There are a generation of us — women who grew up in a world where participation in sport was not available or not encouraged. Some of us became recreational athletes as adults, expanding running from a niche to a community sport in distances from 5K through ultramarathons, and participating in leagues and masters teams for everything from curling to ice hockey. Some of us became superfans, supporting daughters, nieces and neighbors in their athletic endeavors. Many of us, in both camps, binge watch the Olympics every two years as if the athletes are our avatars.
After years of parallel live-streaming and TV watching for Turin and Sochi, London and Rio, and volunteering for sporting events at multiple levels, I had the opportunity to support team USA as a volunteer for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Successful Olympic Games rely on armies of volunteers. Volunteer roles with the organizing committee for the host city help with ticket sales, security processing, logistics and transportation, venue activities and spectator/athlete information. Country delegations rely on volunteers for roles with hospitality, medical support, logistics and helping athletes get outfitted for the games. For volunteers, it’s a labor of love – they pay their own way and wear their own clothes – for the chance to help every athlete and spectator have the best possible experience at the Games.
In nine days, fewer than 90 people, including 29 volunteers, helped outfit and transport 311 athletes and 230 staff from Team USA for the PyeongChang Olympics. By the time the Olympics and the Paralympics are finished, over 58,000 units of gear from Ralph Lauren, Nike, Oakley and Omega, and 1000 pairs of shoes will have been fitted (and tailored!) for Team USA competitors and staff. Team processing is an amazing operation, and only one piece of the Olympic volunteer puzzle.
As I’ve returned stateside (and am preparing to feed my live stream habit when the Paralympics begin later this week), I’ve been asked about my Olympic experience. Here are several takeaways from my time at the winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
There’s something universal about sport, challenging everyone who participates to rise above mental, physical and emotional boundaries that tether us to the day-to-day. And there’s something unifying about a stage in which amateurs compete only once every four years for the honor of representing their country.
Although the winter Olympics are behind us, it’s not too late to enjoy this in 2018. More than 300 hours of live coverage is about to begin over the six sports in the Paralympics. Don’t miss it. You’ll find coverage information here.