Berlin's volunteers ready to welcome the world

15th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

In keeping with the German reputation for expert organisation, organisers are relying on the 3,500 volunteers to make sure the expected 2,000 athletes, 3,500 journalists and 500,000 spectators find their way safely around Berlin.

Berlin -- While stars like Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay prepare to do battle when the world athletics championships start here Saturday, an army of volunteers are mobilising to ensure the event runs just as well.

"Us volunteers help make sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes," said 73-year-old helper Heinz Packert with the world championships to be held at Berlin's Olympic Stadium until August 23.

"You need to have a bit of a samaritan's instinct."

In keeping with the German reputation for expert organisation, organisers are relying on the 3,500 volunteers to make sure the expected 2,000 athletes, 3,500 journalists and 500,000 spectators find their way safely around Berlin.

"Those numbers make it a bit stressful for us, but it should be a great occasion," said Packert, a cab driver who says his knowledge of Berlin's streets will help lost athletics fans in particular.

The spectrum of volunteers is wide: some just reached the minimum age limit of 18 while others, like Packert, are pensioners. Some have only a vague interest in sport, while others, like ice hockey international Susann Goetz, have played for their country.

"I volunteered to meet people who are completely different to me, but have an obvious interest in sport. That is the main reason why I wanted to take part," said Goetz.

Money is certainly not a reason - all the volunteer positions are unpaid - but for giving up their time the volunteers receive food, insurance protection and travel costs from the organisers as well as their blue uniforms.

"I'm not doing it for the money," she grinned having taken two weeks leave from the German armed forces to volunteer.

But the Berlin Organising Committee (BOC) has not only relied on goodwill from volunteers as seven clubs from across the capital have been merged into the BOC to utilise their expertise.

Natja Stockhause was also a volunteer for the 1993 world championships in Stuttgart when she was a team liaison office for Rwanda.

She says the most unusual task of her tenure back then was being asked to help buy a colour television to take back to the African country.

Here she will be carrying out the same role with the Jamaican team and seeing three-time Olympic champion Bolt on a daily basis will be just one of the perks.

AFP/Expatica

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