Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Toby Schuster

GET UPDATES FROM Toby Schuster
 

Diary of an Olympic Volunteer: Choices We Make

Posted: 26/07/2012 00:00

Before this week's rehearsal I was invited to my friend's British citizenship ceremony. Originally from Australia Bruce (he would be called Bruce, wouldn't he?) had been living in London for the last eight years but recently decided to become Her Majesty's latest loyal subject. And he wasn't the only one.

The list of nationalities present at the Camden town hall read like a roll-call at the UN General Assembly. South Africa, Canada, Croatia, China and a bunch of other countries I can't spell, let alone find on a map of the world. In a way the event was not too dissimilar from the kaleidoscope of nationalities that have signed up to become volunteers at the London 2012 opening ceremony, myself included.

As I was looking around the council chamber in Camden I couldn't help but think of Show Day, and I thought maybe a citizenship ceremony is nothing but an opening show for what hopefully turns out to be a happy and prosperous life in a new country.

"Like your parents you can't choose your nationality when you are born", Bruce explained to me his reasons to go after a British passport. "But making the choice to become British later on in life is something you do knowing full well what you sign up to. It's a deliberate thing."

Did I know what I signed up for when I applied to become a volunteer for London's Games? Hardly. Would I have done it if I had known what's in store? The glamour of the training site in Dagenham. The thousands of strangers I would have to get on with. The hours of mindless waiting around that no one warned you about. The fun but oh-so-unflattering costumes.

The sad truth is that nothing contradicts the 'great' in Great Britain more than a citizenship ceremony with its piped music, fake flowers and the rather faded picture of Queen Elizabeth II which, to add insult to injury, was draped and decorated in a way that you could be forgiven for thinking that poor old Lizzie just popped it. What happened to the famous pomp and circumstance, the patriotism or, quite frankly, the common sense?

What, I thought with a rising sense of panic, if the opening ceremony in a few days' time would turn out to be equally pastiche, all faded glory and no hope? Would my spontaneous decision to sign up for it make me the laughing stock of the world?

I realised that Bruce and all the others at the Camden town hall had a choice. The knew what was coming. I on the other hands had to rely on Danny Boyle's creative genius to make sure I'm not going to loose my dignity dressed as the back-end of a London cab or something equally ridiculous. Together with 10,000 others I had to suck and see but in the end I realised that everyone including Danny had only one goal: to show the world what London is all about. Sure, it will never be a beautiful Sydney or a colossal Beijing. But it will always be a proud city full of fun and the most amazing people from all walks of life.

And in that sense Bruce was right. Most of the time you can't choose your nationality. And you certainly can't choose your parents. But no matter where you were born or where you are right now you can always choose to become a Londoner.

 

Follow Toby Schuster on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TobySchuster

FOLLOW UK SPORT