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banner Friday, 10 August, 2001, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
All smiles in Edmonton
Edmonton's caring officials are always on hand
By BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce in Edmonton

One of the most impressive sights here has been a vast army of volunteers, all decked out in sponsored Adidas uniforms, who meet you everywhere you go.

There are 6,500 of them, performing various roles, from drivers for the athletes and media to greeters at the airport and stadium, marshals, security, parking attendants and 500 medical personnel.

It cannot be stressed enough that the last of those groups are all professionals, but the rest reflect the demographic of the city - there are teenagers, mums, dads and pensioners.

When the call first went out a year ago, nearly 12,000 people came forward offering their time, so many that the website for applicants crashed.

"This is Volunteer City," said Randy Kilburn, spokesman for Edmonton 2001.

Michael Johnson
Mr Johnson makes an appearance in Edmonton
"It was the same in 1978 for the Commonwealth Games, in 1983 for the World University Games and 1996 at the World Figure Skating Championships.

"But these championships are way, way bigger than any of those."

Most volunteers will do four or five 12-hour shifts throughout the fortnight.

Every one went through a two-day training programme teaching them the correct protocol (basic rule: always smile) and basics of their job.

Not that things always go perfectly.

Irene Schuenemann, working at Edmonton International Airport, knew somebody special had arrived when track legend Michael Johnson turned up.

She just was not sure exactly who.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, this is the runner,'" she said, and asked for his autograph.

Next to the squiggle she had written 'Ben Johnson'. Still, not all was lost.

You cannot see the Edmonton attitude being replicated in Britain
  Tom Fordyce
Schuenemann said she had addressed the man who won nine World Championship gold medals as 'Sir Johnson'.

In a city which is increasingly frosty towards British journalists (the hack who dubbed it 'Deadmonton' is a wanted man in these parts) the volunteers are, to a man, woman and child, friendly and enthusiastic.

"How can I hopefully help you?" I have been asked on a number of occasions, a question so polite it leaves you baffled by the syntax for a moment.

It is an attitude that you cannot see being replicated in Britain.

Organisers of the Commonwealth Games have already contacted Manpower to deal with their needs next summer.

As for the 2005 World Championships in north London - I lived there once, for a torrid eight months, and the only thing anyone volunteered was a fight outside after closing time.

Mixing with the rich and famous

Hazel McClarty's job is to welcome fans arriving at the stadium.

Wearing sunglasses formed by the '00' in '2001', she loudly thanks them all for coming in that friendly, slightly over-the-top North American way that tends to rattle the more reserved Brit.

"I love doing this sort of thing," she said. "Track and field? I couldn't tell you much about it. I like Donovan Bailey but that's about it.

"I do it so I can meet people from different places."

Maxine Mikkelsen, standing in a parking lot directing fans onto the shuttle buses downtown, agrees.

"It's kinda fun," she said. "You get to meet all kinds of people."

As for her athletics knowledge - well, it seems harsh to carp. "Er... Ben Johnson? He was a runner, right?"

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