Olympic Volunteer Timeline from Vancouver

So, you’re considering volunteering for an upcoming Olympics. But how does the timing actually work? How do you become a volunteer? This information is based on my volunteer experience during the Vancouver Games. Of course every host city has different details, but I think that the various International Olympic Committees, or IOCs, generally follow the same basic blueprint.

The initial volunteer call for Vancouver, a winter Games, was to recruit 25,000 volunteers. The summer Games have more events, and need more volunteers. London had about 70,000 volunteers. It’s safe to say, you’ll need patience with the timing of communication and the whole recruitment process.

In a nutshell, you need to think ahead two years. Read on for all the details.

Feel free to jump around to the linked parts that interest you the most.

~~~~~
Contents – Skip to:
1. General and detailed Timeline
2. Volunteering: Schedule logistics
3. Volunteering: Uniform and clothing
4. Volunteering: Breakdown of a shift
5. Volunteering: Free goodies and perks
~~~~~

1a. General timeline of recruitment for 2010

This broad timeline was originally provided by VANOC to volunteer applicants.

  • 2008: Volunteer applications start
  • Spring 2009 to Winter 2009: Volunteer offers sent out
  • Summer 2009 to Winter 2009: Scheduling of volunteer shifts
  • Summer 2009 to February/March 2010: Job-specific and then venue-specific training
  • Winter 2009/2010: Uniform distribution and accreditation
  • February/March 2010: Olympic and Paralympic Games

And here were the volunteer shift requirements for 2010:

  • Olympic Games period of February 12-28, 2010

Be available and work a minimum of 13 shifts during the Olympic Games.

  • Paralympic Games period of March 12-21, 2010

Be available and work a minimum of 8 shifts during the Paralympic Games.

1b. Here’s how my recruitment experience went: A timeline of my application process

This info is listed as a reverse timeline to help you decide if the timing and time commitment involved in becoming a volunteer will work for you.

A. Pre-Games volunteer positions

– Two years before the 2010 Games (approximately) –

Late 2007 / Early 2008 (? Best guess) to late 2009 / 2010

  • Guess what? Many behind-the-scenes roles in the volunteer juggernaut of filling 25,000 positions, like the people who process applications, the people who initially interview you, the people who run the orientation sessions, et cetera, are also (Pre-Games) volunteers.

B. Olympic Games volunteer positions

Two years before the Games

February 2008

  • The initial call went out for 25,000 Games volunteers.

October 2008

  • Filled out the online application form,
  • Received email confirmation of my application,
  • Received log-in access to the volunteer site.

October through December 2008

  • You may receive a telephone chat/interview.
  • I can’t remember if I got a call, so it was likely short and informal.

Olympic Games volunteer positions

One year before the Games, January 2009

Received an invitation to a three hour session for:

  • Orientation,
  • Interview,
  • General training,
  • Submit your security check form.
  • Attending this session was required to move ahead in the recruitment process.

10 months before the Games, April 2009

  • Applied to the volunteer Ceremonies Performer audition.
  • This was a separate application from the regular volunteer Games application made in 2008.

April through Late 2009

  • Games volunteer roles assigned and volunteer offers sent out.
  • I received my Games volunteer offer in July 2009.

9 months before the Games, May 2009

  • Attended a Ceremonies Performer audition session.

7 months before the Games, July 2009

  • Received my Games volunteer position offer:
    A Host position in Event Services at one of the sport venues.
  • Four weeks deadline to accept or decline the offered volunteer role.

6 months before the Games, August 2009

  • End of the deadline to accept Games volunteer offer.
  • My offer was in my first choice of working at the skating venue, so it was an easy decision for this figure skating fan.
  • Received email confirmation that I accepted the volunteer role.

Olympic Games volunteer positions

5 months before the Games, Late September 2009

  • Received the result of volunteer Ceremonies Performer audition – no offer.
  • Note the gap in the audition results for the Ceremonies Performers and the Games volunteer offer. The timing didn’t allow for considering two offers, and I only got one offer, anyway.

3 months before the Games, November 2009

  • Attended the functional area training session for Event Services. (For more recent Games, these sessions may be delivered in an online format).

November through December 2009

  • Volunteer schedules sent out.

2 months before the Games, December 2009

  • Created an online ticketing account in advance of the figure skating practice sessions sale date.
  • Purchased my practice session ticket for one of my days off.
    $30, Visa only.

December 2009 through January 2010

Attended the uniform and accreditation session. One hour session included:

  • Take your photo, accreditation card is printed.
  • Try on uniform garments, request your sizes.
  • A tote bag was provided to carry everything in.
  • Some branded items were available for purchase (example: a $50 backpack).

1 month before the Games, January 2010

  • Attended the sport venue training. (For more recent Games, these sessions may be delivered in an online format).
  • Received a volunteer invitation to attend the Opening Ceremonies dress rehearsal.

Early February 2010

  • Picked up the complimentary Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal ticket.

Mid February 2010

  • Attended the paid figure skating practice session on one of my days off.
    Note: it was assigned seating.

OLYMPIC GAMES, FEBRUARY 2010

  • Volunteer shifts begin,
  • Olympic Games Opening Ceremony,
  • Olympic Sports Events,
  • Olympic Games Closing Ceremony,
  • Volunteer shifts end.
    Your last shift may be scheduled before the closing ceremony.

Late February 2010

  • Received a volunteer discount offer on the Paralympic Opening Ceremonies tickets.

March 2010

  • Volunteer appreciation letter email received.
  • Log-in to print volunteer participation certificate.

PARALYMPIC GAMES, MARCH 2010

  • Volunteer shifts begin,
  • Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony,
  • Paralympic Sports Events,
  • Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony.
  • Volunteer shifts end.

Your last shift may be scheduled before the closing ceremony.

Post-Games, June 2010

  • Received volunteer discount offer to buy the hardcover commemorative book direct from the publisher, with free shipping.
    I bought my copy via Amazon because I had a gift card balance.

~ Pin for later ~

Olympic volunteer timeline from Vancouver

 

~~~~~
Contents – Skip to:
1. General and detailed Timeline
2. Volunteering: Schedule logistics
3. Volunteering: Uniform and clothing
4. Volunteering: Breakdown of a shift
5. Volunteering: Free goodies and perks
~~~~~

2. Volunteering: Schedule logistics

The volunteer shift requirements for 2010 were:

  • Olympic Games period of February 12-28, 2010

Be available and work a minimum of 13 shifts during the Olympic Games.

  • Paralympic Games period of March 12-21, 2010

Be available and work a minimum of 8 shifts during the Paralympic Games.

Note that recruitment for:

  • Pre-Games Volunteers,
  • Olympic Games Volunteers,
  • Olympic Ceremonies Performer Volunteers,
  • Paralympic Games Volunteers,
  • Paralympic Ceremonies Performer Volunteers,
    were all separate processes (fill in separate applications, attend different training sessions, etc.)

With the timing and commitment, my friend WAS able to combine a Games volunteer position with a Paralympic Opening Ceremonies Performer position. So, she became a volunteer for two different streams.

If given the opportunity to view all available shifts in the role or functional team, it’s a good idea to sign in and view all the shifts.
Example: Cross off your availability for a 12 hour shift.

Any requested days off were not guaranteed. As a member of the Event Services team, a huge team of a few hundred people, I did get my two requested days off, though.

Some shifts before the Opening Ceremonies may be slow and not busy. You might get to leave your shift earlier than your slotted time if your supervisor offers it. This didn’t seem to happen frequently at the sport event venue though, since the athletes have practice sessions before the Games start.

Example of Olympic Volunteer shift schedule

Here was my schedule, if you’re curious. [Click to view larger]

~~~~~
Contents – Skip to:
1. General and detailed Timeline
2. Volunteering: Schedule logistics
3. Volunteering: Uniform and clothing
4. Volunteering: Breakdown of a shift
5. Volunteering: Free goodies and perks
~~~~~

3. Volunteering: Uniform and clothing

  • There were uniform samples to try on for size, but you may not receive your preference.

2010 Uniform:

  • Accreditation on a lanyard (wear at all times),
  • Knit hat,
  • Jacket,
  • Fleece zip vest,
  • Solid long sleeve t-shirt,
  • Pattern long sleeve t-shirt,
  • Pair of pants (mountain venue volunteers received ski pants).

I think the pants sizing may have been a real issue for some of the female volunteers, because some wore black pants or black leggings the whole time. I did end up mixing in a pair of black pants towards the end, since so many others did with no issue. Also, since the uniform pants were navy, it wasn’t too much of a difference.

  • Fleece scarf
    As covered in the freebies and perks section, we received gifts at pre-selected shift numbers (example: everyone got a volunteer gift at, say, shift #7). This was not something I knew about ahead of time. I really appreciated the scarf because I was always cold on outdoor shifts.
  • Screw top mug with handle
    I didn’t use mine at all. I preferred to carry water (provided) as I could toss the bottle into my bag.

Bags: purse / bag / backpack
While your volunteer handbook may specify what seem like strict policies, particularly with logos, in my experience these were preferred guidelines, but not absolute ‘you can’t wear that.’

Technically, any logos that weren’t the Olympic logos were supposed to be taped over. I don’t think I saw anyone actually do this, though. An Olympic branded backpack available for purchase ($50) was pointed out to volunteers to use while on shift.

I used a non-Olympic branded bag without any issues. I turned it logo-side in facing my body, as a concession to the logo policy. There are zipped pockets on the jackets, but I preferred just using a bag. There was no locker or locked room to keep any belongings in.

Host shifts were both indoors and outside, so having a bag was also a place to stash the hat, scarf, gloves, extra clothing layers when indoors. You may also need to carry and operate a radio, so having all of that stuff in a bag keeps your hands free for that as well.

Shoes
Comfy sneakers all the way. While the uniform preference was for dark shoes, mine were not, and it wasn’t an issue. Basically, there wasn’t a uniform police, especially if you’re in a large venue with hundreds of other people.

Shopping / Souvenirs
If you plan on picking up branded souvenirs, you might want to hold off to see what you receive during your shifts, if any. Also, retail prices WILL drop, if you can wait. I picked up a mascot key chain at 30% off near the opening ceremonies date, and a hoodie at 50% off, near the end of the Games.

~~~~~
Contents – Skip to:
1. General and detailed Timeline
2. Volunteering: Schedule logistics
3. Volunteering: Uniform and clothing
4. Volunteering: Breakdown of a shift
5. Volunteering: Free goodies and perks
~~~~~

4. Volunteering: Breakdown of a shift

Wear your accreditation ID, lanyard included, at all times during shifts.

  • Arrive on site, go through security.
  • Check into your shift at the check in station.
    (Receive volunteer gift if applicable),
    Grab a complimentary bottled water.

Everybody gathers and sits down for the briefing:

  • Volunteer lead supervisor will go over feedback / issues from the previous day.
  • Break into teams: You are counted off into teams for the shift and assigned your supervisor and smaller group for the day.

Breaks
The supervisor assigns meal break times to your group. You might get to choose a preference for AM or PM meal time.

At the venue, the break time for a full shift (likely minimum eight hours) was:

  • one 30 minute meal break
  • one 10 minute break
  • one 20 minute break

The sport venue had a meal area (which not all roles and venues do).

  • Sandwiches and soups were available from a rotating menu, with a fridge stocked with Coca Cola products. I always picked PM meal break times (I don’t like taking breaks too ‘early’), so I don’t know how the AM meal compared. Probably a breakfast sandwich of some sort?

Duties
In Olympic lingo:

Functional Area – Event Services
Volunteer Role – Host

The Host role was indoors and outdoors, and included:

OUTSIDE
Guest lines,
Traffic control,
Staff/Athlete Security Tent,
(Area/Door) Monitor.

INSIDE
Ticket scan,
Usher,
(Area/Door) Monitor.

~~~~~
Contents – Skip to:
1. General and detailed Timeline
2. Volunteering: Schedule logistics
3. Volunteering: Uniform and clothing
4. Volunteering: Breakdown of a shift
~~~~~

5. Volunteering: Free goodies and perks

  • The volunteer accreditation was good for free transit fare before and during the Games, nice.
  • A free Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal ticket was offered.
  • A discount was offered on Paralympic Opening Ceremony tickets.
  • A pair of free tickets to a WHL hockey game. This was a venue-specific volunteer offer only.
  • A discount offer on the official commemorative book, With Glowing Hearts, with free shipping if purchased directly from the publisher. I ended up using Amazon as I had a gift card balance there.

On pre-selected shifts (say, shifts #4, #9, #13, etc.), we received volunteer gifts. It was a nice surprise! The standouts to me, were the fleece scarf (SO practical since the uniform didn’t include one), and a larger size mascot toy.

I don’t know if any of these perks are ‘standard’ for volunteers (hopefully, the free transit is?); your experience may be quite different.

And of course, if you are placed in a sport venue, and actually follow/know said sport, it’s fun to spot who else is watching and attending the event.

Hope that helps you with your early planning, potential and future Olympic volunteers.

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