I’m going to be an Olympic Torchbearer! Yes, that’s right, I’m going to be one of the lucky 8,000 people who will help carry the Olympic torch on a small part of its journey from Lands End all around the country arriving at the Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony on the evening of 27th July. How amazing is that? I am chuffed, excited, honoured, humbled and, to be honest, shocked – obviously in a good way. I certainly never saw this coming. So how on earth did I end up with this once in a lifetime honour?
Each Olympic sponsor has an allocation according to their sponsorship tier. Adecco, as tier two sponsors have ten. The day before the accident I submitted the ten names of Adecco’s Olympic Torchbearers. The criteria for our Torchbearers is the same as all the other 8,000: they should have a personal best story, something where they have inspired others, and that they represent a diverse cross section of our people. We asked our employees for their nominations and had some great stories including some of our contract and temporary staff who work tirelessly in the community. Our final nominations included one of our back office team who is wheelchair bound but is the real beating heart of our charity activity and our Global CEO who instigated the Win4Youth charity which to date has not only got Adecco employees around the world fitter and more active but donated over half a million euros to children’s charities in two years.
Half way through January I was told that one of our Torchbearers had left the company so we had to find a replacement – fast. The final deadline for all details of the Torchbearers was 25th January. Anne Sadler, our comms lady, and I immediately looked at our original nominations and picked what we thought was the stand-out candidate. However, after discussing it with his boss it was felt he wasn’t the right person. Back to square one and time running out so we decided that Anne should ask the Board to choose from the original list. By the end if the week I was getting agitated. I not only needed the nomination by close of play Tuesday but all the information including signed agreements, copies of passport you name it. It all went worryingly quiet so I called Anne who promised I would hear by 11am Monday. Talk about cutting it fine!
The following Monday, true to her word, I received an email saying the Board had come to a unanimous decision….you! I phoned her just to check! Then emailed Peter thanking him but in reality just checking it wasn’t a hoax. No it wasn’t, congratulations he replied. I called up to Karen and told her the amazing news. I told the kids when they came home and they told their friends at school, family have spread the word, even our local Church mentioned in their newsletter. How screamingly exciting!
A couple of, not downsides but things to take into consideration. I managed to get a slot on day 12 which will run between Chester and Stoke because it was close to where the previous bearer lives. I live in Surrey and I can’t swap. Still, nice countryside. I remember cycling that way on day six of Ride Across Britain last year. The second consideration is my physical state. I was told by the surgeon that I should never run again. I’ve never been a big runner, well overweight runner yes but you know what I mean. But it is strange when someone tells you you can’t do something how disproportionately upsetting it becomes. I did actually mention this to the people organising the torch relay at LOCOG the other day when I was in their offices. They were lovely about it and said a shuffle would be fine and each leg is only 300 metres so I can take longer and milk the experience. I am now planning to amble across either side of the street shaking hands with everyone and letting kids touch the torch and have their picture taken with it. Probably not quite what LOCOG had in mind and knowing them, as I do intimately, there will stringent rules and regulations we will no doubt be apprised of very soon which will include no chatting with the British public or letting anyone touch the torch unless they have a torchbearers licence and dangerous substance handling licence because of health and safety.
Another touching moment was during the Adecco conference. As I mentioned, I presented on all the Olympic activities taking place this year one of which is the torch relay. I announced all the Torchbearers to the traditional applause. When I came off stage Peter, our CEO said why didn’t I mention myself? Call me typically English but that’s just not something we do. I couldn’t imagine myself up in stage announcing that the final torchbearer is me – cue applause. No thanks. So it was with surprise and embarrassed gratitude that at the beginning of the Awards ceremony evening, Peter did announce that I was the final torchbearer – cue applause and indeed a queue of mainly lovely young women in skimpy evening outfits coming over to congratulate and hug me throughout the evening – every cloud.