Yorkshire woman’s personal road to Rio

Picture Credit pixabay creative commons 0 public domain

While the list of Yorkshire people taking part in the Rio Olympics may roll off the tongue; Ennis-Hill, Armistead, Adams and Brownlee (twice), a name which you may not be so familiar with is Fiona Denby.

The 47-year old from Oxenhope near Halifax will, like the rest of the names above be heading out to Rio de Janeiro for the start of the XXXI Olympiad, but she will not be going for gold herself.

Instead the Yorkshire lass will be part of an army of people from around the world who will be volunteering at the games. 

Fiona was also a games maker at the London Olympics in 2012 and it is this experience which drove her to apply to volunteer for the 2016 games. 

We caught up with Fiona, amidst the packing, to get her thoughts on her experience of a lifetime and some topical Olympic issues.

Fiona at the London games with daughter, Libby and
Fiona and family in her native Halifax during the torch relay.

1. What first drove you to volunteer at sporting events?

Although I do not, play a sport myself, I think that there are many other ways in which you can enjoy it. There is a feeling with me that if it was not for volunteers then these sporting occasions could not take place. This is what drives me to give up my time and help at sporting events such as the Olympics.

 2. How did you get involved at the Rio Games?

I had already been a games maker at the 2012 London Olympics and it was through this that I saw the opportunity to apply for the Rio games. It was a long process. There were around 50,000 applicants from all over the world and the nationalities of the volunteers will be very diverse.

 3. What is your role as a volunteer at the Olympics?

My role at the Rio Olympics will be in “Athlete services and information,” for the cycling teams. This is a team liaison role, which includes giving out race times, results and any information the athletes need to compete. I will also be looking after the athlete’s lounge, making sure there are food and drinks available when required for all the competing cycling teams. I did a similar job at the London 2012 Olympics and it was a great experience.

Fiona (pictured 3rd from left) with fellow games makers at the London 2012 Olympics
Fiona (pictured 3rd from left) with fellow games makers at the London 2012 Olympics

 4. You are already known for your charity work. Tell us more about this

Alongside my volunteering work I raise money for the Dave Rayner Fund. He was a professional cyclist who was tragically killed outside a nightclub in Bradford in 1994. The foundation was set up in his honour and its purpose is to help fund young, upcoming athletes who wish to progress in their chosen sport. These can be things such as covering the costs for them to compete in professional events, which are overseas and require extra money in order to participate, such as travel.

 5. Which athletes inspire you the most?

As a huge cycling fan I am naturally drawn to people like Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, but also admire athletes who do multiple disciplines, such as Jessica Ennis-Hill. Endurance athletes are also worthy of acclaim. There’s a weightlifter from Bingley, Rebekah Tiler, who is one to look out for and someone who I admire too.

6. What is your favourite Olympic sport?

I am a huge cycling fan, but I am someone who can watch any sport. At the Olympics I enjoy cheering on Team GB in whichever discipline they are participating in.

7.  Should the entire Russian Team be banned from the Rio Olympics?

I think the IOC bottled it when they made their decision on the Russian team, but I can also see why they may have done. I do believe that any Russian athlete who has been found to be clean should have been able to compete under an independent flag if a full ban had been imposed. My sport, cycling has obviously had its problems with doping in the past and it is now great to see competitors such as Chris Froome and Adam Yates riding as clean athletes and the cheats banned from the sport.

Follow Fiona on I’m From Yorkshire!


Fiona has agreed to share her experiences of her time volunteering at the Olympic Games. You can follow her progress by logging onto the I’m from Yorkshire website and creating an account to access her exclusive pictures and blog.