If you follow me on Facebook you will already know that I was selected as a volunteer for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. My decision to volunteer dates back to the 2013 Taekwondo Canada Open; at the end of the event the administrator thanked me for my hard work, and hoped that I would continue to volunteer, especially since Toronto was hosting the Pan Am games. I promised I would be there.
For the Canada Open (that year, as well as the upcoming games) I answered an open letter from Taekwondo Canada, and they wrote me back thanking me, and telling me where to be. It was silly, in hindsight, to think that volunteering for a worldwide multi-discipline event on a par with the Olympic Games would be as simple… and when I e-mailed them back in July, they gave me the website where volunteers had to apply. I spent fifteen minutes filling out the application, and was told to be patient, I would hear back from them soon.
When I did hear back, I was told I had to do a ‘video interview.’ After putting it off for several weeks, I finally sat down and did it in November. It was the second week of January when I got the e-mail offering me the position of Field of Play Crew, Taekwondo.
Of course I was thrilled… I was going to be up close and personal with some of the best competitors in the world in a sport that is near and dear to me. I couldn’t be more excited; I figured great… now all I have to do is wait for July to come around.
I got an e-mail inviting me to join the (Official) Toronto 2015 Volunteers page on Facebook, which I did… and I was amazed by what I discovered.
Have you ever watched a major sporting event like the Pan Am Games, or the Olympic Games, and wondered how they can go off without a hitch? You should meet some of the people on this Facebook page… and I can tell you, I am really looking forward to meeting many of them in person.
I volunteered because I love my sport, and because the event is being held in my home city. There are volunteers coming who are not athletes, but have volunteered in other cities for other events – some of them are discussing how housing of out-of-town volunteers in Toronto will differ from what they experienced in Vancouver (Winter Olymiad), Glasgow (Commonwealth Games), London, and Sochi. To be sure, there are people volunteering for sports that they love (like me)… but there are plenty of others with positions such as Media Relations, Transportation Services, Food Services, Housing… and scores more. What would make someone give up two weeks of their lives, often traveling from thousands of miles away (there is a special Facebook group for out of town volunteers, with over 200 members so far) to volunteer for games that, according to pundits on talk radio, nobody will remember in a year or two?
I suspect that the number of answers to that question will be too great to enumerate here, but I suspect for a lot of them it will have to do with dedication… and from what I am reading, a healthy measure of fun and appreciation.
Sure, there are going to be students who need volunteer credits for school. there will be young people who are just starting out and need something to put on their resume. But there are also people like me – professionals who will be taking time off of work (unpaid, of course). There are stay at home moms, and there are retirees, and there are 20,000 different stories that you would come across if you spoke to the 20,000 volunteers. It is truly amazing.
This is not my first international sporting event. In 2002 Montreal hosted the Junior Maccabiah Games; I was working for IGS Security at the time, and we were responsible for security for the entire event. It was a great experience. Back then I spoke to a lot of the volunteers, and they told me how much fun they had. I suppose I was sceptical at the time, but that was the way I was.
Over the next few months I am going to meet and get to know a bunch of great people through this event, and I am truly looking forward to it. I hope that at the end of it I will come away with some new friends and a lot of great memories. Either way, it will be a great experience!