We had a final chaplains' service at noon on Sunday, during which we all shared our experiences of the Championships and gave thanks to God for all that had gone on.
Then I headed off to be on duty in the Stadium Chapel for the final athletics events, and what a session it was! I had thought anyway, how apt it was that having been on duty there for the first morning of athletics, and experienced the initial 'teething problems' of working in such close proximity to the media who seemed to see our presence as slightly strange even if not contradictory to their presence, that I was also on duty for the final session. Although I knew that our presence was much more accepted by this stage in the Championships, I hadn't anticipated such a positive ending. As it was finals day and so the number of athletes competing was smaller, it is harder to share the full flavour of the stories without giving identities away but I shall try:
- Our first visitor was a photographer who said he'd passed the chapel several times a day but never been in. I showed him round and explained that the words on the walls were various verses of Scripture in different languages, and started with the back wall which has the Lord's Prayer on it. His response was "Sorry, I'm an atheist". We talked very gently and after asking if he could play the organ (but I couldn't find the switch) he took a leaflet about the chapel away with him.
- Similarly, one of the staff came in saying that he thought he ought to take a look having walked past so many times. He too chatted for a while and took a booklet about the chapel that he said he would like to discuss with one of his family who is a faithful churchgoer.
- At least 6 athletes called into chapel to pray or to talk. One prayed on her own; 2 asked for either my colleague or myself to pray with them; 1 from a country where to be a Christian isn't easy simply wanted to say hello to 2 chaplains; and 2 who I'd had several conversations with during the Championship stopped to talk with me.
- The team manager from the predominantly non-Christian country who we served on Wednesday evening came into the mixed zone, stopped at the chapel, and said "thank you for your help last time I saw you".
- One television crew asked was filming allowed in the chapel. Not knowing the 'official answer', I took a leap of faith and said yes. They filmed various aspects and then asked "can we stay for a while so that we can get a shot with athletes walking past the door because for the last week we've sometimes filmed athletes giving interviews with the chapel in the background and it'd be good to now film the chapel with athletes in the background". After that, they filmed a short interview with me about what sports chaplaincy really is. As they were from Eurovision, who supply sports, news and people stories to a large number of broadcasters, I have no idea when (or even if) the footage will be used, but pray that it will help sports chaplaincy to be both better known and more accepted.
It was certainly an amazing time of duty. After the athletes from the last event has passed the chapel, I dashed to get the shuttle back to the Team Hotel where I'm staying. I had originally planned to try and get a seat in the stadium for the Closing Ceremony, but we chaplains had been surprised to get an invitation to attend the Athletes' Banquet that evening, along with some of the other volunteers. This was a real privilege although, as it was held in a huge, dark warehouse-type arena with lots of loud music and at least a couple of thousand people, there was little chance of meeting up with anyone. I was glad to go though, and was pleased to be there for the final 3 Medal Ceremonies of the Championships. It was unusual for these not to happen in the Stadium, and some felt it wasn't fair on the athletes in these ceremonies, so it was good to be able to cheer loudly when the GB men's 4x400m team got their Silver medal. (As I was still on duty in the chapel I hadn't been able to cheer when Lisa Dobrisky got her silver medal in the Stadium earlier on.)