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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Portugal's unsung heroes
By Paul Fletcher
BBC Sport in Portugal

Three volunteers at Euro 2004
Without volunteers there would have been no Euro 2004
As the dust settles on Euro 2004 and the fans head home, they can reflect on a tournament rich in quality and entertainment.

Thrilling games played in colourful stadia and a host nation that welcomed its visitors with genuine warmth has ensured the event will live long in the memory.

But things would not have been possible without an army of volunteers that worked tirelessly throughout to keep everything running smoothly.

From the team bus drivers to teenagers escorting fans to their seats, 4,600 volunteers were the bedrock on which Euro 2004 was built.

The welcome desks at airports, train stations and hotels that greeted fans as they arrived were all manned by volunteers.

The hospitality teams, anti-doping units, stadium helpers and media assistants - their contribution was enormous.

The whole process began two years ago when the Euro 2004 organisation in conjunction with the Portuguese Public Institute for Youth requested applications for helpers.

I hope this will be my world one day
Andreia Sofia Pinheiro
Volunteer team leader

The ability to speak at least one foreign language was required and more than 9,000 people applied.

Many wanted to help in an area they want to adopt as a future career.

Andreia Sofia Pinheiro, a team leader in the media centre at Porto's Estadio do Dragao, hopes to become a journalist.

"I hope this will be my world one day," said Andreia as she surveyed the world's media at work ahead of the semi-final between Greece and the Czech Republic.

Some were motivated by the chance to watch games and many out of a pride in their country and a desire to help Euro 2004 be a success in the eyes of the world.

For the selected candidates - aged between 15 and 72 - a week's basic training followed at which they were instructed in everything from first aid to their precise role.

Volunteers gather at Euro 2004
There were 4,600 volunteers in total

And nothing was left to chance.

As soon Estadio do Dragao opened in Porto, volunteers allocated for the stadium team at the ground were in regular attendance at league games.

The idea was that they would become used to large crowds and learn from the regular stewards at Porto fixtures about handling masses of people.

By the time Euro 2004 started with Portugal's match against Greece, every volunteer had been thoroughly instructed and had been through numerous dress rehearsals.

Of course not everything went exactly to plan so, with kick-off approaching, the blurred vision of a stressed volunteer running across the media centre shouting in Portuguese, was a familiar sight.

But throughout, the lime green army worked with near military precision to ensure that the fans left Portugal with an abiding memory of the football and not the organisational chaos that blighted events like the Atlanta Olympics of 1996.

For me, without the volunteers there would not have been a tournament and I'm proud of them all
Ana Santos
Euro 2004 project manager

At the end they received a special watch, a diploma and a commemorative coin.

But these tokens of appreciation for their hard work paled into significance compared with the satisfaction and pride they took in helping their country stage a wonderful event.

In charge of them was project manager Ana Santos and perhaps the last word should be left to her.

"For me, without the volunteers there would not have been a tournament and I'm proud of them all."

Athens, it's over to you.

Links to more Euro 2004 stories



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