Olympic games and many other sport events can not be held without volunteers. In Rio in 2016 there were around 50.000 (!) volunteers and for the winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang more than 20.000 volunteers are required. Being a volunteer at such event is a life time experience and if you love sport, international community and volunteering, you should definitely try!
The application period starts very early (around 2 years in advance) and closes around 1,5 year before the games. I applied in November 2014 to volunteer in Rio in August 2016. The first step in the application process is rather easy: you need to fill out online form with basic questions about yourself and your motivation (you don’t have to write an essay, there are only couple of lines required – but be sure you try your best in expressing your genuine interest in volunteering).
An important question to answer is your preferred volunteer role. There are many areas that require volunteers and you normally need to choose 2-3 of them. These areas include: language services, medical services, accommodation, transport, press and communications, technology, delegation support, opening and closing ceremonies, protocol, spectator support etc. You should choose the areas where you have experience and where you would like to work the most. Obviously, some areas have more demand than the others (like language services, press or delegation support) and it is harder to get selected for them. If you want to be a volunteer at the Olympics no matter what, then select as your first choice your preferred area and as the 2nd and 3rd option something that is less popular. If having an interesting role is very important for you and you only consider volunteering when doing cool stuff, then apply only for what you like. I have applied for Language Services as my first choice.
After you submit your application you will have to do several online tests. As I have listed multiple foreign languages in my application, I had to do tests in 4 of them (English, German, Spanish and Italian.) It was a bit annoying to do all of that, but well, they have to test you =) Additionally there were some online courses that I had to take as well.
In July 2015 I got an invitation for an online interview. For that in my account on the volunteer portal I could select a time slot that was convenient for me. What I did not expect was that interview would not be held with me alone! We were 6 people on the call and it was quite hard to hear others and to communicate. In the beginning each of us had to introduce her/himself and say a couple of words about her/his motivation. We were also asked about our favorite sport and our favorite athlete. Then there was a group task: if I remember it correctly, we had to come up with a cheerful volunteer song. That was not easy at all! We had several minutes to discuss the lyrics for our song and the melody. And then to try singing it all together and to perform it for our interviewer. That was a mess… As always there were people who were silent and did not contribute to the process and other people who were actively trying to do the task. Be sure you are the one who is actively participating! Suggest your ideas, listen to the ideas of others, keep track of the discussed proposals, summarize, keep track of time and influence the group’s dynamic. In general show your ability to solve problems and do it in a group.
In November 2015 I got an email that I was approved to be part of the volunteer team!
After that in December 2015 I was invited for another online meeting via Webex. This time it was a meeting with my Language Services team. There were several people again and we were told about our area and common tasks that we could expect. We were also told that if we had any preferences for particular sport, we could send them an email and they would try to allocate us to the corresponding venues (but with no promise). They particularly named artistic gymnastics as highly demanded sport, but I still applied for that =) I have emailed them naming 3 preferred sports (artistic gymnastics, basketball and tennis).
In the end of January I have received my final confirmation: I was allocated to Rio Olympic Arena! It was exactly the place where artistic gymnastics was going to be held! Yeii! I had 6 days to accept the invitation and I happily did it.
There were several courses that were waiting for me before I could start my volunteer journey. They were easy, but each one took like 45 minutes. These courses were about history of Olympic games, about Olympic values, rules, security, diversity etc. They would give you examples of different situations that you could encounter in your daily volunteer work and show you how you should manage them. In general I found it quite useful even though I had to spend like 5 hours doing the training.
After all admission formalities were solved, I bought my insanely expensive ticket to Rio in April 2016 and was looking forward to the Olympic adventure ^_^