“I was in awe most of the time. I think I took 900 pictures.”
Those are the words of Anita Gilmour of Iroquois who this past summer traveled to the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, England, as one of 1,100 Kraft employees worldwide who were selected as company ambassadors.
Gilmour, who works at Kraft Canada in Ingleside, explains that Kraft purchased the British candy maker Cadbury in 2010, and Cadbury was the official Treat Provider for the Games.
In the spring of 2011, Kraft rolled out a “would you like to be a Cadbury Hero” campaign to select employees who would travel to London and act as company ambassadors.
“You applied and you wrote a story of what it would mean to you to go to the Olympics,” says Gilmour. From applications from across Canada, the top 100 stories were picked. A lottery-type draw selected the final lucky 35 Canadian employees who would travel to London for the Olympic and Paralympic games.
Gilmour explains that three of us in Ingleside made the top 100, John Lascelle, Ian Cameron and myself. “It was a once in a lifetime thing. There were over 2,000 applications, so I knew if I could just make it to the top 100, I would have a good chance. It took me a whole Sunday afternoon to write my story.”
At a live feed, noon broadcast from Toronto, only Lascelle and Gilmour heard their names announced at the Ingleside Kraft plant. “I was drawn 27th and everyone went crazy. Right after they said my name, they announced John’s.
“That was in June of 2011, so I had a lot of time to stew.”
Following the selection process, “we had to go through the accreditation and all the security screening. We were prepared to work in sales and/or assisting with VIPs, and we did our training online before we went.”
A lot of people came up to me after and said ‘why didn’t I do it’. Actually that was what I was counting on…that a lot of them wouldn’t enter.”
“My London crew included 98 people. There were 14 Canadians and the rest were from all around the world, Russia, Spain, Paris, Ireland. They had all gone through the same process in their respective countries.”
“I was in London from August 5-12.”
Upon arrival in the city, Gilmour’s first night was at the five-star Hyatt on Liverpool Street where she got acquainted with her group. Their dorm-like accommodations were at Passfield Hall.
“I was scheduled to work for five days. I sold ice cream at a mobile and for my last two days I was at Olympic Stadium. On my very last day, I was selling ice cream in the stands. When a race was on, you sat down, so I actually got to see some of the events. I got to see Usain Bolt (three-time gold medalist for Jamaica at London 2012) run twice.”
Gilmour also saw some high jump, long jump, hurdles, 100m qualifying, and javelin heats. And of course the Olympic flame was housed at the stadium.
The 80,000 seat Olympic stadium was incredible says Gilmour. “When the roar of the crowd went up, it made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It was amazing, all the noise and the colours. People there carrying their country’s colours. It was just unbelievable.”
While she enjoyed performing her responsibilities, Gilmour says she also enjoyed the opportunity to explore London in her off time. “I love history. Just to be somewhere that old was incredible.”
Scheduled to work only three to four hours on most of her five workdays, she recalls the beauty of Buckingham Palace, the excitement of the Horse Guard’s Parade, the majestic Admiralty Arch, a nighttime dinner cruise on the River Thames, speeding across the city on the Olympic Javelin, taking in London Live and Cadbury House at Hyde Park, the ride on a double-decker bus, seeing the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, Harrods Department Store and Canada House.
“Kraft went above and beyond to make this a lifetime experience for all of us. It was amazing. Everything was covered and organized. It wasn’t even what you would call work. I am so grateful to Kraft, for this wonderful experience.”
Gilmour says that in addition to being part of the Olympics and seeing London, it was a bonus to get to meet and develop friendships with fellow Kraft employees from around the world. “It was amazing to meet all these people. We are all different but we are all the same too.”
As for her time at the Olympics, she says, “it was the energy of it, the colour and the sounds,” that have left a lasting impression.
“Cadbury in England is huge. I had people wanting to buy my pins, my coat or to have my picture taken with them. The Cadbury brand is held in very high regard.”
Gilmour admits she has always loved chocolate and now has a special appreciation of all things Cadbury chocolate. “It’s the best chocolate in the world.”
As for another Olympics…Gilmour advises, “if you can go, go…just to be part of something so big was amazing.
“On my bucket list is Rio de Janeiro and that is where the next Olympics (2016) is!” So who knows.