London 2012: Olympics success down to 70,000 volunteers

The 70,000 Olympic volunteers who have given their time and energy have been the key to the Games' success.

They are the unsung - and unpaid - heroes and heroines who will take home priceless memories.

Contributing eight million hours of voluntary work behind the scenes, without them the Games would not have been possible.

With relentless enthusiasm and energy Thomas Smith, 23, from Southampton, is typical of the "Games Makers".

Having just finished his final exams in mechanical engineering at Bath University and with a job lined up, instead of taking a well-earned rest he was giving up his last summer holiday before his working life begins to be part of London 2012.

Standing in the sunshine outside the Olympic Stadium dealing with a steady stream of spectators looking for assistance, Mr Smith was just glad to be of help.

"To be honest I never really thought of it as giving up something," he said.

"This has been something I have been looking forward to for the last year."

Like many volunteers at the 34 separate venues, many are so near yet so far from the action, often on duty outside the arena as the events take place inside.

"I was outside the stadium for the 100m final and could hear the roar of the crowd but couldn't see it.

"If I was at home I could watch it on TV - but I would not get what it was like with that atmosphere. That atmosphere is not something you would get from the TV.

"It's been long hours - I've fallen asleep on the Tube going home - but everyone has been so happy.

"This has been the biggest event in my lifetime."

More than 240,000 applied to volunteer, with 86,000 interviewed before the final selection.

With 8.8 million tickets for sale to watch 10,490 athletes across 26 sports and with another 5,770 team officials, roles for the Games Makers spanned everything from welcome desk staff to ticket checkers to drivers and event stewards.

Sarah Collyer, 46, and Ranjana Patel, 58, were on ticketing duties at the Olympic Stadium.

Mrs Patel, a mother-of-three from Esher, Surrey, said: "I do some other voluntary work and I just wanted to be here and be part of it all.

"You are really exhausted when you are going home at night but when you come back in the morning you forget about it.

"And everybody has been so friendly.

"One of my sons is in New York and he's been so jealous and envious.

"I wanted the Games to go on for ever."

Mrs Collyer gave up some of her annual leave from work as a business manager to volunteer.

The mother-of-three from East Grinstead said: "I just wanted to be part of it really, and to give something back and to be here, in the middle of it all.

"Every aspect has been fantastic - the organisation, the transport. It was not what we were led to believe - running up to the Games it was all supposed to be a disaster in the waiting.

"My family think what I'm doing is great. They all wish they had done it now. I thought it would be okay, but not as good as all this."

For Jonathon Instrell, 21, volunteering at the Games was living his dream, he said.

The 21-year-old from Eltham, south London, last week graduated with a degree in sports science at the University of Greenwich.

On a break from helping out with the team dealing with transport issues on the Olympic Park, he said: "This is like my dream come true. Most people don't even get a chance to do this and it comes around just as you graduate on your own doorstep. Fantastic.

"It gets extremely busy at times but you get taken up by the atmosphere and buzz. And everyone is so friendly, the whole Olympic Park is so friendly."

Stefania Giordani, 31, living in Willesden Green, London, looks surprised when asked why she volunteered - as a masseuse - at the Games.

Ms Giordani, originally from Rome, has been giving free massages to some of the 21,000 media and broadcasters working at the Games.

"It is just wonderful, a great, great experience just to be here, the opportunity to volunteer for the experience and to meet other people and just to be here and lend a hand. Why wouldn't you do this?

"It is hard work but it is rewarding. It is a great event, it's the biggest sports event in the world and to be around and participate in it is a big, big thing."

Source: The Independent