Bainsford ref had a volley good time at Olympics

John Swan back in his Falkirk Council office with his memorabilia from his Olympic odyssey
John Swan back in his Falkirk Council office with his memorabilia from his Olympic odyssey

It’s fair to say that the recent Olympic Games in London touched the lives of everyone who saw it.

From competitors to armchair supporters, the ‘spirit of the games’ - a concept that was widely mocked before the events started - was keenly felt by millions.

Those that were lucky enough to have been involved in the games themselves claim it was an experience they will never forget.

One such man is Bainsford resident - and first-class volleyball referee - John Swan. The 55-year-old was a match official at both the men’s and women’s volleyball events held at the Earls Court arena in London.

Heraldsport last spoke to John, who works for Falkirk Council, back in July before he headed south to the games, and caught up with him this week to find out how he got on.

“Without a doubt it was the pinnacle of my refereeing career,” he said.

“I’ve been officiating for more than 25 years, and I will be retiring at the end of this year, so it was the absolutely perfect way to bow out.”

As the host nation, the UK volleyball association was asked to provide line judges for each Olympic match. In total, 26 were chosen, based on their experience, including John.

“We were put up in a four star hotel in Kensington and driven to and from each match,” he explains.

“I was involved from day one. I was reserve line official during the first two days of competition, and then every day was spent as a line official.”

John was lucky enough to be officiating at some of the biggest games of the tournament, including the one match that Team GB managed to win.

“The men’s team were expected to win at least one of their games, but in the end it was the women that did. They beat Algeria 3-2 in what was a thrilling game.

“There was a full house of 14,5000 supporters going wild. The end of the game was even broadcast live on BBC 1 once it looked like they were going to win. It was an incredible night.”

John was also invited along with other athletes and officials to a Government reception held at Scotland House in London’s prestigious Pall Mall, which was hosted by Sportscotland and attended by secretary of state for Scotland Michael Moore.

The 55-year-old says, all in all, it was a thrilling experience and one that he will never forget.

But he also hopes that the ‘Olympic effect’ will provide a welcome boost to his first love of volleyball.

Falkirk and Stirling have both been without an organised club since the 1990s, and prior to the London games the number of people playing volleyball had been in decline.

“The nearest club is now South Queensferry,” adds John. “But I understand the Scottish volleyball association received more then 100 phone calls from parents asking where their nearest club was, so they could take along their children.

“So the future of the game is looking bright thanks to the Olympics.”