Who wants to be a Volunteer?

The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people who witnessed 16 days of the the world's best atheletes competing for gold. As the most athelete-oriented Games of the modern era, it involved 10,200 atheletes from 198 countries competing in 28 sports.  Everyone involved felt the excitement as dreams were achieved, saw disappointment when those were not, and shared the passion and spirit of all that the Olympic games symbolised.

Ever since Sydney was awarded the right to host the Games, the people of Australia had joined in the spirit of working to make these the most memorable of the modern era. The staging of both the 2000 Olympics and Paralympic games would require the skills, knowledge, and support of many Australians. In addition, the level of planning and organisation was enormous and had utilised all the resources and modern technology available.

Many tasks had to be undertaken by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). Tasks like designing and building the stadiums and venues, designing and selling official merchandise, developing the mascots and their stories, designing the SOCOG symbol, planning events timetables, organising media coverage, transporting and housing athletes, judges, media and organisers, ordering and preparing enough food to feed them all, making sure the Games were environmentally friendly and selecting and training tens of thousands volunteers.

                                Volunteers from all round Australia and some from overseas as well                                  were  amazingly supportive of the Games. The Sydney Games saw                                  the  largest  gathering  of  volunteers  at  one  time, in  one place, in                                  Australia's  post - war  history:  62,000   volunteers (47,000  for  the                                  Olympics  and  15,000  for  the Paralympics) gave their time, skills,                                  enthusiasm,  warmth,  and  never  forgetting  their passion, to make                                  the Games a great success. They received lots of acknowledgment                                  and recognition but  nothing  matched  what  was  given  to them at                                  the Closing  Ceremony of the  Games when Mr. Samaranch  (CEO)                                  awarded  them  the  ultimate  recognition,  calling  them  "the  most                                  dedicated and wonderful Games volunteers ever."

Australia's volunteers were the public face of these Games. Volunteers would be the first and last people visitors meet when they travelled to Sydney and the four interstate Games venues in Adelaide,  Brisbane, Canberra, and Melbourne. Therefore, the role of a volunteer was paramount and would ensure that visitors leave the Games with fond memories and a positive view of Australia.

Participating in volunteering work was a personal challenge and a unique experience. My role, as a member of the Mobile Operational Support Team (MOST) was also very intersting. The MOST was a massive and flexible team that delivered an exceptional level of customer service at all venues. Working at four different venues, meeting the athletes, and working closely with the officials and journalists as well as meeting many people from so many different countries was very rewarding.

As a volunteer, you are expected to be proactive and a friendly host- providing information and assistance to encourage an enjoyable and safe Olympic experience. To accomplish this, you were required to:

From a volunteers perspective, the Olympics aren't about politics, its about ordinary people getting out there, being part of the excitement and giving it their all. However, to be successful you have to be flexible, reliable, persistent, and of course, have heaps of enthusiasm. These inherent qualities would help you perform as well as you could in a changing environment that surrounded you and in the situations that were presented before you. Therefore, the best advice I can give to future volunteers is to make the most of the opportunity. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience- give it everything youv'e got and have fun.

People volunteer for a huge number of reasons from wanting to 'make a difference' to simply having fun. Most organisations which involve volunteers offer training, so you don't have to have any skills to become a volunteer - just loads of enthusiasm! Volunteers also gain an extensive portfolio of skills and experience which can be crucial in the future. Developing and recognising skills such as communication, management, problem-solving, leadership and teamwork through volunteering not only develops key skills but also enhances employability.

Indeed, volunteers can do almost anything!  Whether it be volunteering for the Olympics, an  organisation, or your local community group your efforts will be greatly appreciated and held in high regard. From helping an elderly neighbour with their shopping, to providing legal advice for a local charity, volunteers make a vital contribution to all aspects of community life. Therefore, volunteering is a unique opportunity to understand and appreciate the diversity of our society, and to work in partnership with communities for mutual benefit.

By Peter Jenkyns (University Graduate)
23rd March 2004
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