Hackney residents become Olympic Park tour guides

Four Hackney residents are working as tour guides showing visitors around the Olympic Park after completing a specialist training course.

They were presented with qualifications by the Olympic Minister Tessa Jowell and Chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Seb Coe at a graduation ceremony at City Hall. Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Olympic Delivery Authority chair John Armitt also joined them to celebrate their success.

Sarah M Salem, Rosemary Nevers and Devon Farqharson had previously graduated from the London 2012 volunteering programme ‘Personal Best’, and Marcia Blake found out about the course through the local jobs brokerage On Site Hackney Recruitment Centre which matches residents to 2012 opportunities. They all now have a range of skills and qualifications that could help them find further work, training and volunteering opportunities.

Sarah M Salem, 59, from central Hackney, said: “I love being a tour guide on the Olympic Park because it gives me a chance to share my passion for the Games and encourage people to find out more about how London 2012 and its legacy will benefit them. Visitors get to see the progress being made and can see just how quickly the media centres in Hackney Wick are developing.”

The Olympic Park Tour Guiding course was run by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and involved sessions to equip the guides with knowledge on key topics that they use when hosting groups of visitors on bus tours of the Olympic Park.

Subjects included the regeneration of East London, sustainability and design, venues for Olympic and Paralympic sports, and the legacy of the Games after 2012. The guides also sat written and practical exams to gain their qualifications which are accredited by the Institute of Tourist Guiding.

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, said: “I would like to congratulate our residents for their hard work and dedication which has allowed them to become tour guides. They are seizing the opportunities the 2012 Games offer by learning new skills and gaining experience that could open up all sorts of new and exciting opportunities for them.”

John Armitt, Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, said: "The Olympic Park big build is on track and transforming this part of east London as well as leaving a legacy of jobs and training opportunities for local residents. Over 40,000 people have visited the Olympic Park and future visitors will now benefit from the insight of local tour guides into the creation of world class venues, parklands and employment space in their area."

The Hackney tour guides are now undertaking paid casual employment with the ODA as tour guides on the Olympic Park, taking members of the public around the Park on weekdays and weekends.

The ODA visits programme has taken 40,000 visitors around the Olympic Park since the programme started in September 2007 to show the progress and scale of the works taking place on the Park.

To book a place on a tour of the Olympic Park, anyone can phone the booking line on 0300 2012 001. Tours are free and operate every weekend and selected weekdays.