It was an early start this morning but the sun was shining as I made my way to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to register as a volunteer for the Shell Eco-marathon. I spotted a few people with Shell polo shirts on so tagged along behind them for a while. When they disappeared into ‘EAT’ for breakfast I was on my own.
Map in hand, I followed the signs and eventually found the main entrance. I was told that it should take 15 mins from where most of us are staying to the Olympic Park….tomorrow I must remember to add on another 10 mins for little legs.
I soon discovered that entering the site through the main entrance means a significant detour to where the Compound is located. The compound consists of numerous marquees which house registration, safety briefing rooms, catering, security, communications and others. Having woken at the crack of dawn and given that this is where I can find tea & coffee, it is where I want to go first. I now know the short cut.
On registering I was presented with my cap, tee-shirt and outside
jacket, all emblazoned with Safety Team on them. What about the pair of red overalls I was promised I would be given to wear? They come later.
First job of the day, the safety induction briefing. Given that the whole area was still a construction site today and soon small, hand built cars would be hurtling around a track there was much to be aware of. Shell’s 12 Life Saving Rules featured prominently, so if someone does let me drive a golf cart there will be no texting or drinking coffee while driving and my seat belt will be firmly fastened. I was then proclaimed an official Shell Eco-marathon volunteer and christened with my purple Eco-marathon wrist band which allows me to access the track area. We were also given a ‘Buggy Briefing’ with all the specific safety aspects of driving one of the golf carts. Blimey….I might really be let lose on one!
The Safety Team
A few of us decided to make our way to the Start/Finish tent where the team were next meeting but finding the tent was more difficult than we imagined. It turned out that was because it was still in construction but once Bruno and Ron, out Team Leaders, rounded us all up we spent a good two hours in our team meeting. Our Shell volunteer team, together with a group of professional track safety marshals, is responsible for all aspects of safety on the racing track while it is open, for practice runs or the competitions. This includes things like ensuring no one wanders onto the track when they shouldn’t, rescuing cars that have broken down, signalling cars to slow down and stay on one side of the track to avoid an obstruction and even stopping all cars on the track if need be. We will need to be on our toes and alert at all times.
After lunch we walked the track to familiarise ourselves with the layout and all the safety marshal positions we will need to cover. We discovered where the golf carts were kept and were given our bright red boiler suits. Fred looked at everyone and proclaimed a boiler suit size. When it came to me & he said, “Medium” I confess I bust out laughing. To give him his due, I did get into it and could even do it up. However, the chances of me bending down whilst on track and it splitting, probably in full view of media cameras, were far too high for me to chance it. It was exchanged for a large.
The track has been constructed especially for this event, although at the time of our walk part of it was still being finished. 2240 m long with a general width of 7.5 m, it stretches around the London Aquatics Centre, over the river and has some very interesting bends. This year is also the first year that there has been a slope, something many competitors aren’t looking forward to. Neither are the safety marshals stationed along the slope….if anyone breaks down there, the chances are we’ll have to help push the car up hill to an exit point to remove it from the track.
During the day we were able to walk through the Paddock. This is a number of giant marquees which house cubicles where all the competitors can work on their cars. It also contains the Technical Inspection area, which every car must go through to ensure it meets the required technical specifications. There were teams from the UK and all over Europe, as well as further afield. I spotted teams from South Africa and Nigeria, Canada and USA, Indonesia and the Philippines. I even spotted a team from my old University in Aston, Birmingham.
It was an incredible experience to see so many students with the cars that they had designed and built from scratch. The Paddock is a relatively small space but it was simply oozing with young, enthusiastic, innovative minds creating solutions out of, well, to me the parts just looked like bits and pieces. I came away with the sense that if these young people could do this, then they are capable of designing and creating anything that this world needs. It was inspiring and humbling.
Ready for the Rain
The sun had shone all day, then at 5pm the British summer could contain itself no longer and the heavens opened. As I left for the day, people were still working to get all the site areas ready and students were still tweaking and adjusting their creations.
Rain is forecast for tomorrow so the Safety On Track Team will see if our outside jackets really are waterproof.
Tune in tomorrow for more Tweets from the Trackside @robbo391.