London - Being assigned to work with Team South Africa at the 2012 London Paralympic Games was considered one of the hottest tickets in town, according to the volunteers who were lucky enough to have the pleasure.
There were 70 000 “Game Makers” from diverse backgrounds, working at the summer Games made conspicuous by their purple and pink outfits seen everywhere around the Olympic Park.
They were at underground and overground stations, at every entry point in the Park, checking tickets and accreditations, confiscating liquids (including my bottle of cough mixture), helping with directions and, among the many other tasks, the lucky ones drove the fleet of sponsored cars.
But the volunteers deployed to ferry about the South African athletes were all in agreement that they had hit the jackpot.
“It was like getting Jamaica in the Olympics because we’ve got Oscar Pistorius and Natalie du Toit in our team,” said Janice Smith from Bromely in Kent.
“The variety of the job has been amazing and we’ve had the opportunities to go to the stadium and all the over venues and do such different things.
“I took someone for a scan and saw their baby growing in their womb and I’ve had to take tickets to athletes’ parents so they could concentrate on their race.
“Driving a BMW has been exciting for me as I would never normally do that and attending all the receptions has been great.”
Smith said the highlight for her was pretending to be an athlete at the rehearsal for the opening ceremony and her second best moment was walking the athletes to the real opening ceremony.
“They were doing their African chants and dancing in their wheelchairs,” said the professionally trained nurse who works as a clinical risk manager.
“It was wonderful and they made so little of their disabilities - it’s been really amazing watching that.
“The worst thing was driving for four hours in the heat and finding out it was all for nothing, but even that doesn’t matter because it has just been amazing to have this opportunity.”
Janki Patel, a pharmacist from Ealing, in West London said had spoken to other volunteers and realised just how lucky she was in her temporary job.
“Talking to other delegations, I think we got the best deal out of all of them,” said the 25- year-old.
“The South Africans have involved us in everything and none of the other volunteers have had that.
“The assistants with the US team have been bored because the US brought all their own help and didn’t want anyone else doing things for them.
“But we’ve been encouraged to go with the team everywhere - we’ve gone with them to their receptions, like at eKhaya, they’ve given us tickets when they don’t need them and they’ve made us part of the delegation.
“You don’t want to be with anyone else.”
Patel said she had spent a fair bit of her time with the cycling team, driving them to their training venues and generally helping out.
“I didn’t just drive them to the training venues, I had to assist during the training which was really great,” she said.
“I got to see them in action, either guiding them around the new route, ensuring their safety in the traffic or sitting with the coach in the car during the their time trials which was really cool.
“I don’t think I’ve had any downfalls. Literally, it’s been amazing and I’ve made so many new friends and, of course, I’ve got many new facebook additions.
“The best thing is talking to and hearing their stories. It inspires you and makes you feel better about yourself.
“I love it - I want to be South African, that’s how much I love it - and I’m going to cry when it’s over because I don’t want to go back to work.”