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    We caught up with Helen Riley, Arrivals and Departure Manager at Special Olympic World Games 2023 Berlin to found out about her career journey so far and what's involved in her current role at the Special Olympic World Games.

    HR7-1Can you tell us about your career to date and how you became Arrivals and Departure Manager at Special Olympic World Games 2023 Berlin?

    At the age of 21, I passed my HGV C & E licence. I then spent over 15 years driving in the UK and Europe. I then passed my Transport Mangers CPC in 2018 and came off the road and started my career in Logistic Management. Unfortunately, I found the industry toxic and it had changed a lot over the years and employers were pushing more and more and I knew it was time for a change. 

    I saw an advert for a Venue Transport Manager for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham with the Organising Committee and thought that the skills I had learnt in the Logistics industry could be transferable.

    HR1-1I was successful in securing the position and started in February 2022. I oversaw a village operation in the centre of Birmingham. I was also asked to lead on the operational planning at the village at the VeloPark in Stratford in London and the Sports Officials Village in Birmingham.

    From Birmingham, I secured my next venture in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup for TMS and my position here in Berlin for the Special Olympic World Games 2023. I was Deputy Transport Manager for the Metro hub feeding Al Thumama Stadium in Doha. We were responsible for the flow and transportation of spectators to and from the Stadiums. On match days we moved over 16,000 spectators.


    Can you introduce Special Olympic World Games 2023 Berlin?

    The Special Olympic movement was founded in Chicago in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. It is the world's largest sports organisation for people with Intellectual Disabilities. It is recognised by the IOC and there are 5.7 million active athletes worldwide. The goal and vision are to create an inclusive society through the unifying power of sport, that people with intellectual disabilities have equal access to sports, education, the labour market and health care and that our athletes experience joy and self-esteem in sporting competitions and in real life.

    The Special Olympic World Games in Berlin will be held from 17th June to 25th June 2023. Berlin will host 7000 Athletes and Unified Partners, over 300,000 spectators will attend over the 9 days, there will be 26 sports, and we have 16,000 volunteers to help us deliver this. Our Host Town Programme will see around 180 towns across Germany welcome our athletes for 3 days prior to the games as a cultural experience. 

    Can you tell us more about your Arrivals and Departure Manager role in the organisation of the Special Olympic World Games 2023 Berlin? What are your daily objectives? 

    I am now in Berlin, as Arrivals and Departure Manager for Berlin Airport. I am also involved in the operational planning for 4 other airports across Germany for our Host Town Program, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Dusseldorf. The objective is to plan the operation for the arrival and departure of delegations and individuals at the airport. This involves liaising with airport authorities and other outside stakeholders. We produce a Venue Operation Plan, which contains all the details of how the operation will work. We have to organise Bus load zones and staging areas, Fleet load zones and staging areas, meet and greet areas, a welcome desk within the airport, staffing welfare areas, signage, and working with the airport and police to plan the bus and car routes to and from the airport.


    How many people will be working for the Special Olympic World Games 2023 Berlin?

    As an LOC we have around 460 paid staff at the LOC and we have recruited around 16,000 volunteers for Games Time.

    What do you enjoy most about your current role at the Special Olympic World Games 2023 Berlin?

    Working for an Organising committee is very fulfilling and a great experience. My current role involves working with different functioning areas and meeting new people. We work with people from different cultures, countries and ages, but we are all working towards the same goal of delivering games that will be successful.

    What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career so far?

    I have learned through the years to listen to all and try to always work together. To be professional at all times as you never know who you are dealing with especially with stakeholders. Be truthful and always own up to mistakes that you have made.

    What advice would you give those looking to build their career in the sports industry?

    I am still new to this industry but have discovered those that work within it are like a big family. There are so many functioning areas that people can join and get experience. Some people get into this by becoming a volunteer and then applying for positions either within an OC or a sub-contractor. While working get as much out of it as you can, attend any workshop offered, go to the out-of-hours events, make friends and don’t be afraid to ask questions, no two games are the same. 

     Connect with Helen on LinkedIn.


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