Former NZ Olympians support team in London

GREG FORD IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 27/07/2012

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Five weeks in London. Tickets to the greatest sporting show on Earth.

A free bed in the athletes' village. It is one heck of a meal ticket few in their right minds would turn down. But then there's the pay - a big fat zero.

Four former Kiwi Olympians have taken leave from their day jobs to act as Athlete Support Services in London.

Former long jumper Chantal Brunner, hockey player Bevan Hari, swimmer Alison Fitch and team leader boxer Trevor Shailer are offering the team shoulders to cry on.

Brunner sat down with Fairfax Media earlier this week, before the New Zealand media were given a guided tour of the athlete's village last night.

She is head of legal at Les Mills International, the Kiwi multinational that has sold its fitness services into 15,000 clubs worldwide.

She's now a key figure in team support services, which does what its name implies.

“Do no harm is our key principle,” Brunner says.

“We try to be an unobtrusive as possible.”

As well as laying out the all-important goodie bag on each athlete's bed before they arrive in the village, Brunner and her colleagues set up a lounge for the team to mingle in.

Prior to competition some athletes get tense and a tad antisocial.

Others like to escape from their rooms and relax in a more convivial atmosphere.

The New Zealand athletes' lounge has the requisite bean bags, coffee machine, iPad - for the team history buffs- and a giant rock.

Ngai Tahu donated a large chunk of greenstone a few years back.

“It is the spiritual mojo of the team,” says Brunner.

“It has its own paperwork and passport.”

The touchstone, once rough has been rubbed smooth - proof of its popularity.

Another hit with the team is a New Zealand flag, the same one used by the 1948 Kiwi team which came to London.

It was pinched by a team member on returning home, and given back several years later amid pangs of guilt.

It has been framed and mounted on the team's lounge wall.

The outfitting has been tasteful.

It cost $6 million to send the New Zealand team to the London Olympics and a serious side comes with being a team member; selection brings responsibilities.

Everyone has to carry a key fob with them when they enter and leave, and swipe in and out so the team knows their comings and goings.

Tabs are now also being kept on support services staff themselves.

A pilot training programme for the support services staff was offered earlier this year and 43 former Olympians applied - 11 made the cut and three of them were chosen to join Shailer in London.

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“We do it for the love,” said volunteer Brunner.

“And the reward of being part of the team.”

Although New Zealand is by no means under-resourced at the Olympics it is still poor cousin to the Brits and Ockers.

But Big Brother is now taking cues from New Zealand, says Brunner, in terms of creating a team atmosphere at the Games.

- The Southland Times

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