Olympic volunteers struggle to find accommodation

  • More than 70,000 volunteer ‘Games makers’ will be helping at this summer’s Olympics. But despite the excitement of those involved, there’s one overriding query – where will they stay?

    Some of the 1,700 equestrian volunteers for the London Olympics fear they may have to reconsider their offer to help as they struggle to find accommodation in – or near – the capital.

    Prices are high and many low-cost options, including campsites, hostels and university rooms, are already booked up. And with the added issue of not yet knowing what shifts they will be working, it’s proving a problem.

    Although the problems are similar for most sports, one volunteer – who wishes to remain anonymous – believes the problem is more acute for equestrianism, as most knowledgeable helpers live outside London. And those working the full two weeks could face big bills.

    “It looks as though it’s going to be a pretty expensive ‘holiday’, but the situation was made clear right from the beginning of the application process,” she added.

    “Ultimately, it comes down to whether you want to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I do, so I’m trying not to think about the cost.”

    Rider and instructor Martin Renfry, who will be working in press operations, said the main problem was not knowing what shifts he would be required for.

    “It’s hard as you don’t know when you’re needed,” he said. “We’ve block-booked 17 nights in a campsite in Kent in case. Now it’s sorted, I’m relieved.”

    But Olympic organiser LOCOG said the matter is in the volunteers’ hands.

    “We understand finding accommodation will be difficult and expensive, but we were open and clear from the start that volunteers would have to find where to stay on their own,” a spokesman for LOCOG told H&H.

    A new “online community” will be launched later this month, said LOCOG, to help volunteers connect with each other.

    “The online facility is to help people meet up, talk and possibly group together. They’ll also be able to share their experiences as well as photos and videos,” he said.

    And H&H already has a free-to-use online help section in our forum, through which those heading to Greenwich – but struggling to find accommodation – might hook up with local people who have accommodation or camping space available.

    Visit www.horseandhound.co.uk/forums to register.

    This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (8 March 2012)

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