Without the volunteers who work so hard each day to offer the athletes and visitors a unique experience, it would simply not be possible to hold the Olympic Games. For this reason, the IOC is taking the opportunity to thank and celebrate them on this International Day, promoted by the United Nations (UN).
Volunteers are part of sporting reality and community development beyond the Olympic Games: they are the backbone of the reality of sport every day around the world. Without their engagement, many of the clubs, associations and competitions at community level would not be able to function. Moreover, sports volunteers play an active part in making our societies more inclusive, resilient and sustainable, leveraging the values of sport to this end and upholding the IOC’s vision to build a better world through sport. Sport and the sports sector play a catalytic role in helping achieve several of the objectives of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Often kitted out in the bright uniforms which make them instantly recognisable to spectators, the volunteers at the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games welcome visitors at the venues and teams at the airport, accompany athletes to their competition venues, and perform all kinds of other roles, in the public eye or behind the scenes.
At the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Canada’s Mona Yeganegi, 29, from Toronto, was volunteering for the fourth time, after London 2012, Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016. Summing up her experience, she said: “I’ve been part of the organisational team, the logistics team and the team in charge of the athlete welcome ceremonies. I’ve carried medals and flowers. I’ve worked for the IOC at medal ceremonies and for the Closing Ceremony; and I’ve even taken part in an Opening Ceremony. I was also a member of the medical team and a flagbearer; I’ve worked with a National Olympic Committee and as an IOC assistant, a press and media assistant and even as a sports journalist.”
Brazilian fashion designer Julia Palm found inspiration in her role as a volunteer at Rio 2016. “Working with other volunteers changed my life. I got to know an Algerian woman. She talked to me about Islam. And now she’s one of my best friends. I also met a Mexican woman and found inspiration in the culture of her country and the colours of its flag.”
Briton Paul Wignall expressed his passion for the Olympic Games in two very different volunteer roles, in London in 2012 (official driver), and in Rio in 2016 (working with the scoreboard at basketball matches): “You always have to have the right attitude. You have to be highly motivated and be keen on the Games and the Olympic Movement. There’s no place for cynicism. There’s always criticism, but if you want to make it a success you have to believe in it. That way, you become a small part of the event, and that’s a huge source of satisfaction. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it!
The volunteer programme for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020
When launching its volunteer recruitment campaign, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee explained: “Volunteers are ‘the face’ of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and the success of the Games depends on your contribution. We welcome the participation of people with the passion to contribute to the success of the Games, people who wish to experience the event operation of the Olympic and Paralympic Games held in their own country, and people who want to help spread the excitement of the Tokyo 2020 Games!”
In concrete terms, international applications to become a volunteer for the 2020 Games are open until 21 December 2018.
The programme, which is open to any person born before 1 April 2002, is based not on a “first come, first served” approach but on a study of the applications received. Applicants can sign up for one of 10 categories, which are: “Any”, “Guidance”, “Events”, “Mobility Support”, “Personal Support”, “Operational Support”, “Healthcare”, “Technology”, “Media” and “Ceremonies”. As a result, this enriching opportunity covers a broad spectrum of activities, enabling the participants to experience the world’s biggest sports event at first hand.
Around 50,000 volunteers helped to make the Rio Games a success in 2016. IOC President Thomas Bach thanked them warmly at the Closing Ceremony: “Your smiles have warmed our hearts.” There were 25,000 of them this year at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, where Thomas Bach praised their engagement. Without them, the Olympic Games would simply not exist!