Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Olympic Volunteering

Every two years, a unique opportunity for people to serve not only their country, but the world, emerges: the Olympics. Each Olympic Games requires thousands of volunteers to devote their time to making sure each and every event and game runs smoothly. While not what one would typically think of when thinking of service, the Olympics is a great opportunity to lend a hand and serve the world.

For sports fans the benefit of volunteering at the Olympic Games is two-fold: watching these sporting events up-close and personal, and, more importantly, being a part of the action. For some sports fans, this possibility is so enticing that they will travel all over the world for the chance to work and volunteer at the Games.

One such fan is Ernie Peterson, who traveled from his home in Florida to volunteer at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. As described by this article on CNN.com, Peterson was one of 25,000 volunteers at the Vancouver Games, 95% of whom were from the Games’ home country of Canada that volunteered 135 hours of their time over the duration of the games.

There are a variety of tasks a volunteer can complete, such as ticket collecting, ushering athletes around complex, assisting dignitaries, acting as translators or press assistants, and more. According to this blog, the merchandise perks for being a volunteer are pretty great too: each volunteer receives over $800 worth of Olympic gear, consisting of a jacket, fleece vest, two long-sleeved t-shirts, and pants. Volunteers certainly look the part! To find out more about the day-to-day activities of an Olympics Volunteer, read this Vancouver Olympics volunteer’s blog documenting the exciting experience.

With the last Gold medal of the Vancouver Olympics handed out, it’s now time to start rounding up volunteers for the 2012 London Summer Olympics. The organizers of the London Games estimate the need for up to 70,000 volunteers. To sign up, volunteers must be 18 years of age, commit a minimum of 10 days to serve, attend mandatory orientation sessions, and pass background checks. Click here to find out more about volunteering at the 2012 London Games.

If you don’t think you can make the commitment to travel to London for the next Summer Games, a great way to still be involved in the spirit of Olympics volunteerism is to volunteer with the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics is held every two years throughout the United States and the world, offering a great chance for people to get involved in their local communities and celebrate athletes with intellectual disabilities. There are a variety of ways to get involved with the Special Olympics depending on the level of commitment desired: coaching, event coordination with the venue, refereeing, scorekeeper, and more.

One unique opportunity for youth to volunteer with the Special Olympics is Project Unify. Funded by the US Department of Education, Project Unify encourages youth to develop inclusive school communities that foster respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. These programs, based on the values and tenets of the Special Olympics, work to sustain positive change through volunteering and improving communities.

Do you have any stories of volunteering at the Olympics or Special Olympic Games? Share your stories in the comments below!


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