18 August 2012

My Ambassadorial week

At 5pm yesterday afternoon I finished my volunteering stint as a London Ambassador – five days from noon until 5pm in Trafalgar Square.
The word 'ambassador' is a strange choice being, as we were, walking information points handing out maps of London. I think the top three questions I was asked were; 'How do I get to Piccadilly Circus?', 'Where is Covent Garden?' and 'Is the Olympic Park open?' (no to the last one... it'll be open during the Paralympics, then closed until March 2013).
I had a good time as a London Ambassador. I am glad I stuck it it out and gritted my teeth through the useless training modules because I met and helped some lovely people in the end. And made a few new friends.
London is lovely at the moment The sun is shining and it's reasonably quiet. The streets are emptier than normal, the tube is pleasant to use, ditto the buses and the public spaces. Londoners seem to have taken heed of Boris's advice to change their working patterns vis-a-vis the Olympics and are either working remotely from home, or have gone away on holiday. It's lovely! The evening streets are not so full of after-work drinkers. Everyone is smiling and happy after such a great sporting event and visitors are getting a really good impression of our fair city. I wish it was like this all year round!  
So, how was my ambassadorial week?
Let's start with those bloody uniforms. As suspected, they were horrible to wear. Hats were supposed to be worn but when you are encased in pink and purple plastic sweating in glorious sunshine, putting a lid on the top is not a good idea. When the sun hid behind a cloud I was cold and shivery; the material being non breathable did not allow the air to dry my body. Yeuch!
I noted that the The London Transport staff at our pods, there to help people find their bus stops or plan their tube journeys, were just wearing loose pink branded sleeveless things over their normal clothes. Why oh why the powers that be couldn't have designed something similar for the Ambassadors is beyond me. The waste of money regarding our uniforms and the materials used to make them disgusts me on many levels. Will people really want to buy any of this on ebay as they suggest? 
I hated having to wear closed-in shoes. What a really silly stipulation. Surely it's better to be able to wear whatever one finds comfortable? I am sure the public only really noticed the branded tops and jackets and wouldn't have given a flying whatsit if we were sporting green sling-backs or light blue pixie boots. 
Branded umbrellas would have been useful – after all, this is England, known for the rain! In pink and purple, they would have been really visible and in the hot sun they would have been great as parasols. In contrast to the clothes, this would have been an item I would have actually wanted to keep and use again. And pens... where were the pens?  I can't recall any event I have ever been to that didn't have branded pens or pencils!
There were way too many Ambassadors. We were like a sea of bright pink dots littering the square. I was disheartened by how many had scant knowledge of London, let alone the immediate vicinity. One of the managers admitted that he didn't know the Trafalgar Square area, and in the previous week he'd been in another location he didn't know very well. This turned out the be Oxford Circus. Oh dear. 
On the plus side, some of the younger Ambassadors were knowledgeable, really keen to help and really good fun to hang out with. Others, mainly the older ones, were, how can I put it... jobsworths or competitive serial stewards, trying to be all know-all and do everything by the book. These badge collectors seemed to think Boris ought to be coming round and patting us on the back one by one. Their 'me me me' attitude was rather tedious for the core of us who felt we had volunteered to help people, not to show off or be congratulated.  
Keeping in pairs, one of the instructions we were given at the outset, was a daft idea. Perhaps they thought if we stayed in pairs we wouldn't get lost?! But if you pair up with someone you will talk to them and thus become less approachable, so I chose to stand or wander alone. A few of us made solo sorties into St Martin's Lane, Charing Cross Road, Whitehall and The Strand... ooh, so brave! But I noticed that many Ambassadors huddled in groups of four or more in the square just chatting to one another, only stopping if a brave tourist came and broke up the party. I couldn't understand why they had volunteered if they were content to be so non-proactive. 
So what's the Legacy for the Ambassadors? The feedback from people I chatted to was that having us there was really useful, and many were surprised that this service wasn't there 365 days a year. I think it would be a good idea to have this kind of personal info available all year round, especially for busy periods such as around Christmas and New Year at some major locations, such as Trafalgar Square, but with just 6-10 people manning it at any time. Surely  would be Boris should ask all the Ambassadors if they could volunteer for just a few days in a year – I am sure the uptake would be huge.
I'd do it. 
I'd also design the minimal uniform... just a tabard thing and an umbrella. Job done.


  1. I was an ambassador in central london and I echo some of your comments.

    what was bad

    The training was pretty useless.

    Cheap uniforms - the colours were fine as it we were obvious in the hordes. The waterproof wasn't waterproof.

    Why they didn't buy some pod umbrellas for each outdoor pod (i.e. not an umbrella per person) Those undercover e.g. Kings X, Heathrow, didn't need them and some days those outdoors didn't either.

    My second manager was a nightmare not taking any feedback from the 'workers' but we had to bend to his ideas.

    I saw some LAs at St Pancras and they just stood there not saying anything - waiting for people to ask them.

    Good things

    really nice colleagues - our group was good and self motivated and went out of their way to help out both young and old ones alike.

    satisfaction - I have no doubt we really helped lots of people

  2. It's diifcult enough, as a lifelong Londoner, getting around WITHOUT stupid, exploited (YES: - you were exploited - by the crooked, corrupt, fascist and meann so-called "spoansors" & by the equally crroked and lting politicians - smoe of who are or were, also fascists) prats in vile colours.

    I nearly didn't make my train @ St Pancras on the Friday before it all kicked off, because the effing bloody Nazi-inspired torch was coming through - & I couldn't get to tthe Eurostar entrance !!!
    AT 07.30 hrs, no less.

    No, we don't want or need this thing.
    WE didn't want the effing XXXth olympiad, either, actually.
    It wa forced on us.

    It was and is hated, feared and loathed by the majority of Londoners, who were forced to PAY for this extortion.

    (P.S. I only came here, because of a link from "Diamond Geezer"
    * you are reminded that "team games" generally are NOT loved - it's just that its'supporters have loud voices, and are used to bullying people - they had plenty of practice at school, after all.

  3. Pity that bloody Greg Tingey has visited you - what a troll ! I was an Ambassador too, Jane, at Greenwich. I loved it (just as I loved the Olympics and the feelings of goodwill they engendered, even among miserable Londoners... like me !)

  4. I was an ambassador too - based in the city of London. I too thought the training was a complete waste of time; it was good to meet other ambassadors but 2 full days of training was excessive.

    Regarding the ambassadors standing around- my first sight of a LA team was Covent Garden and there was a huge group of them standing in a circle talking to each other. Surprisingly no-one went up to ask a question. Although I was in a pair we stood apart or facing different directions and given the number of questions I answered I think it was a good tactic.

    There were definitely too many ambassadors but when you don't have to pay them I suppose the people in charge didn't need to be too accurate in their planning. Thankfully we were allowed to wander around the city so went to places where we were the only ambassadors around.

    In general I think the knowledge and professionalism of others in my team was very good but a few flying squad members sent over knew nothing of the area and wished only to go home early. I nearly reminded them that as they were volunteers there is no obligation to be there! Thankfully they didn't come back.

    Overall even though I probably answered the same ten questions asked by people from twenty different countries I had a fantastic time. It made me proud to be a Londoner. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

  5. NO
    NOT a troll!
    Neither any of the people in the road I live in (that I know to speak to - which is about half of them), nor any of the people at my wife's place of work (in sight of St Paul's) nor any of our Morris-side, nor any of the allotment-holders down the road wanted the "O", nor anything to do with it, at all.
    All of those people also resented being forced to pay for this.

    School team games.
    How nice!

    We have the striking Paris Metro-workers to thank for it - at least they had some sense!

  6. Wow, and I thought that Morrismen were just decent chaps who enjoyed a beer and and a bit of traditional folk dancing!

    Mr Tingey is as entitled to an opinion as any of us but his presentation skills could do with a little polishing, a little restraint wouldn't go amiss either! If he just wants a rant, perhaps he should save it for the pub, this isn't the place for it.

  7. Ooh I seem to have sterted quite a debate... Keep going!

  8. I am going to re-post (without permission) a comment from DG's blog.
    I hope the original poster does not mind ...

    It should be a source of national shame that the Paralympics are sponsored by ATOS, well-known for screwing over disabled people and leaving them living in poverty. It's absolutely disgusting that they could be allowed to sponsor the event when they treat everyday disabled people with nothing but contempt.
    Karen | 25.08.12 - 12:33 p.m. | #

    Which is precisely the sort of thing I meant - think delightful Coca-Cola & Dow Cenmical & MacDonald's as sponsors of the ENGLISH (!?) games.
    Again - the hypocrisy.

    Like the para/olympians - you are being/have been exploited, and are gullible enough to awallow and like it (oops, that has other meanings, doesn't it?)

  9. I always presume that Greg is one of Harry Enfield's Old Gits, or perhaps Scrooge when it gets nearer Xmas. (I used Xmas instead of Christmas because it will probably annoy him).

  10. You mean the Pagan winter festival of Juiter Sol Redevivus, don't you?

    ( Stolen by the christians & moved 4 days ... )

  11. My dear Mr Tingey... now let's get a few things clear... had you bothered to read my earlier posts about the Olympics you will have gleaned that I was not a fan of the Games (cap G oh yeah!) coming to London. I was actually with DG at one of the first bloggers tours of the Stratford site a few years back and I wrote quite a scathing review and you can find it if you use the search box on the left.
    Re my stint at Traf Sq, the London Ambassador thing may be linked to the Olympics, but it is organised by Boris and co. I volunteered to do it because I thought my knowledge of London would be useful and I enjoy talking to and helping people, even those people who are here to see the sport! I was not coereced or forced to do it. I could have opted out or walked off into the sunset at any time. On the flip side had I been asked to leave for, say, wearing red sandals or something, I fail to see how they could have enforced it seeing as I was not being paid and already had the shirt on... how would they have actively stopped me giving out useful information?!
    So please do take a chill pill, or whatever you need to stop getting so unnecessarily agitated. If you have more gripes about all this I suggest you address them to someone in authority who can actually do something about it.
    If you further investigate my old posts you will also find a favourable review of the Morris dancers at The South Bank last year. No doubt you will find fault with that too ;-)

  12. G. Tingey. You speak for yourself. (and appallingly badly at that)

    I think that one of the miracles of the modern world is that despite your constant hatefulness, according to you people socialise with you and someone remains married to you.

    To give respite to the rest of us who choose not to be so familiar, please consider starting a blog of your own and do all your ranting there. It is such a depressing experience to read a blog entry and then find such negative and poorly written comments from you polluting it. It really would be doing the world a favour if you'd try and find something positive to say or just trundle off into your own corner where you can moan ad infinitum.

  13. I know that this is late, but I have to post to this thread. I am a member of the same Morris side as Greg Tingey, and I can assure you that I and my family thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics and Paralympics. I have also made it plain to Greg, as have other members of the side, that he does not speak for the side on this or other matters, and should not presume to do so.

    He might also consider whether some people refrain from expressing opposing views to him because they do not wish to get into yet another tiresome argument.

  14. Alison... thanks for that. It sounds like you all must have dents in your tongues from biting them ;-)


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