News from the London 2012 Olympic Games
Sundays are my days off from Olympic duties. However these are very busy days, as I minister in churches around greater London and the UK. Just before my Games duties started I had the privilege to minister at a great Sports Outreach Sunday at the Hillingdon Church near Heathrow Airport where many responded to the gospel. The next Sunday I ministered at the Wimbledon New Life Church in south west London. What a sweet time of fellowship with these dear people. The next Sunday I preached at the A10 Mission Church in Puckeridge, Hertfordshire with very sweet worship and fellowship around God’s word. I then had to rush down to Tonbridge, Kent to speak at a large Combined Churches Olympic Outreach at Tonbridge Castle. The original speaker cancelled due to duties with the Australian team. So I had the privilege of sharing for 20 minutes with over 300 people in the castle grounds. Many came to speak to me afterwards, saying they had renewed their commitment to Jesus and opened the door to Him for the first time. In all I drove about 350 miles that day. It was well worth it.
One morning as I entered the Olympic Village I noticed that the South African Olympic management had arrived. I popped into their office and said, “Gooie more, almal. God seen julle ryklik vandag”. (Good morning, everyone. God bless you richly today). I repeated the greeting in Zulu. Worked stopped and heads whipped around to respond. It was great to catch up with Leon Fleiser, an Elite Powerlifer from past Paralympic Games. He informed me that Michael Louwrens, the Elite Champion shotput, discus and javelin thrower has qualified for his 4th Paralympics. I look forward to seeing Michael again since my privilege to pray for his healing at the Sydney Games when he tore a muscle in his groin that would have excluded him from the medal contentions. God graciously healed Michael and he went on the next day to win gold in the shotputt and break his own world record. In addition to that Michael gave his life to Christ and has been sharing his faith for 12 years with great effect.
I also had a very interesting talk with Freedom Chiya and Grant Goldschmidt, two very big muscular guys who are the South African beach volleyball players. Chiya comes from Durban where I was born. We enjoyed a few minutes speaking in Zulu to each other.
On the train to the Olympic Village one morning I started talking with Nora from Tipperary, Ireland. She asked what I did at the Olympics and normally for a living. I told her I was a director of a charity that supported 5,500 orphans in Eastern Europe. Her eyes filled with tears as she asked, “What motivates you to do that?” I told her how I had embraced Jesus 50 years ago at 18 years of age and His love growing in me motivates me to do what I do. She then burst out, “I want to know Jesus like that.” She opened her heart to the Lord on the train.
One day after parking the Olympic car in the Village garage I was passing through the security check and saw just ahead of me, John Eales (the great Australian Rugby captain) and Steve Waugh (the great Australian Cricket captain. I introduced myself and asked them if they knew Morné du Plessis (the great South African Rugby captain of the 1970’s) who is my cousin. (I had the privilege of growing up in an amazing international sporting family). They both replied that they knew him well. John Eales asked what I was doing at the Games and then what I did in life. I told him that from lour charity we supported many orphans in Eastern Europe, especially in the Chernobyl radiation zone of Southern Belarus. He was amazed and wished me well in such a good work.
One very hectic day I had to collect a group of Belarusian Journalists from Gatwick Airport. They were a cheerful bunch chattering away like men do in the back of the Citroen C4. When we arrived at the Olympic Village security check manned by the Military, the journalists went very quiet and looked apprehensive at the sight of the uniforms. I explained to the captain who the men were and he asked, “What should I say to them?” I replied, “Just say, ‘Oochine harrasho. Da blagaslaviet tibia Gaspot!” (phonetically ‘Very good. God bless you!’). The journalists burst out laughing and said, “You’ve understood us all along, you sneaky man.” A great friendship has been established there.
As Volunteers we were honoured to conduct the Rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony two days before the great event. This had to be familiarise ourselves with the line up and timing of the entrance of 204 teams into the Olympic Stadium. On this night we entered the Stadium as if we were athletes, although there was not much crowd in the stands. All the dancers and drummers were in place to greet us. It was awesome. The only other time I have done this in entering the Sydney Olympic Stadium for the 2009 World Masters Games where I competed as a swimmer.
Then the night arrived for the grand Opening Ceremony. Our team was responsible for getting the Belarus Olympic team into place to march to the Stadium. The atmosphere was electric with excitement as we marched the kilometre to the Stadium. After we delivered the Belarus team to the Stadium officials we were free to walk back to the Village and admire the other nations’ teams.
Meeting Usain Bolt at the Jamaican Team line up was great. Everyone was clamouring for a photo with the great man. All I did was squeeze through the crowed, shake his hand and say, “God bless you for your events.” He looked very surprised and thanked me, as if no one had thought to say that to him.
I also met two athletes standing humbly to the side of all the crowd – Dane Hyatt (a sprinter & relay runner on left) and Richard Philips (a hurdler). I felt a deep conviction that these two men were arriving at their time of greatness.
Catching a glimpse of Maria Sharapova with the Russian team was amazing. She is a very cheerful, personable and compassionate person off the court. I had the privilege to meet her tennis sparring partner Vladimir at Gatwick Airport last week.