The Games Makers of the Olympics

We don’t see them on the television. We don’t hear about the work they do. They are the 70,000 volunteers at the Olympics, who quietly make the games happen. The odd jobs they perform hold everything together.

Volunteers direct and welcome people to the right venue, so they don’t miss that key vault that wins the Women’s team gymnastics event, or the final stretch and wall touch for the heart pounding Men’s 4x100m freestyle relay in swimming. Volunteers transport athletes where they need to go, allowing them to focus on their sport rather than worry about where they need to be. They work with the tech teams to bring you as quick and accurate results as possible on your favorite events.

Does the Olympic planning committee in London comprehend the value of volunteers . . . take them seriously? I’d say yes, since they began recruitment back in September of 2010. Over 240,000 people applied to volunteer from the UK and around the globe. So, if you’re interested in volunteering at any of the future games, I suggest you apply early. I’d imagine language skills wouldn’t hurt, either.

They even have a “Young Games Makers” program for 16-18 year-olds (about 2,000 volunteers this Olympics) who get to do things like rake the sand on the beach volleyball courts. (Sounds very Zen.) Certainly couldn’t hurt the high school resume: volunteering for the Olympics and getting a chance to build team working and communications skills. It could also build your teen’s confidence to know they are worthwhile to take part in something like this.

I think it would be wonderful to go to the Olympics, but when you volunteer, you’re actually part of a team. We all want to be part of something greater than ourselves, don’t we? Participating in the Olympics in even a small way must be a heady experience. To be part of a team putting on the biggest sporting event in the world? Awesome.

Volunteers were first used in the Olympic Games held in London in 1948 and have been ever since. They’ve become an integral part of the Summer and Winter and Paralympic Games. And now, we’re back in London where it started.

Do you know anyone who has volunteered at the Olympics? I’d love to hear their/your experiences. And as an aside, what are your favorite events?

If you’ve ever planned a big event, you know the value of volunteers. How have volunteers helped make your important days and events turn out well? 

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20 comments on “The Games Makers of the Olympics

  1. I don’t know anyone who has volunteered for the Olympics. However, the Super Bowl in Miami could never happen without the army of volunteers. It’s a predominant reason that the committee comes back to the city time and again. They have so many volunteers, I never was able to join! And I tried!

  2. Marney, great article. Having been the Director of Volunteers for five years for a non-profit in NY that dealt with abused, neglected and poverty stricken families, I do know the importance of volunteers. Like the Olympic volunteers, our volunteers were instrumental to the performance of six major yearly events. But their contributions didn’t stop there. They spent the in between times tutoring and reading to the children, painting our facilities, organizing the food pantry, preparing bags of groceries for our families during the holidays, buying presents for our families at Christmas to ensure each child had gifts under the tree, and creating walks to benefit our wide range of programs. Their efforts were tireless and selfless. To me they were the heart of our agency.

    And what I loved most, Marney, was the parents would get their kids involved at a young age. Our youngest volunteer was six! The parents would say to me, “It’s important the kids learn at an early age to give back.”

    So, Marney, I agree that you don’t have to go to the Olympics to volunteer. Cities are loaded with opportunities to get involved.

    To loosely quote Mother Teresa, “You don’t have to do great things in life. It’s about doing small things greatly.”

    • I totally love when parents get their children involved in volunteering at an early age. Love how they’re instilling that kind-hearted spirit in them. You’re right, Pattie. So great. And love the Mother Theresa quote. She was some kind of wise!

  3. I actually know someone who is an official photographer at the Olympics this year! So he’s not technically volunteering, but still, it’s ridiculously cool to get to hear about all he’s experiencing.

    I’ve been on the planning end of an event–a fundraiser for about 800 women. Yeah, there’s no way AT ALL we could pull it off without faithful volunteers who give of their time.

  4. Why doe it not surprise me to find you writing about this topic. 😉 Your heart is a treasure, Marney.
    And in fact, just last night my husband and I were watching the Games and I told him I wanted to watch one of the canoeing races. When I saw the apparatus they had to construct, as no actual river was available, I was astonished. The first thing I thought was “how many people and how many weeks did it take to build that thing?” I sure hope that some sort of ceremony is hosted for all those volunteers; they are equally the heroes of the Games!

    Great post!
    ~ Cara

    • Hey Cara, thanks for telling me about the canoe races. I’ll have to check it out. Funny, sounds like your mind works a lot like mine, “How many people and how many weeks did it take to…” I really try to notice the behind-the-scenes stuff. Lots of treasures there.

      And again, you’re too nice to me.

  5. Wow! 70,000 volunteers. I believe there are about 11,000 athletes this year…that’s about 10 volunteers for every 1 athlete, pretty impressive.

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