Volunteering has been a core part of the Olympic Games ever since it was first introduced during the 1948 Games in London. Now, with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee launching the application process for its volunteering programme, the vital role that Olympic volunteers play is once again in the spotlight.
London 2012 - volunteer Games Makers in the Olympic stadium.
Often clad in eye-catching uniforms to make them easy to spot for spectators, Olympic volunteers help bring every edition of the Games to life, while also working tirelessly to ensure that everything runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
“The volunteers are the people who bring the beauty and special atmosphere to the Games,” said Marina Pochinok, Workforce Vice-President at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. “These are special people who can radiate this atmosphere to their clients and really create a very successful and very friendly Games.”
In Sochi, 25,000 members of Komanda 2014 – or Team 2014 – as they were known, worked on everything from transport and technology to supporting the Olympic ceremonies. Despite Russia having no previous volunteering initiatives, the Sochi 2014 programme received more than 200,000 applicants, with volunteers flocking from as far afield as St Petersburg, Vladivostok, Arkhangelsk and Omsk, representing every region of Russia.
Volunteers prepare for the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
The Sochi volunteers received warm thanks from IOC President Thomas Bach for their work at the Closing Ceremony of those Games.
“Thank you very much volunteers! You, volunteers, with your warm smile made the sun shine for us every day. Your wonderful engagement will create the legacy of a strong civil society in Russia.”
The Sochi volunteers’ efforts have now also created a volunteering legacy in Russia, according to Sochi 2014 CEO and President Dmitry Chernyshenko.
“When Sochi began the bidding process in 2005, the concept of volunteering simply did not exist in Russia,” he said. “Now, the volunteer movement is thriving, with a quarter of a million Russians regularly participating in volunteer activity.”
At the Olympic Games in London in 2012, the 70,000-strong team of volunteers also received special praise for their efforts, with then-IOC President Jacques Rogge hailing them as “the much-needed heroes of these Games”.
Dubbed ‘Games Makers’ by the London 2012 Organising Committee due to the vital role they played, the volunteers took on a wide variety of roles across the Olympic venues during the Games: from welcoming visitors to transporting athletes, helping out behind the scenes in the Technology team and making sure the results get displayed as quickly and accurately as possible.
"One of the most remarkable aspects of the 2012 Olympic Games was the amazing contribution made by volunteers,” said Seb Coe, Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee, who also described volunteers as “the lifeblood of the Olympic Games”.
The success of the London 2012 volunteer programme led to the creation of Join In, a sports volunteering charity that aims to increase local sports volunteering opportunities and help grow community sport across Britain.
With the Rio 2016 Organising Committee now launching its search for 70,000 volunteers to work during the 2016 Games, people from all over the world have yet another chance to make their own mark on Olympic history.
Learn more about volunteering in Rio at www.rio2016.com