After 12 days helping to make the Commonwealth Games go like clockwork, how has life been for our volunteers? Civil servant Nicola Lazenby from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy joined the volunteers (aka the Commonwealth Collective) as Team Leader for the Netball Athletes Services. Here’s her diary.
Monday 25 July
I rise at an ungodly hour to catch the early train and it’s a thrill wearing my Games uniform. A rucksack full of snacks - and Birmingham here I come! It’s my third Commonwealth Games – I can’t wait. Today is venue training and I collect my all-important accreditation. Not only will it get me into the venue – it also secures my packed lunch! Very important.
Tuesday 26 July
Wow, Birmingham is looking magnificent. The streets are decked out in Birmingham 2022 bunting, with live festival sites and performers rehearsing. There’s a palpable buzz across the city. At Alexander Stadium, I attend the Opening Ceremony rehearsal. I LOVE the ceremony side - they’re such spectacular events.
Wednesday 27 July
Today I have a shift at the netball training venue. As a netball coach, I always find it fascinating watching the players train. I definitely picked up some tips to take back to my own club. We have a few teams in having friendlies, and the competition is definitely hotting up.
2 to 4 August
Let the netball begin! My first shift on-site with games athletes. My shifts range from seven to 13 hours in length (the latter being a double shift) including lunch and rest breaks. Volunteering for back of house as Netball Athletes Services Team Leader means I’m managing a team responsible for supporting the athletes before and after matches.
It involves setting up changing rooms to ensure they’re sanitised and stocked with clean towels, ice, and drinks. We also manage the post-game ice baths, responsible for adding ice at the times requested and ensuring plenty of reserve ice is available - to make them extra cool.
It’s a real privilege to peek into what it means to compete, witnessing first-hand the highs and lows of teams - win or lose.
Through the week, there’s a series of pool games, most notably Jamaica topping their pool. Following the pool games, the top two in each pool go through to the semi-finals. The remainder of the pools play off against their equivalent for the placings, which ultimately influences their world rankings. It’s the start of some hotly contested games as teams fight to ensure the higher placing.
Saturday 6 August
Semi-finals Day. By now, I really know my volunteer team and camaraderie is at its highest. Personality differences have been ironed out and we’re performing as a well-oiled machine – managing to turn around changing rooms and ice baths in record times, enabling us to glimpse the semi-final action.
Sunday 7 August
Finals Day. Yesterday’s disappointment was felt across the volunteer team when Australia beat England to secure a final berth. First game of the day (and my final shift) is England vs New Zealand in a battle for the bronze medal.
New Zealand secures the bronze medal, with England finishing fourth. This was definitely my most emotional shift. Witnessing the highs of New Zealand celebrating their return to the Commonwealth podium in one changing room, and the lows of England in the other, it’s hard to hold back both happy and sad tears.
As I don’t have a shift during the final, I join the crowd as a spectator to witness netball history as Jamaica competes in their first Commonwealth Games netball final. The crowd is electric, with 90% supporting Jamaica (after all, Australia had beaten England to reach the final).
Monday 8 August
My last day and I’m chuffed to bits to receive my Birmingham 2022 baton as a thank you for my contribution to the games. After breakfast with friends, it’s time to catch the train home to watch the closing ceremony on my sofa before returning to work the next day. It’s been a truly rewarding experience to play a tiny part at the heart of a global sports event.
My favourite moment was witnessing the crowd during the gold medal match of Jamaica vs Australia, a real goosebumps game!
Volunteering wise, I’ll never forget the time when, whilst cleaning and refilling the ice baths, the hose sprung out, showering the whole volunteer team! Definitely a ‘you’ve been framed’ moment.
What keeps me volunteering is the whole games experience, gaining a snapshot into the lives of world-class athletes, whilst catching up with old volunteer friends and meeting new ones. We forged a sense of family with talented, enthusiastic volunteers and shared memorable conversations. They ranged from our love of netball to the menopause, mental health, right through to sustainability, our carbon footprints and heat pumps (of course!)
Comment by Janie posted on
I enjoyed reading this, sounds like you loved it. I volunteered at the Netball world cup in my home town of Liverpool, it was amazing, if a tad tiring..! We didnt get the results we wanted this year did we, but a great tournament to watch - an only possible because of you and all the volunteers
Comment by Lynne Nazer posted on
Great stuff Nicola - I recently volunteered as a city host during the UEFA Women's Euros - I highly recommend getting involved when our country host these incredible events.
Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on
Congratulations Nicola on being selected to participate in the Commonwealth Games as a volunteer. I am glad that you enjoyed the experience and had time to have fun.
It was encouraging to see the camaraderie amongst the competitors and the way that they support those who despite not wining a medal tried their best.
I was also encouraged by the way that some of the competitors spoke openly about their mental health and wellbeing, and I commend Tom Daley for speaking out about the rights of those from LGBT+ community who live in countries that form the Commonwealth.
Comment by Mary Earley posted on
Thank you Nicola for sharing your experience. A great read, well done!
Comment by Theresa Parvin posted on
We are in Newcastle, son is at University in Birmingham and was working at the Athlete's Village. Whole family went down for three days last week and had an amazing time. The whole place looked amazing and the atmosphere was fantastic. Well done for volunteering
Comment by Adrian Rohrer posted on
I was collective member volunteer on stand by for the games and my journey ended, but I attended a few events which was brillant. The atmosphere was amazing and every one was so friendly. The volunteers looked great with their peaky blinders caps and fab orange/grey uniforms and very large hands giving you five and every volunteer was so lovely in welcoming people to the games. It's a brum thing and the large bull in birmingham was awesome and all the posters around the city's, put us on the map. Really pleased you enjoyed it and hopefully there will be more events like this coming soon to the midlands. Maybe the olympics one day will venture our way.
Comment by Nick Ransley posted on
What a great week, 10 events covered. 5 different sports. The volunteers were so amazing and always seemed happy. Lost count of the number of high 5s I did.
Comment by Lois Mensah-Afoakwah posted on
I'm a lover of netball and followed these commonwealth games v closely! Had the opportunity to attend two of the netball games. It was done sosososo well. Volunteers were incredibly great and had so much enthusiasm and very willing to help. Truly impressed with the organisation that they facilitated. Great insight to read re behind the scenes, especially after the ENG loss! I was def Team Jamaica to win in the final. TBH i had no doubt they would be there!! Absolutely love their camaraderie, energy and skill of their players.
Comment by Suzi Williams posted on
Waves from the Sport Information Team 🙂
It was a brilliant 12 days, and I'm still not over it.
Lovely to read your take on events. See you at the next one!
Comment by Vicky Osgood posted on
Fellow volunteer here! I was a City Centre Ambassador - so helping visitors, games staff and the occasional celebrity or athlete navigate their transport options and find the best places to eat, drink and visit around the city. Still exhausted after attending the Closing Ceremony and volunteer party last night - but it was a fantastic experience. I hope your feeling more rested after your fabulous sounding CWG experience!
Comment by Sally Fenton posted on
Thank you for sharing this, Nicola - a great read indeed!
And here in the BEIS Built Innovation Team we're very proud of your successful volunteering stint at Birmingham - and looking forward to hearing more inside stories at team meetings!
(Are you planning for Victoria in 2026 now...?)
Comment by Suki Kooner posted on
I am glad you enjoyed the volunteering Nicola. I too was lucky enough to be selected as a Volunteer. I was in the Games Family Service helping and assisting the Norfolk Island Team. I love Sports and I love my city so i just had to be involved in the Games- the city looked awesome with smiley happy people everywhere. As a Brummie made me feel proud of my city- definitely a ''Brum-Ting'' Truly memorable experience!!
Comment by Fred Parsonage posted on
I attended the games for 4 days days over the two weekends taking in 10 sports. The games were fantastic and the netball was definitely a highlight. I have to say the organisation was excellent and a lot of that is down the volunteers. All were helpful and had a smile on their faces even when asked the same question for the 100th time that day. I plan to volunteer myself next time an event like this is held.
Comment by Karen Whitehouse posted on
Great read Nicola and one I can relate to. I've been volunteering too but as part of the production team so most of my weekends have been taken up since May, helping at the rehearsals for the Opening and Closing ceremonies.
It really was a wonderful experience. Hard work too, but I am so grateful to have been part of such a successful historic event.
Comment by Clare Hannah posted on
Great to hear the experiences of another Collective member! I also work in BEIS and was an Event Services team member at the University of Birmingham (hockey squash). It was so exciting seeing the buzz in my adopted home and brilliant to meet new people and be a cog in the machine of the Games.
Comment by Nichola Stewart posted on
Well done! I was lucky enough to also be a volunteer within the Gymnastics Training Team. Like you I had a fantastic time, made some life long friends and an experience I won't forget. Birmingham 2022 was a blast.
Comment by Sharlene Harding posted on
What a great read! Glad you enjoyed it. I also volunteered and felt the same...such a wonderful experience. I too play netball and was glued to the final. Really wanted the Sunshine girls (Jamaica) to win. Great game though.
Comment by Fola Agwu posted on
Thanks for sharing your experience, how exciting.