Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Team GB to be 'forced' to volunteer ahead of Rio 2016

A couple of weeks ago the always awesome CEO of the Directory of Social Change, Debra Allcock-Tyler wrote a great piece for Third Sector magazine.  In the article, Debra suggested a reality check was needed between the day-to-day reality of the volunteering that happens across the UK and the "street party" nature of volunteering during the London 2012 Games.  Debra concluded by challenging the government not to "...set up yet another blooming agency to foster the post-Olympic volunteering legacy. You don't understand volunteering and you don't know what you're talking about".

A few days later one of my daily Google alerts flagged a story from the Daily Mail, reporting that Maria Miller MP, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Support had come up with a wizard wheeze.  Ms Miller announced to the Conservative Party conference that Team GB athletes aiming for Rio 2016 who are in receipt of lottery funding would have to do five days of volunteering in schools or sports clubs.

The announcement focused on the usual rhetoric of encouraging and inspiring the next generation and building on the legacy of the 70,000 Games Makers who did such great work this summer.

But hang on a minute.  This means Team GB athletes are being forced to volunteer if they want to stand a chance of going to Rio 2016.  Is this what we want the Olympic volunteering legacy to be about?  Is making people volunteer, whether they want to or not, really the headline we all would love to see about volunteering post-London 2012?

And how about practical implementation of this proposal.  Let's say Jess Ennis or Mo Farah don't 'volunteer', or don't complete five days of such 'volunteering'.  Will they not be selected for 2012's Team GB?  And are the schools and sports clubs geared up to make really effective use of the 5,000 days all these athletes are apparently going to give?

It seems Debra Allcock-Tyler's remarks to government were bang on (as usual) - they don't understand volunteering and don't know what they are talking about.