Meet the Olympic Volunteers
Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004
Olympic Games Volunteer
As a graduate student, Ms. Ichii volunteered for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. She helped spectators direct at the Beach Volleyball venue. She also played a part in the Athens 2004. Her role involved assisting photographers during the Olympics and directing spectators to the venues during the Paralympics.
Olympic Games Volunteer
Ms. Shinjo has become proficient in eight languages including English, having lived abroad and worked for foreign companies based in Japan. She has established and currently runs a language learning community for adult learners. She volunteered for the Olympic Games for the first time in Rio, where she interpreted for the women's national field hockey team and the national rugby sevens team.
Special experience as an Olympic volunteer
––– What are some of the special experiences that you’ve had as an Olympic volunteer?
Ichii ：A lot of this depends on what role you are assigned to, but I’ve had the opportunity to watch the games live. In Sydney, my volunteer manager gave me a rest break when the Japanese beach volleyball team was playing. In Athens, I witnessed the moment when Kosuke Kitajima earned a gold medal.
Shinjo ：Volunteers were assigned shifts ahead of time, and on my days off, I bought tickets for the events that I wanted to watch. I was eager to see a female wrestler Saori Yoshida compete in a wrestling match. Also, the volunteer manager gave us free tickets to events, so I had the opportunity to watch some of the games with members on the volunteering team.
––– Did you see famous athletes?
Ichii ：Yes, many! Not only famous athletes, but occasionally you also come across celebrities who come to watch the events. It may seem a bit shallow, but these benefits can actually serve as motivating factors to work harder.
Shinjo ：But if you are genuinely interested in particular sports or athletes, you should not volunteer for those events. While you are on duty as a volunteer, the priority is to get your job done, and it’s not always possible to watch the games whenever you want to. You can genuinely enjoy your favorite sporting events if you watch them as a spectator.
––– By definition, a volunteer is someone who provides a service without being paid. In what ways do you find it rewarding?
Ichii ：Volunteers are not compensated monetarily, but that’s exactly the reason why people can come together as a team. You see people from all over the world with different backgrounds, nationalities, ages, and work, putting aside their differences and combining their efforts to make the Games a success. The sense of unity shared by volunteers is truly amazing. It’s an experience like no other.
Shinjo ：When I told people that I would become a volunteer, I got responses along the lines of, “Why would you travel all the way to Brazil to work unpaid?” When I got involved in the Games, I found out that most volunteer managers were highly experienced people with various backgrounds. As a volunteer, you will meet people you would never have met otherwise, and the sheer joy of working with such exceptional people from all over the world is a reward enough for me.
––– Before the Rio Olympics, there were numerous concerns raised in the media about how the city was plagued with crime and violence.
Shinjo ：True, but I used to live abroad, so that was not really a concern for me, although it was not advisable to walk alone at night, or go into rough areas. Security measures were considerably tightened during the Games, so I didn’t encounter anything dangerous.
––– Both of you have brought some of the memorabilia from the Games.
Ichii ：I traded these pins and put them on the lanyard that holds my accreditation card. I’ve heard that the pin-trading tradition originally began when people swapped their pins as a gesture of international friendship, to start a conversation and meet new people.
Shinjo ：There are rare ones as well. Some of the volunteers who had taken part in prior Olympics arrived with pins of their own designs.
Ichii ：When volunteers help one another, they trade their pins as a gesture of appreciation. So people with a lot of pins on their accreditation cards seemed like they had visible symbols of their accomplishments. I was a bit envious of them [Laughs]
––– Ms. Ichii, is that an Olympic limited edition watch?
Ichii ：Yes. ‘swatch’ is a sponsor of the Olympics, and this watch was a gift for volunteers.
Shinjo ：I also received a Swatch at the Rio Games. There are other models sold at stores, but this is a special edition for volunteers, so it’s very precious.
––– I’ve heard that there are uniforms for volunteers as well.
Shinjo ：In Rio, each volunteer received one set of uniform: a polo shirt, a trouser, a jacket, and athletic shoes. Polo shirts were great. I sweat a lot every day, but I stayed in a hotel with no washing machine. The shirts were made from a highly functional fabric, so they were dry by the next day by just washing them in a sink and hanging them to dry.
Ichii ：Wow, the uniforms have evolved! In Sydney, we had typical cotton polo shirts.
––– Is that a local newspaper, Ms. Ichii?
Ichii ：That’s right. This paper is from Sydney, and it lists the names of all volunteers. The headline in the paper reads, “47,000 Heroes,” meaning that the 47,000 volunteers who have contributed their time and energy to the Sydney Games are heroes. During the Olympics, the city put on a special parade for volunteers.
––– That’s fascinating! You can see that volunteers play a key role in the Games.
Ichii ：That’s right. The volunteers marched along the streets, lined with crowds of spectators holding up this paper. It was an experience unlike any other.
To be continued in the next volume "Your Omotenashi spirits for Tokyo 2020"