Volunteer at the Paris Olympics: What’s It Take?

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Volunteer at the Paris Olympics: What’s It Take?
The Olympic Games would not function without the efforts of an army of volunteers. Whether it’s directing visitors around the venues, greeting dignitaries, offering an informal translation service to visitors, raking sand in the long jump pit or providing first aid medical care, volunteers do pretty much everything except compete in a sport. Right from the very birth of the modern Games, in 1896, volunteers have been vital in making sure they run smoothly. In the early days, it was associations like the Boy Scouts, the army and amateur sportspeople who fulfilled the role, but from the London Games in 1948 onward, members of the general public who had come forward to volunteer began to figure more prominently. But it still took until 1980 with the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid before volunteering started to take on its modern role, when the tasks of recruiting, training and managing volunteers were formally incorporated into the organizing committee’s charter. And as comparatively recently as 1992 the role of a volunteer was first explicitly defined in the report on the Barcelona Games. Since then, the number of volunteers for each Games has fluctuated between around 40,000 to an intended 80,000 for the 2021 Tokyo Games (the number was eventually reduced because of Covid restrictions).  The 1896 Olympics opening ceremony in the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens. Public domain. Paris, too, is relying on its volunteers to make sure the 2024 Olympics proceed as smoothly and hitch-free as possible. 45,000 people were required, and some people wondered if the French, known for their pessimistic outlook, would be bothered to get involved. They needn’t have worried: in total, 300,000 people applied. The 45,000 have been selected and now they are entering the final stages of the training process before being let loose on the millions of visitors who are expected to arrive in July and August.  One such volunteer is Jo. Originally from Wales, Jo lived in Hong Kong for nearly a quarter century before moving to Paris in 2022 with her French partner. Her professional background is in marketing and business development for law firms, but while living in Hong Kong she also became involved in organizing sporting events. In particular, she was a member of the organizing committee for the Hong Kong Dragon Run, an international surfski and outrigging competition. This experience, she believes, stood her in good stead when she applied to become a Paris Olympics volunteer. © Pat Hallam So why did she apply in the first place? “I had come to Paris because of my partner’s job,”  she explains. “But as I didn’t have a working visa I wasn’t eligible to work here, so applying to be a volunteer was a way of giving back something to the country that had welcomed me and had enabled me to stay here.” She adds, “Also, I had a couple of friends who had been volunteers at the London Olympics in 2012. They told me what a brilliant experience it was and the friends they’d made – and still have today. It really made me want to be part of the Paris experience.” 
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Lead photo credit : Paris 2024 held its Volunteer Convention at La Défense Arena. © Paris 2024- T.Lefèvre

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Pat Hallam fell in love with Paris when she was an adolescent. After many years of visiting, in 2020 she finally moved from the UK to live here and pursue her passion for the city. A freelance writer and history lover, she can spend hours walking the streets of this wonderful city finding hidden courtyards, bizarre and unusual landmarks and uncovering the centuries of history that exist on every street corner (well, almost). You can find the results of her explorations on Instagram @littleparismoments.