The Macroom woman who went to Rio to lend a helping hand

August 23rd, 2016 11:55 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Mary O'Leary with Des Cahill of RTÉ in Rio.

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CAUGHT by the buzz of volunteering at London 2012, it was a no-brainer for Mary O’Leary to decide to head to Rio for this year’s Olympics. 

Originally from Codrum, outside Macroom, but now living in London, Mary (56) recently retired as a Maternity Matron and then decided to take some time out to combine her volunteering with a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.

Known as a ‘Legacy Volunteer’, Mary joins 11 other volunteers from London 2012 who are passing the baton onto the Rio volunteers. She joined over 70,000 volunteers ensuring the games run smoothly and efficiently and she finished her last shift earlier this week.

‘I’m having a great time and every day is like an adventure as I’m meeting people from all over the world,’ Mary told The Southern Star.

‘It’s been a fantastic opportunity to take part in these games and I even met a lad from Bishopstown in the cable car up to Sugarloaf Mountain during the week, and he had no tricolour to support a friend of his, and I gave him my one.’

Mary’s role was as a press communications volunteer at the Rio Centro, home to the weightlifting events, even though it’s a sport she wouldn’t be overtly familiar with.

‘My job is to make sure the press coming here have everything they need and it also gives me a chance to watch a sport I wouldn’t normally watch, but the crowds at the events were amazing and they were so loud,’ added Mary.

Mary is a seasoned volunteer and hopes that more people will take the time to volunteer at their local sports clubs and community events which, she says, foster the Olympian athletes of the future.

When Mary is not on duty she has been visiting the sights of Rio while also getting to see some of the events in the Olympic stadium, and she managed to get tickets for the athletics on Tuesday. 

‘It’s just been a wonderful experience overall watching top athletes performing and soaking up the atmosphere of Rio, talking to both locals and spectators. Seeing Usain Bolt walk past me in the airport was a wonderful start.’

Never one to rest, Mary is also keeping a blog of her adventure for JoinIn – an organisation set up following London 2012 to increase volunteers at grass roots level for local clubs – as well as updating her Twitter account on a daily basis. Mary leaves Rio on August 31st and plans to visit Macroom when she gets home.

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