They are called the “Games-makers”, and no Olympic Games can take place without them. They are the volunteers, and they perform, in their thousands, a wide range of duties relating to national team delegations, the public, the media and the competition sites. Cédric Destraz, the head of the Local Organising Committee for the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020’s volunteer programme, tells us what it involves before, during and after the Games.
“It’s essential to get young people involved in volunteering, but you can’t forget about the not-so-young either,” explains Destraz. “Different generations have to work together if all the tasks undertaken by volunteers at this YOG edition are to be carried out successfully. It goes without saying that it’s very rewarding to be able to pass the experience of older people on to youngsters.”
With a little over 400 days to go until the big event, the volunteers are already busy promoting it. “It’s good to know that we’ve got volunteer leaders in place already,” he added. “They run the local volunteer groups and organise them from A to Z, having previously taken a two-stage training course. The first part of the course offers an introduction to the Youth Olympic Games, and the second is more operational, looking at things like managing a team and how to organise events promoting the Games. The volunteers promote the YOG to other volunteers. It’s a great story.”
Volunteer leaders can acquire skills not otherwise available to them, giving them attributes they can put to use in the professional world. “We have around ten leaders aged 20 to 25 who are 100 per cent involved in the ongoing event promotion phase,” explains Destraz. “There’s a community of around 50 volunteers at the moment, but it’s growing with every passing week, because they’re enjoying a rewarding experience and are passing the message on to their friends, parents and families. That know-how and those social skills are being transferred from friend to friend and from generation to generation. The volunteer community is growing and it’s going to be big and strong from 9 to 22 January 2020.”
No volunteers, no Games
Around 2,500 volunteers will be on duty during the event itself. The registration period will run through to summer 2019, prior to which a major media campaign will be launched to attract volunteers both young and old. “After they have applied and been selected, we ask them which duties and tasks they want to do,” explains Destraz. “We then run a series of training courses on things like welcoming people and hospitality. Then there are specific training sessions at each site, like how to groom a run and how to welcome athletes and guests. In short, volunteers do lots of different things. The ones who’ve already been accepted know that they will be there at the YOG.”
Everyone should take the opportunity to experience the Youth Olympic Games.Cédric Destraz
Though the application process will be open to prospective volunteers from all over the world, an initial selection phase was conducted at local level. And when the third Winter Youth Olympic Games come to an end, the volunteers will be given the praise and gratitude they deserve, though their work will also leave an important legacy, as Destraz points out: “Through their employers and public institutions, they will be able to demonstrate the value of the work they have done throughout the YOG. No volunteers means no Games, as simple as that. They bring skills that add value to any event and in every field, such as welcoming people, assisting National Olympic Committees and the media, interpreting, working at the uniform centre, and helping out with accreditations.
“It’s a unique experience,” says Destraz by way of conclusion. “The YOG are a wonderful celebration of sport, and there’s only one thing for prospective volunteers to do, which is to sign up in summer 2019. If you end up volunteering at the YOG in Lausanne, then you might get involved at other sporting events. Everyone should take the opportunity to experience the Youth Olympic Games.”