Volunteering at Special Olympics GB Summer Games, Sheffield 2017

Find out what happened when Rachel Davison volunteered at the Special Olympic Summer Games.

I had previously volunteered for the Tour De France, Grand Depart in Yorkshire back in 2014 but it was dull! My fellow volunteers were friendly but my first experience had left me short changed and I wanted more.

Fast forward two years and I’d heard about the Special Olympics through some meetings that were happening at work so I decided to find out more, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to get involved in an Olympics so I volunteered.

What happened next?

I was a social media volunteer; my only experience of social media was using it myself and using some of that knowledge to run our dormant Twitter account – @SHUWellness. I was delighted to be allocated to the Powerlifting as a media volunteer and then, as I saw it, promoted to the Athletics!

The Summer Games, 8th – 11th August 2017

Day 1 – Tuesday 8th August
Weather – Torrential rain!

An 8am media volunteer meeting at Bramall Lane was the first item on the agenda and then a quick dash to Sheffield Hallam University City Athletics Stadium (SHUCAS) for the preliminary relays to division the race finals for Friday. It was a quiet media day at the athletics…I think everyone was keeping dry at the indoor events! Weather forecasts were checked and rechecked but whilst the rain persisted so did the athletics because even a flood would not dampen the spirits of the athletes, coaches, families and volunteers! My phone fared well under my fashionable plastic bin liner that I modelled and I was able to start my modest twitter coverage. No such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothing…

Day 2 – Wednesday 9th August
Weather – Better!

A fabulous day at the athletics and for the small media trio of Rob, Ken (photos) and I, it was a very busy one.

Media outlets from BBC Breakfast, ITV Calendar, BBC Look North and Sheffield Live gave us a visit. Coca Cola and Sheffield City Council also sent photographers to capture promotional images and I was learning fast what a media volunteer role entailed… juggling! Welcoming the media, responding to their requests, setting up photo opportunities, massaging egos and, in between all that, trying to continue my Twitter feed!

The track and field events were underway and were a joy to watch whilst the roar of the crowd that accompanied each and every athlete was uplifting. No partisan crowd in Sheffield! (Photo – KHS)


Of course, there was a media frenzy when Beth, representing Yorkshire, won gold in her sprint and rolled out her repertoire of celebrations of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah on the finish line. Beth then treated us to a repeat performance at the medal ceremony bettered by the supporting cast of, none other than, Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter. The crowd went wild and I took to Twitter! (Photos – KHS)


Day 3 – Thursday 10th August
Weather – Improving but still not August!

ITV were with us today to do another live broadcast but this time for the UK-wide regional evening programmes as interest was spreading across the country of the spectacular athletics unfolding in Sheffield.


The highlight of the day and perhaps the whole week was the 10m Wheelchair Race. There was not a dry eye in the house as Kevin from the Eastern region completed the race to thunderous cheering, chanting his name and incredible applause. It was a personal endeavour for Kevin and a humbling moment for me. You can find the footage of the race that I captured on video on Twitter.

A thoroughly inspiring chap – well done Kevin! Pictured above crossing the line and below with his coach, receiving his gold medal from Dr Ollie Hart (photos – KHS).


Day 4 – Friday 11th August
Weather – Mixed and definitely not August!


Final day at the athletics and another wonderful day of competition. We welcomed Howard Wilkinson & Nigel Pearson to the stadium to present medals who were a big hit with the athletes. They spent lots of time chatting to athletes and coaches and listening to their stories.

Another job for me, looking after honoured guests and ushering them around – I could get used to this! I was on hand to arrange photo opportunities for the Sheffield Star then provide athletes to talk to BBC Radio Sheffield for their ongoing coverage. Sheffield Live were back to do more filming for their extensive Special Olympics coverage.

The athletics competition climaxed with the hotly contested relay finals and then as the medal ceremonies were concluded the stadium was lined by families and volunteers and a celebratory parade of all the athletes and thousands of high fives! Volunteers – you were outstanding!!

The athletics was over and I was bereft. I was invited to the party at the Athletes Village and what a party it was! An electric atmosphere and awesome celebration of the wonderful achievements of the athletes. I was honoured to share their evening with them. The band were tremendous and the athletes certainly showed me a move or two! After a rousing ‘We are the champions’ the party was over and it was lights out on an incredible Summer Games #Sheffield17

Would I do it again?


You bet I would! I had the most exhilarating and wonderful experience, more than I could have ever imagined. I chatted to so many interesting people involved in the Special Olympic movement, not just athletes and coaches but their families and wider supporters and, of course, the hard-working volunteers! I made new friends, learnt so many new skills and, without doubt, had a life enriching experience I will never forget. Sign me up for 2021 and I’ll see you there!

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt” Special Olympics motto

Photo credits KHS – Ken Hanrahan-Smith.
All other photos/video are mine.
Find me on Twitter @raquelquefois

For more information on Special Olympics, check out:

Twitter – @SOGreatBritain or search tags #Sheffield17 #SeeingIsBelieving
Facebook – Special Olympics Great Britain
Websites- www.sheffield2017.org.uk OR http://specialolympicsgb.org.uk/

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