What a delightful group of people. Volunteers really are special. They not only do the jobs that need to be done, but add flavor and personality, giving an event life.
On Sunday afternoon, just following the conclusion of the afternoon match, we gathered the Volunteers together at their center, which is a building just adjacent to the Stadium.
We were introduced in our respective roles to the volunteers. Next to me is Hugo Salcedo, the Venue Coordinator; then Ricardo Abumohor, Member of FIFA's World Cup Organizing Committee; Dennis Mumble, Deputy Venue Coordinator; and Romer Osuna, Treasurer of CONMEBOL and assigned to the venue for Special Tasks.
It was then my turn to let them know how much we appreciated the work they were doing and from my own personal perspcective, that they were the best bunch of volunteers I had worked with at any event. I also told them that we had put together some gifts for them to express our appreciation for what they have given us in these recent days. Ultimately, I would ask them to follow me outdoors where we can stage a group picture which would be emailed back to them as a fitting salute to their joint collaboration.
Ricardo and Romer get to spend a few minutes with a volunteer. In the meantime, the group assembled outside and began lining up for the big photo. In today's world a nice high resolution photo commemorating the day would be enough to put smiles on everyone's face.
The side of the compound had a small hill nearby which we hoped would give us the needed elevation levels to be able to see all the faces in the posed shot. We had slightly more people than we expected to show up, but the hill, while spilling over was able to accomodate everyone comfortably.
We tried the first photo from a second story window looking down at the crowd. Our Media Officer, Mark Gleeson, took my Canon EOS and carefully focused and took the picture to the right. The only thing he couldn't control was the shadow being cast by the building, erasing into darkness those too close to the front.
Mark headed downstairs, and finally turned over the camera to a colleague who shot us from ground level resulting in the picture at the top of the page. Finally, the "goody bags". Each bag had a combination of small items. All of them commemorative. Some had hats, some shirts, all were packed with gratitude also by wonderful volunteers.
There was time for some games too, and a contest was being held for those who knew the names of a dozen different players from their pictures; guessing the number of dried peas in a large bottle (I guessed 3,000); and some athletic games too.
I hope they know how much they are appreciated. I stayed for about an hour and was available for whomever wanted a one on one posed picture. This was a day for catching our breath in Cologne. England will arrive tomorrow. They will match up with Sweden on Tuesday. That will be a long day.