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Dan Slipper

Communications Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

Charities and volunteers aid the way to Olympic glory

29 July 2021

Every four years competitors from around the world come together for a spectacular celebration of sport. After a year’s delay and much to the relief of fans, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad have finally commenced in Tokyo. Staging what the organisers describe as “the world’s only truly global, multi-sport, celebratory athletics competition” is a staggering undertaking with costs rumoured to be £18.5 billion, 11,500 athletes taking part and an expected television audience of 3.6 billion. A poll by Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun published in June 2021 found that 62% of respondents said the event should be postponed or cancelled due to Covid-19, while 34% said it should still be held this summer. For those of us passionate about the Olympics the next two weeks will be bliss.

It would be impossible to stage such a large-scale event without the support of thousands of volunteers. The organisers of Tokyo 2020 advertised for 80,000 to “play an active role in helping to create a positive and exciting atmosphere, to contribute to the overall success of the Games”. When the Games were staged in London in 2012 there were 70,000 volunteers. I was lucky enough to be one of them. As was a certain young runner called Dina Asher-Smith, who is now in Tokyo representing Team GB.

There are 376 Team GB athletes in Japan, the largest ever delegation for an overseas Olympics. They range from 13-year-old skateboarder Sky Brown to 54-year-old Carl Hester who competes in dressage. For 254 of them this will be their first Olympic Games. They will compete in a wide variety of sports including athletics, swimming, gymnastics, sailing, boxing, rowing, cycling and taekwondo. For all those involved it will have been a long road to Tokyo and they will need to show the Team GB values of pride, unity, responsibility and respect as they compete against the best in the world.

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Without a doubt each and every athlete will have been helped on their journey by philanthropy, charities and volunteers. Much of the funding for Team GB comes from players of the National Lottery, but athletes will have been nurtured along the way by athletics clubs and in facilities which are often charities, and probably coached by volunteers. Sprinter Dina Asher-Smith found her form at Blackheath and Bromley Harriers AC, a registered charity. Gymnast Max Whitlock developed his world-class routines at South Essex Gymnastics Club, another registered charity which received a grant for equipment from the Jack Petchey Foundation and is managed by six (unpaid) trustees. Swimmer Adam Peaty discovered his world-beating stroke at the City of Derby Swimming Club, assisted by the dedicated volunteers who help out, while diver Tom Daley trains at The London Aquatics Centre which is run as a charitable enterprise. I could go on.

The Tokyo Olympics promises to be a hugely exciting and utterly thrilling competition. But as we cheer loudly at our television screens in support of Team GB, it is worth remembering that often charities and volunteers have helped our sporting heroes on their journey to Olympic gold.

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