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The уoung lady in Riga gets a letter from the British Prime Minister

Anastasia Grydneva.
 Not a long time ago at Zushu Street in Riga was received a letter from Downing Street. It was signed by... the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron to thank the young Anastasia Grydneva for her volunteer’s work during the London Olympics. Freecity.lv decided to find out from Nastya herself - how did she merit the attention of the state dignitary?

Nastya, how did you perceive the Prime Minister’s letter?
With much emotion. Not because it was from Cameron, but because I mentally heard the stadium and remembered the Games and all those guys I worked with. Of course, my parents were flattered, which was also delightful.
Anyway, the most unexpected “thank you” instead of coming from the officials came from the fans after the glorious victory of Jessica Ennis, the Olympic heptathlon champion. Tired, already far from the stadium I went to the underground in my Olympic uniform, yet as soon as I reached the platform people started to applaud, thank and hug me! It was so unexpected! It was an unforgettable day for the Great Britain, people were so happy! I have never ever seen anything like this in London, this city of always somber and busy faces.

How did you become a volunteer?

I am a student of London University, aspiring to become a translator. As early as in 2010 I applied for the position of an “interpreter of Russian and French” plus “member of the recording unit of the Olympic family”. Were conducted several interviews, everything went smooth enough for me, as I am absolutely fluent in Russian, French and English. These languages were in great demand. I was directed to the Olympic track and field stadium, apparently again due to this mix of languages.

You worked at two Olympic Games, including Paralympics. What exactly did you do and what were the differences between both of them?

Oh, I could speak for days and days about it! I mostly was an interpreter. My “coverage areas” were: the press, mixed zone, broadcasting, emergency station, doping control, conference halls and many others, like the royal box and the box of sponsors and ministers (my duties included meeting them, keeping an eye on security, ushering the guests to their seats).
I interviewed the athletes, then run to the press, translated and added the interviews to the common data base, where the journalists from various countries searched for comments of the athletes.
Difference between both Olympics was striking. I liked Paralympics so much better; probably because of my lack of expectations. In English vocabulary the word disabled, dis-abled — literally stands for someone who is infirm, sick. Did you see them?! To speak about any disability or infirmness would be disgraceful, and I really could not bring myself to say anything like it. The Games forever changed my mind about people in general, not only those who once have been less fortunate...
The Olympic Games is not about accomplishments of some countries, it is about accomplishments of every single person who has struggled with their unwillingness, inabilities or prejudices like “you will never succeed, so better go and find a job with an office”.
I will tell you a story: one Russian-speaking blind athlete, broad-jumper got rather severe leg injury during the competition and I was immediately called to the emergency station. I arrived; he was angry, sullen, in pain, and wanted to be left in peace. The English doctor said: “He must take crutches, explain it to him, and we will both help to stand up.” I approach, politely explain what he has to do, and then out of sudden he jumps up and raps out: “I am an athlete! I don’t need any crutches! Rubbish!” - and off he goes! The doctor tried to stop him, yet to no effect.
On the next day Russians won the relay-race, I went to interview the golden medalists, and here he was! With a medal! And he told me about his fears to collapse, how he run through the pains and how glad he was that he did not give up. He was SOOO happy! And to the question about celebration he said: “Now I will finally go and stuff myself!” I was so moved by his accomplishments, his energy and his childish obstinacy that tears welled in my eyes. But he could not see them.
At Paralympics everybody is not just an athlete, but an athlete with a unique destiny and what is even more important - very modest and human. How they have managed to win such heights in society, which could not be described as disabled-friendly is beyond me. I can’t forget Aigars Apinis, Latvian gold medalist of Paralympics. After his interview I was compelled to leave the stadium to avoid crying right there. He is very genuine, unpretentious and talented as hell. His interview made me reconsider my priorities in life.

What posed the biggest difficulty?

Some shifts lasted for 13 hours, sometimes ending after midnight. At the same time all volunteers had lived of their own: work, studies, young children... Frankly speaking, sometimes I fell into sleep on the move and awoke from the crazy roar of the stadium.
What is more, we had to constantly run from pillar to post! As to me, my most difficult task was to communicate with sponsors and ministers. They put on the show that the Olympics are not about the athletes, but about them. Isn’t that ridiculous?
My actual goal was to master some interpreter’s skills while being a volunteer, yet what I ultimately gained was so much more!
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