Coast for 16 years.
She is a very positive, enthusiastic and funny lady. She is also a marathon runner although did not enter the games. Today one of her passengers was the Australian Chef de Mission, Steve Moneghetti the Australian Gold Medalist Marathon Runner. She was so excited and said it was her dream come true to meet him. They chatted about various events they have competed in and he agreed to have a photo taken with her.
Once again I was given two folders car keys and phones. One for Uganda and one for Rwanda. I called both Chefs de Mission, left messages and followed up with a text message.
Uganda called back. Please pick up three athletes from Harbour Town Shopping Centre. The three passengers were all squash players and we had a lot to talk about. I was once a very avid squash player (My family might say obsessed). I told them I was their driver until 11 pm and where did they want to go. No nightclubs but they would like a guided tour or a karaoke bar. Well that’s fine with me, I will do either or both. They wanted to have dinner, a shower and get ready to go by 7pm. By 8pm I sent a message to say I was ready for them. They said thanks but by 10pm I had heard nothing. By then I was disappointed and not interested in any more waiting and finishing late. By 10.30pm I found a shuttle bus going my way and jumped out at the lights. My volunteer duties were now complete. All us final night drivers received a gift of a stylised chrome surfboard with some words of thank you which somehow seems a slap in the face at the moment.
Sunday 15th April
Just watched the closing ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. It was a bitter disappointment. Even the Channel 7 Commentators complained. They could only broadcast what the Independent TV Crew from the Organisers allowed them to broadcast. We did not see the athletes march into the stadium and we did not see Kurt Fearnley as the Australian Flag Bearer.
Apart from some of my negative comments and the disappointing closing ceremony I still feel, overall, the games were a huge success. I still feel proud to be a part of it. So proud in fact that Donnis and I will attend the Volunteers Party at Broadwater Park next Saturday evening.
Grrrrrrr! Just as I was preparing this blog to Post I noticed a tiny warning that the link with Facebook has failed….Again!!! This is ridiculous. Facebook are riddled with so many problems. Created by and managed and perpetuated by a bunch of adolescents with no life skills and no idea of how to solve a problem when one occurs. If Facebook was a motor car they would be in serious financial trouble and on the brink of collapse. Unlike car owners, Facebook users seem to shrug and accept what is dished up to them. There is no repair shop we can take the problem to.