Friday, 31 January 2020

For me, today is a sad day.

Others want to celebrate and that is their choice, but I find it hard to understand just exactly what it is that they are celebrating. I have tried to reach out, to see things from their side, to forget what I know and perhaps learn something new.

I have clearly failed as I still think Brexit is a tragedy.

But what do I know? I'm not British, I'm not even European. I've never wanted to be either of those things so Brexit doesn't change who I think I am. However, I have also lived almost half my life as an immigrant, an exotic outsider that sometimes blends in so well that others forget I wasn't actually born in the UK. I believe that it gives me a valid point of view on these sort of things.

I remember way back when I learned of the European Union (before I had ever been to Europe, let alone live here) and I thought that was brilliant. Here were a bunch of separate countries that believed that they were stronger if they stood together, even while their cultures and sovereignties remained separate. The idea of border-free travel and the right to settle wherever one wanted was just amazing. I felt that it would be the first step to a unified world.

Many years later, my story led me to become a resident of the UK and a part of that fantastic ideal that was the EU. I experienced what it was like to take a train in one country and enter another, with the barest of immigration red tape. What it was like to be able to find products from all over the EU in local supermarkets and I could hear the different voices from people that came to the UK to settle from so many brilliant places. Large cities like London at times felt like they were the capital of the world, with so many people speaking so many different languages and coming from so many different places. I liked that very much.

Then the referendum came and the following morning, the news that I never thought I'd hear: people had voted to leave the EU. What?! Why?! As a resident alien, I didn't get the opportunity to vote so I trusted that people would do the right thing. I was a big believer in a democracy so the news the next morning felt like a betrayal. Personally, I also felt like this was a vote against foreigners, against foreignness and against anything and anyone that were not British (whatever that meant to them).

It was a weird few days and once the shock wore off and life continued I was suddenly more aware of the rising divisiveness, the sudden nationalism and the feeling that things would never be the same again. This has continued to exacerbate and lead to some pretty infuriating actions that I am sure you are aware of.

For years now we've been watching this shitshow that is Brexit, with all its ups and downs (mainly downs) and while I'm tired of the whole thing, I must admit that even to the last moment I thought it was all going to go away and things would remain as they are. I thought that after all this time and all the new information that is now available on what does "leave" actually mean, that everyone would reconsider and we'd all go back to being friends. Clearly, I watch a lot of Disney movies because I was waiting for the fairytale ending.

So today it all suddenly (to me) seems inevitable. It's happening and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. It's like watching a car slowly rolling down a hill into a ditch and everyone just stands around and celebrates the impending car crash. I am not able to join in their excitement but I alone can't stop the accident so I stand by, horrified and unable to move.

Because I'm shallow, I generally express myself best through my clothes and what I'm wearing. If you're observant you can usually work out my mood, based on how I look. When I was choosing what to wear today, I really didn't know: the obvious choice was black, which I never really wear, but that felt too sombre, too depressing. After some thought, I decided to wear blue and yellow with stars, in honor of the EU flag. I am hopeful that someday our children will forgive us and learn from our mistakes.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Old friend

Perhaps it is time to dust off the old blog and use it again, this time as a sort of blog/learning journal. I may try this form of "thinking out loud" and see if it helps with my studies!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A different sort of Paralympic medals table

During my stint as a Paralympic Gamesmaker (more on that soon, I promise) I learned that Fiji had only sent one athlete to the games. This apparently random bit of information stuck in my mind (mainly because I do know someone from Fiji!) but a few days into the games I learned that this athlete – a one-legged high-jumper – had achieved a gold medal. 


Amazing. In  my commercial mind, this means that Fiji achieved a 100% success rate in terms of ROI: they invested in one athlete at the Games and came back with one gold. Job done.
This led me to wonder if other countries had done the same. I mean, it was only by chance that I knew that Fiji had one athlete AND that this guy had won gold. Let’s face it: the TV coverage was very GB-centric so stuff like this just seems to have gone by unnoticed. 

So I decided to do a bit of research into the datasets I needed and worked on some simple analysis with these numbers. I defined 'success' as the ratio between number of athletes and gold medals and, with that criteria, my medals table looks like this: 

This medal table looks very different from the one we got used to seeing during the Games (although China still feature quite highly). But in my opinion, it is a better indication of success as it doesn't penalize smaller delegations that had fewer medal opportunities in the first place. 


I then decided to widen my definition of success and include in my calculations ALL medals won, regardless of color. This changes the table to look like this:



China has benefitted from this approach as have some of the larger countries like Germany and the USA which now appear in the top 20. Is this an effective way to measure success? Is it more effective than a simple count of medals? Or should success mean only gold?

In any case and no matter how we look at it, Fiji did indeed achieve what I consider to be the best ROI in the whole of the Paralympic games!

Sources: the number of athletes per NPC come from Wikipedia while the number of medals come from the London 2012 site.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Gamesmaker module 5 - which team will I be supporting?

At last – at long last the day was here, when I would find out what Delegation I would be working with, as well as some of the other Games Makers in my team. This was the session I had been waiting for practically since I signed up.

As the content was nation-specific, we didn’t have a choice of dates for this module as we had had for previous, which meant traipsing across London on a Thursday afternoon, having to take an afternoon off work and resulting in a very, very long day. But who cares, we would finally be told what team we would be rooting for, so off I went with a spring in my step.

The one good thing about doing the journey mid-week was that public transport is much more reliable and dependable then. I got to the venue with very good time and was able to chat with a few Games Makers prior to the start of the event. We were all just as excited as each other about the session.

When we arrived we knew that the dates were based on Continent so after a few conversations I felt pretty certain that our group was the Americas, which was obviously good news to me. But everything else was still a mystery. On arrival we had all been handed a sealed envelope and we were asked to keep this closed until told to open it, which further added to the secrecy and intrigue.

The session finally started and of course the team then dragged things out as much as possible: first we had to open the sealed envelopes and I found mine had a number and a letter. The number represented a specific table which I had to move to, so we all did that. We were still none the wiser though, and even a quick chat with people in my own table led to little more information.

The team then told us, table by table, which people were assigned to which teams – a process that took far longer than was necessary, to be honest. I can appreciate their need to make this all seem very exciting, but after a few minutes it was fairly dull – until you got to your own table of course! Also, some of the delegations are quite small which means they only get a few Games Makers, which meant that some of the tables (like mine) had people assigned to different teams. The assignments were also done in the order of Olympics first, Paralympics next so I had to wait quite a while to hear who I’d been assigned to.

When the time finally came, I discovered that I had been assigned to the Mexican Paralympic Committee – exactly what I was hoping for. It was an exciting moment! When the cheering stopped (and everyone had heard about their assignment) we were asked to open some large envelopes on each table, which had details about the NOC/NPC we’d been assigned to and we had a chance to chat to Games Makers that would be in our team.

After that, we had a break for dinner (and it was nice dinner, something which I wasn’t expecting) and then moved on to the usual death-by-Powerpoint presentations. This time we covered areas such as Opening and Closing Ceremonies, more details on games-time Operations and a summary of all the most important material covered in previous modules. 

As I am a Games Maker for the Paralympics I then had to attend a further session on the Paralympics itself – mainly covering some of the history and background but concentrating on how to deal with disabled people and some good practice. It was an interesting session but one I had to duck out of as I had a specific train to catch in order to get back home before Midnight. But a lot of the material is stuff I’ve covered before in my Disney University training. 

This session was the last one that we would cover Role-specific training in Hackney so it was good to know that all that training has now been done. There was an awful lot of material covered in the five modules and while I feel that some of it could have been covered a bit more quickly – or even in a less boring way – overall the role-specific training has been good. 

Next up: Driver training!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Gamesmaker training Module 4 - the devil is in the detail

It was a cold April morning and I was once again on my way to London for Gamesmaker training. And for the first time ever, I was early! So this time I could relax with my coffee and chat to my fellow colleagues about what they thought of the experience so far. It was overwhelmingly positive but we also were starting to get a bit bored about all the sitting in a room and listening.

After the mandatory icebreaker session (something about picking a piece of sports equipment and relating it to ourselves) we moved right into the training session. This module would cover a lot of the more detailed processes and procedures we might be involved with such as ticketing, accreditation, rate card, etc. 

There was a lot to cover on the day and perhaps we did it all too quickly or I wasn’t in the greatest of moods but this was my least favorite session to date. I found it incredibly tedious, with far too much detail that felt like it wasn’t relevant but which led to far too many questions and perhaps confused people more than it helped. 

So for whatever reason, I just couldn’t wait to get out of the room and on with my weekend. I felt like I didn’t actually learn much and could have done without the session. I’m sure the team tried their best but in my mind all I will remember of that day was that we spent far too long on questions around parking: where, how, who pays, what happens if they don’t WANT to pay? What if we have to pay, how do we get it back? What about credit cards?...and so on.

Just like everyone else, I was really more excited about getting to module 5 because this was the good one: the one where you’d find out what delegation you’d been assigned to! All else was just fluff, so roll on May!

Gamesmaker training Module 3 - it's all about the Athletes' Village


Before long I had another training session, this time in a different venue but still in Hackney. To attend this one I had to get on a train, a tube and then another train! Fortunately the walk after the station was not a long one and for once I made it to a training session just in time.

This Module 3 was all about the Athletes' Village: what is in it, what is around it, and basically everything we needed to know about the venue to help us in our role. We started with a fun icebreaker in which we all shared a greeting in another language that we could speak and fairly soon it was obvious that there were a huge number of languages spoken in the room!

The actual training session then started and it was all very interesting: we saw maps, photographs, layouts and learned lots of useful and interesting facts about the Athletes’ Village. I knew this was a large operation but just thinking about the amount of meals served – and not just regular meals but with particular consideration to strict fitness nutrition, cultural preference, religious backgrounds, etc – is enough to boggle the mind. 

At this session we also had a challenge, which is a well-used team build challenge: to make a tower out of dried spaghetti, using only basic materials and sturdy enough to hold a marshmallow at the top. The highest tower wins. This was mainly used for the team to study the ways we work together and enable them to be able to make decisions. However, I was a bit confused by this as I thought that the way the teams would be placed together was mainly about language and culture so I’m not sure what further insight this gave them. 

Finally we learned about what it would be like to be an athlete at the village for one day. I was very disappointed by this, because it could have been brought to life so well in so many ways, but instead we were presented with a wishy-washy video. Coincidentally, a few days later my Runners’ World magazine turned up and in Jo Pavey’s column she discussed exactly this: what is it like to be an athlete during an Olympiad and living in the Athletes’ Village. It was very well written and I wish I could link to it online somewhere so that every gamesmaker reads it!

Ultimately Module 3 was very interesting and full of great inside information and I felt like I learned a great deal. It had a couple of exercises and challenges which were fun but did get a bit tedious at the end. Disappointingly though, we didn’t get any chocolates this time but we did get a renewed feeling of excitement for the task looming in only a few months…

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