Thank you VANOC and the IOC

21/03/2010

As I read (and weep) about the ending of the Paralympic Games today I have been thinking about my time out in BC as an Olympic volunteer.  I have tons of memories, good and not so good; made many new friends; taken over 4,500 photographs (which I am still sorting out); added to my pin collection; and many pieces of Olympic memorabilia – red mittens and Canada scarf (regretting that I didn’t buy the hat to match :(); a cow-bell and bear bells; a set of Petro Canada glasses (that didn’t break in transit back to Scotland!); and the gifts given to the volunteers by VANOC and the IOC.  We were given a couple of pin badges, glass coasters, a commemorative coin/medal, a stunning Birks Olympic key ring (which I plan to change to a necklace) and a Swatch watch when we finished our last shift.  All unexpected and very much appreciated by me.

Gifts from VANOC and IOC

I miss my colleagues and friends in the Village at Whistler and I hope they all had a great Paralympic Games, and I hope to see them again sometime.

I don’t however, miss the food in the workforce dining area.  It was some of the most unpleasant food I have ever tasted and was pleased we could use the meal vouchers at McDonalds.  I am sorry if that is too critical but I believe it is important to feed your volunteers properly, after all they are giving freely of their time and working hard to help deliver a successful Games.  Yes, the gifts are welcomed but the every day care of the volunteers is crucial, and food is a vital component.

In the coming weeks the Villages in both Vancouver and Whistler will be dismantled and the work completed to turn them into the homes that people have bought.

I was pleased to have been able to visit the Vancouver Village.  I didn’t get the opportunity to see inside the buildings due to the preparation for the Paralympics but the outside and surrounding area are very impressive.  The condos on False Creek in Vancouver will have magnificent views of the city and beyond to the mountains.

Vancouver Village

Vancouver Village

The houses in Whistler are situated in a lovely rural setting, surrounded by the mountains and trees.

The homes in Vancouver and Whistler are a lasting legacy of these Games and not many folk will be able to say that they had Olympic/Paralympic athletes staying in their homes. One day I hope to go back to Whistler to see how they area of the Village has been developed.

I also hope when I do return in the winter I will experience a Whistler winter and see the snow rather than the grass in the valley.

I have posted a few photos of both Villages here if you are interested.

Whistler Village

Whistler Village (with snow!!)

It’s over to you now London in 2012.  You have a hard act to follow, and I don’t mean Beijing.  Will the UK unite like Canada did?  Will the streets of London buzz like Vancouver and Whistler?  Will it rain for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games!?  Only time will tell.

And then we move onto 2014, a year of sport, when Sochi hosts the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup will be held at Gleneagles, Scotland.  Bring it on!


Thank you Whistler

04/03/2010

I would like to thank all those who I worked with in the Athletes Village in Whistler.  It was a real pleasure meeting you, getting to know you and working with you.

To Todd, thank you for everything and bringing me to Whistler.  I look forward to seeing you again, maybe even in Delhi in October.

Chris and Todd

To Jane, thank you for your help and patience.  Every day your smile cheered everyone up and nothing was a problem for you.

To Chris, thank you for your humour, you made me laugh.  Please look after yourself.

To Dave, Robbie, Siesta, Carly, Karen (times 2), Liz, Steph, Maureen, Martin, Susan, and any of the other volunteers I had the good fortune to work with, thank you for your friendship and good humour.  Our days were long but we maintained a positive outlook and we were ready to do it all again the next day.

Jane and Robbie

To each and every one of you, I really enjoyed working with you and hope that you all enjoy the Paralymics.  Also enjoy not hearing me over the walkie-talkie 🙂

Maybe our paths will cross again sometime, maybe in London or in Glasgow.


Time to go

02/03/2010

Today is my last shift as an Olympic volunteer.  It has been an interesting experience.  Once again I have loved being in Vancouver, and of course, Whistler.  This country never lets me down.  Okay, maybe the lack of new snow in Whistler but that is totally out with anyone’s control.  The weather has actually been fantastic for most of the Games and the pictures on television of the aerials against the clear blue sky looked fabulous.

The Games were a resounding success and the praise from the world’s media is very much deserved.  I am glad to see even the notorious British media had sense and agreed that these Games were not the disaster they were trying to make them in the first week.  I dread to think what damage they will try to inflict on London in the next two years.  Even Canada’s near neighbours, the USA, have been more than complimentary about the Games, even following their loss of the hockey Gold medal.

It has been a great experience for me to be part of the world’s greatest multi-sport event.  This was a fantastic opportunity to work within the Athletes Village, working with some great folk who have endless amounts of enthusiasm, commitment and always smiling, many of whom are continuing to work right through to the end of the Paralympic Games.

Did my experience as an Olympic volunteer turn out to be everything I expected…not quite.  Would I change anything about my role at the Olympics if I had the chance…yes, I would.  Would I volunteer at a future Olympic Games…absolutely!

The next Olympic Games are in London in 2010 and I am really interested in getting involved.  More importantly for Scotland, in 2014, Glasgow will host the 20th Commonwealth Games followed by the Ryder Cup.  I have interest in both events and I aim to be involved in them in some way.

I encourage anyone who has watched the Olympics on television or who has followed my journey through February on this blog who has a hankering to try volunteering for themselves to do it.  I always regret not going to Sydney in 2000 and vowed never to miss an opportunity like this again.

If you are interested in volunteering at a future multi-sport event such as the Olympics or Commonwealth Games you can find further information at the following links:

London 2012 – http://www.london2012.com/get-involved/volunteering/index.php

Glasgow 2014 – http://www.volunteerglasgow.org/sport/ (the new Glasgow 2014 website will be launched soon)


Thoughts with the people of Chile

28/02/2010

Yesterday I assisted some of the members of the team from Chile with their luggage as the were leaving the Athletes Village in Whistler to head to Vancouver for the Closing Ceremony before flying home to Chile.  We spoke about the recent earthquake in their country and I wished them a safe journey and that their families were safe at home.


Day 2 and the first Gold medal of the Games goes to…

14/02/2010

I had a very early start to my day yesterday…4:15am!!!!  I was interviewed again on CBC news and they were keen to do an early morning slot before 5am (8am Eastern).  I was up and trying to look bright eyed and bushy tailed (where does that daft expression come from?).  The questions on this occasion were my views on the Opening Ceremony, Canadians and the Olympics; and volunteering.

I did my first early shift yesterday and was kept going all day.  It was great being on the ‘front line’ helping athletes and officials with any queries they may have, and there are many and no two are the same.  We deal with lost and found and we are beginning to build up a good stock of items ranging from gloves, sun glasses, phones, shoes, clothing and skis!!

Last night the Olympic Flame was glowing in Whistler and there was many people out and about the Village watching the festivities, even although it was a bit damp.

Olympic Flame in Whistler

Under the Olympic rings a tribute has been set up in memory of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili who died while practicing on Friday.  There are many flowers, messages and pin badges from around the world been laid.  And the Olympic and Canada flags are at half mast.

It was interesting to see so many nationalities walking about Whistler, all decked out in the colours of their nations, and everyone is enjoying one another’s company, chatting and taking photographs with one another.  There is a great buzz in the village and it will no doubt build as the week progresses.

Simon Ammann from Switzerland won the Games first Gold medal in ski jumping.  And Canada missed out on its first Gold when Hannah Kearney (USA) pipped Jennifer Heil in the freestyle skiing moguls.  Well done Jenn in winning the Silver medal.

Simon Ammann, Switzerland


Let the Games begin

12/02/2010

The day has come, the time is now.  I, like many Canadians, have waited on today for a very long time, since July 2003.  I am so excited to be here, at this time, to be part of the greatest show on earth.

Today I saw the Olympic Torch again, this time it was running through the streets of Vancouver.  Everyone was excited to see it.  The people were cheering the Torch bearers as they ran past, then wanting their photo taken with a used Torch to say they held the Olympic Torch.

Patriotism is everywhere, from the elderly man I saw on the train today proudly wearing his Olympic sweatshirt and matching baseball hat right down to the little baby with its wee red and white toque on.

There are Canadian flags everywhere, hanging from homes, office blocks, construction sites, restaurants, from car windows, kids walking along the street, even the buses have ‘Go, Canada, Go’ flashing on the front.  Canadians are not always known for showing their passion for their nation but I think it is fair to say that, from what I have seen, the mask has slipped and the true Canuck is being revealed to the world, and it is as clear as the maple leaf painted on their faces.

Welcome to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

The Olympic Flame



Only 1 day and 18 hours to go – where does the time go?

11/02/2010

Sorry for not posting yesterday’s proceedings before now.  I had a very long day in the Village, I didn’t get home until 00:40 and I had to get up early to catch the 08:20 bus to Vancouver to get down in time to attend tonight’s Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal.

I am saying nothing about the rehearsal as it is a secret until Friday when the audience in BC Place and the billions watching around the world will see it for themselves.  All I will say to those reading this blog, and attending the OC on Friday, please consider taking an extra layer to wear, it was a tad chilly in BC Place tonight.

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I had a great time in the Village yesterday.  I was assigned to the Resident Services HQ, helping answering queries behind the front desk.  I am not sure I was there a great deal of the time because I was out and about helping teams with one thing or another.

My first task was to help Korea put up their flag on the front of their accommodation, which required a ladder, a hammer, some nails and a Scottish/Korean translation book!  I sourced the items to do the task and it then took the next 40 mins or so to complete the task.  The Korean officials had many discussions about where and how they wanted the flags hung.  After much deliberation and instruction we finally nailed a huge flag, that would probably carpet my entire flat, to the outside of the building.

Job done I thought.  Nope, I was nabbed by Greece to do the same thing with them.  With them there was much discussion about exactly where to hang the flag, to the right, to the left, no, in the centre was the final resting place.

On both occasions, even although there were slight language challenges, we all had a laugh about what were trying to do.  I was just pleased to assist where possible.

After this I helped out in the laundry centre to allow a fellow volunteer to have a break then dinner.  I moved luggage, arranged to have some trees trimmed, learned how to enter tasks to be done into the computer database and few other things.  The time just flew past and it was 23:00 before I knew what was going on.  After chatting with a few folk I finally caught the bus at 23:50 to Creekside then it seemed to take me an eternity to climb the hill to the house, getting in at 00:40.  I was still wide awake so I did some packing to save me doing it in the morning.

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When standing waiting for the Greyhound bus this morning snow was blowing in the wind.  The expectation is that by Saturday it will be  stormy with some snow.  Due to this forecast the organisers of the downhill have decided to bring the event forward a few hours on Saturday to try and avoid the worst of the weather.

That’s your lot for now, I’m away to bed.