The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 proved a huge success, not least for the more than 14,000 volunteers who each made telling contributions to what was an occasion to remember for athletes and spectators alike. Ranging in age from 18 to 85, they worked hand in hand with people from all over the world, enjoying a host of enriching experiences that have enabled them to develop meaningful skills.
Two young members of that well-drilled army of volunteers, known as the Passion Crew, were Chulwon Patrick Park and Tyler Son. One year on from the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, they reflect on their experiences over those memorable two weeks and how they have benefitted from being a volunteer.
For 29-year-old medical student Chulwon, whose stint as a volunteer involved supporting Italy’s National Olympic Committee, PyeongChang 2018 was both unforgettable and rewarding, thanks in no small part to the effort he put into his translation and transport support duties and his relationship with the Italian team’s athletes and officials.
Recalling the Opening Ceremony, which he described as “one of the most amazing experiences”, he said: “When Thomas Bach spoke about volunteers in his speech I felt like a hero. And when the ceremony was over I sang the Italian national anthem with the athletes. They couldn’t believe it and they took selfies and videos with me.”
In dispatching his duties, Chulwon got to know the Italian team’s medical staff, who gave him some valuable career advice. Taking up the story, he says: “I never really thought about going into sports medicine but the Italian doctors recommended a medical school that specialises in it. So I travelled to Italy last summer and went to the offices of their NOC for more information. Now I’m preparing to take a sports medicine course abroad.”
Volunteering has also boosted his self-confidence, as he explains: “It made me feel like I was the most valuable and useful person in the world. The Games have made me dream bigger and I’m not afraid of any challenge. That’s been the biggest change in my life.”
Seven years Chulwon’s junior, sports science student Tyler also found PyeongChang 2018 a life-affirming experience. Revelling in the “passionate atmosphere” of the news desk, he fielded requests from photographers and journalists from all over the world and translated press conference quotes into Korean for his colleagues.
No less dedicated than Chulwon, Tyler took time out from compulsory military service to help out at the Games, having saved up all his leave days over a two-year period. He was rewarded for his efforts by meeting a lot of big names. “Taking part in press conferences meant it was easier for me to meet famous athletes and celebrities than for other volunteers,” he recalls. “I was even asked by a reporter to give an interview myself. It was very exciting.”
Now set to return to his studies, Tyler has fond memories of his time in PyeongChang: “The other volunteers and I worked hard and achieved a lot together, and I was very proud to have played a part in a successful national event in my country. I also learned how things work in the sports industry, which has motivated me to study harder. I truly believe that my experiences will create new opportunities for me in the future and that this is only the start.”