Broadacres' Sarah has a VIP Olympic experience
Published by Neil Shaefer for Broadacres in Housing and also in Communities
Sarah Beniams at the VIP helpdesk
Not many people get to be in the presence of the First Lady of the United States, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and tennis superstar Andy Murray, but an Olympic volunteer from North Yorkshire did just that.
Sarah Beniams, from Leyburn, was one of 70,000 people selected to be a ‘Games Maker’ but she had no idea that her job would be to look after some very important people.
The 41-year-old, who works for Northallerton-based Broadacres Housing Association, spent a week working in the VIP lounges at Wimbledon, ensuring that dignitaries such as Michelle Obama and Prince Albert of Monaco were afforded the very best hospitality.
She even got to meet Andy Murray and touch the gold medal he had just been presented with after beating Roger Federer in the men’s singles final.
Sarah, who works for the Broadacres Mental Health Service, says she could have never imagined being in such exalted company when she first applied to be an Olympic volunteer in September 2010.
“When I first heard London had been awarded the Olympics in 2005 I thought what a fantastic thing it would be to be involved in such a momentous event,” she said.
“I applied online when they asked for volunteers in 2010 and was then invited to an interview in Newcastle. After the interview I was one of the 70,000 people who had been chosen to be Games Makers from the 250,000 who originally applied, so that was amazing in itself.
“On the application you could request the areas where you would like to work so I selected Wimbledon, the Olympic Stadium and St James’ Park.
“I was then told I would be working at Wimbledon doing something called protocol and at that stage I had no idea what that meant.
“It was only when I went to London for orientation and training that I discovered I would be working in the VIP lounges at Wimbledon, doing everything from opening doors for people, through to answering any queries they had.
“Before I even started at Wimbledon I was able to sit in the Olympic Stadium with the other volunteers and watch the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony, which was fantastic to see.
“On my very first day at Wimbledon I was in the lounge when Michelle Obama came in to talk to the Williams sisters and even though she was surrounded by Secret Service agents I was still only yards awards from her.
“Over the course of the week I helped people such as the Duchess of Gloucester, Bill Gates, Princess Michael of Kent, Lord Coe and pretty much all the tennis players who were taking part in the Olympics.
“Although I was working when Andy Murray won his gold medal, I was later able to sit behind the Royal Box while he played his doubles final match with Laura Robson and then receive his Gold and Silver medals. We then formed a guard of honour for him and I was able to touch the Gold medal.”
Even after Sarah’s time as a Games Maker came to an end after Wimbledon, she was not done with the Olympics just yet. All Games Makers were entered into a ballot to be present in The Mall at the Olympics and Paralympics Parade, and Sarah was among the 9,000 people selected.
Sarah says: “From start to finish it was an amazing experience and something I will never forget.”
Sarah was able to take advantage of a Broadacres scheme that allows staff to take up to three days paid leave to work as a volunteer.