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European Games - 19 Jun 2015

12.500 Flamekeepers lights the European Games

Volunteers from 56 countries from all over the World came to Azerbaijan

Thousands of the enthusiastic, friendly, welcoming, efficient and always smiling Flamekeepers spread the spirit of the European Games in Baku. Around 12.500 volunteers, or Flamekeepers as it is their name here, coming from the Azerbaijan, but also from 56 countries from all over the World. 

They are all under the guidance of Sharon MCMICHAEL, Workforce Director Baku 2015, who already worked as a Head of Accreditation and Uniforms – for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

However, it is not only the volunteers that Sharon MCMICHAEL is looking after: 

"I am looking after planning the attraction, the recruitment and the deployment of all the work forces across the games; 2.500 members of staff, 20.000 contractors and 12.500 volunteers. I also look after uniforms as a part of the deployment process and the entire accreditation process," explained Sharon. 

Planning for the Games started two years ago. 

"I came to Baku in October 2013 and that is when we started the planning. We started with calculating how many volunteers we would need and what skills we would require. We then identified the target market to attract our volunteers from.   A multisport event in Azerbaijan is a relatively new concept, so recruiting such a large number of Volunteers had never been tested, it was important to get the target market right. In London for example applications were over subscribed, as there is a strong culture of volunteering. In our research with the Azerbaijan Youth Foundation, we identified a strong target market as 18 to 22 year olds, who would be on leave from University during the period of the Games. 

Our target market were the people who we felt were most motivated to be volunteers. 

"When you see them here, they are great. The wonderful thing is that they are very proud of their country, they want to be the part on such historic event, they want to get skills to help them after university in their future jobs and they want to be a part of the international event . So we identified that group, as been a very motivated and very positive group of people and one year before the event we started the process of receiving the applications." 

The team received over 40.000 applications. 

" We have done about 15,000 interviews, to deploy 12,500 volunteers. It have been a quite a big logistical operation to get them through interview process. " 

Sharon and her team, needed to find which skills perfectly match against all different functions in business. 

"We have done probably 110,000 hours of training with volunteers in six months and most of them have been conducted in last three months. We take them through four different types of training. The first type was general training or common role training where we teach them about the European Games, about the environment they will working, the idea and the history of the Games and how it relates in the European Olympic Committees; we tell them about the clients groups we introduce them to the common themes such as uniforms and accreditations." 

The next phase is more specific. 

"We introduce the volunteers to the functions that they will be deployed in. They learn about what they are going to do, about the type of service, and for most people the final type of training is when we bring them into the venues and show not only what they should do but the basics of the operations in the venue. To make sure they are aware of basic health and safety requirements and emergency exits in the event of any emergency situation. The next type of training is the leadership training. It is for the volunteers who showed great potential and leadership skills and have been engaged as Team Leaders." 

There are not only volunteers from Azerbaijan, but also a lot of volunteers from abroad helping in Baku. 

"We had applications from 3550 internationals coming for 107 different countries, mostly from Russia, Britain and Italy. In the end we only had spaces for around 350 international volunteers who were specialists as we wanted the vast majority of the Flamekeepers to be from Azerbaijan.  We had 1800 volunteer applications from Russia, 420 from Britain and 300 from Italy. The figures are big and it reflects the fact that these countries have hosted an Olympic or Olympic Winter Games in the past decade. It begins to build the picture of legacy of volunteering that big events leave behind. People have had such a great time, they want to come back and to do it again. That is something that I want to leave after this Games. The group of 12,500 trained people that can be and want to be the part of events like Formula one or Islamic Solidarity Games. I believe that the European Games will leave a lasting legacy of talent and enthusiasm for future events" said Sharon MCMICHAEL. 

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