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Rio: A Volunteer’s View.

IMG_0331So I’m Lizzy. I’m 24 from Cambridge and am a recreational rider when I am at home and work in sports development, so the Olympics are my dream. I do local dressage comps and am a ‘happy hacker’. I got the XC field of play role about 2 months ago, having applied online 2 years ago and completing an online interview last November! Therefore getting here was a scramble but an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

Before leaving a friend from work challenged me to get the best photo with an athlete possible. The challenge was on!

Introduction to Rio.
So my journey started with a bit of apprehension, I flew Air France who went on strike this week just gone. Luckily my flights weren’t affected and I was all good to go. As soon as I was in Paris the challenge began. Unfortunately no equestrians but there were the French and Croatian water polo guys. They were great and we had some lovely conversations, although teasing me that there were the French equestrians on the flight at 6am in security queues at GIG wasn’t the joke to be going with.

IMG_0770Once in Rio I met with my room mates for the next 2 weeks, also working at the eventing! We grabbed our kit which was an experience. Being told the smallest kit they have doesn’t fit was one thing, this was then followed by resorting to sign language with the seamstress, knocking and pointing to get my trousers and jacket to fit a 4’11” midget. Goes to show language barriers can be overcome in every situation!

We had the next few days to explore Rio which we did and the challenge my colleague set me, came into its own. We did Copacabana on Saturday and Christ the Redeemer Sunday. We met Austrians, Ukrainian and Russians amongst others. (Unfortunately we heard that the Team GB eventers had been but we missed them). However this would prove to still be our first taste of eventing. The views from both places were incredible and Rio really is a beautiful city. Despite all the bad press, police and army are everywhere. As for mosquitoes – still to see one! As beautiful as it was we couldn’t be there forever. On our way down from Christ the Redeemer we bumped into the Italians! (Luca and Pietro Roman) this left us buzzing for our first day of volunteering Monday!

Monday! First day!
Monday my housemate and I arrived at the equestrian centre for 7:30 am. Security didn’t take long to get through, with a bag search and metal detectors this was pleasing and surprising! Once we checked into workforce (again very quick) we received our Rio watches and proceeded to the outdoor arena for our first team meeting. Walking in I got the same buzz I had when I went to London and when I get to Burghley. It’s just incredible. Once everyone arrived we were split into groups. This is where I met my first volunteer friend and German, Celine.

IMG_0604We proceeded to the indoor training arena which was very cool in every sense! Here we were split down further so we could explore the course. (Something which even the athletes wouldn’t do until Thursday!). Now I go to Burghley XC every year and am always in awe. But these jumps are just something else and most definitely a step up from the 2012 course! Having explored and taken a 1000 pictures it was time for lunch. There was still finishing touches to be done. flowers still needed planting, some jumps needed to be finished painting and the water last but not least is still to be filled! At lunch Celine and I met Sasha (American) and Bianca (Brazilian) this would prove to be our ‘group’.

That afternoon we were given further pointers for our roles to come. This was interesting as we then went into detail about how the course could be ridden and what stuff we needed to be looking out for. At the end of the day we did what any team would and bonded over beers. There is now a desperate attempt from all of us to get all 3 disciplines on our beer cups. (Each beer cup has an Olympic event printed on it). Unfortunately the equestrian venue is already short on equestrian cups! I’m waiting on eventing to complete my set!

IMG_0693Tuesday, day 2!
This was definitely the day of the farriers! Unknown to me, pin swapping is the thing to do out here for volunteers and athletes alike. No exception to this rule are the farriers. Having continued our training process that morning, very much Brazilian in style, it was time for lunch. It was here we were fortunate to meet the farriers, one of whom as it turns out knows my farrier from home! Now these guys have every pin from every country imaginable. My friends and I were desperate to get our hands on one. Unfortunately they weren’t prepared to loose a pin however, This was where Bob promised us a unique badge we just had to meet them at their station. Understandably we went! This was where we were then all given an Olympic shoe nail to go on our accreditation strap. This is why farriers are the best kind of people. It’s unconventional but awesome!

While we were still on lunch we took a trip down to the training arenas. The Germans were in, this made Celine s day, and if I’m honest all of ours. They are incredible. There is no way to describe how we felt. Seeing elite riders in their training environment is just soooo different to during competition. It’s really something! We were left wondering who on earth decided we deserved this opportunity of a lifetime. We then went back for the afternoon to continue our training. Whilst out and about we managed as a team to bump into Polish rider Pawel Spiask. He was a gentleman and posed for a photo, another one to add to my challenges collection. Having finished training for the day we headed to the beer tent. Of course the team who was there were the Irish. Both myself and Sasha had been staring trying to work out who was there when they approached our table to take a photo for them. Now behind the scenes it’s important to know that trading is everything. Therefore in return I asked for a dual team photo, and Sasha asked for a pin. As the Irish are awesome we got both! At this point I saw a GB numnah in the distance. I had to follow! Having made it to the indoor I was privileged to watch GB dressage reserve Lara Griffiths train. This day surely couldn’t be topped?

IMG_0791Wednesday Day 3

Still in awe of the previous day I switched my alarm off at 5.50 as I have done since Monday. And as I have every morning I have woken up to messages from all my horsey friends either telling me to keep posting, voice their jealousy, or just general “I’m so happy for you!” The best one was ‘if you don’t stop smiling you will get wrinkles!’

Today we were assigned a fence judge team leader. Me and the girls were part of sector 5 which is led by a very cool and awesome Kiwi named Andy! We had vet screen training followed by specific training from Andy on our specific jumps. One of which has all three frangible pin technologies in one fence! As our team is super awesome we finished our training early so Andy took us on a tour of the course to learn about the other jumps and questions they would give, as well as what’s involved. We crossed the gallop track to meet the carpenters carving the wood for the jumps finishing touches. These were British and American. However I was too distracted. I was very much aware the gallop track behind was occupied by Fox-Pitt, Cook and Funnell.

As we had finished training we were okay to watch, GB had been joined by the Germans so we were all in awe. Having posed for photos with Funnell and Fox-Pitt riding past I was looking at said photos thinking this is incredible. The next thing I know Pippa Funnel is behind me happy to pose for photo on Biz. Sadly for me this was all too much and I burst into tears. This was the woman who has been my idol for near enough 2 decades, I played her computer games as a kid! If I wasn’t doing that I was watching her on TV or pretending to be her as all kids do!. Therefore the photos are special, beautiful with emotion but down right ugly, these are not profile pictures! Even writing about it makes me beam! This day was also a great day for my team girls too! Celine met one of her favourite German riders and Sasha met team USA coach David O’Connor.

IMG_0669That afternoon followed time training and radio training. I won’t bore you with the details. However hiding on the course is a Rio 2016 sign and Olympic rings. The ones in Copacabana are packed! The ones in the course we had all to ourselves! We were in Seventh heaven.

Safe to say we’re volunteering but we’re having a hell of a time doing it!

Yet to meet my Dressage Idols Carl and Charlotte but if the last week has proven anything it is that anything is possible.

I can only hope to not bawl my eyes out when it does.

Tomorrow is cross country rehearsal. More to come…

Our thanks to Lizzy Campbell for sharing her story and photos.


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