Marina Khamitsevich is a volunteer at the YOG and she has fantastic behind the scenes curiosities to tell us.
I first assisted NOCs (National Olympic Committees) in the Olympic village of Rio 2016, serving as a bridge between the delegation - athletes, coaches, team officials - and the organizing committee. Lausanne 2020 is my second event in this capacity, and here are some of the insider’s impressions.
Volunteers’ community is a phenomenon itself. Aged 18 – 70, from all around the world, many having once tried the spirit of such an event, get kind of addicted and keep coming to wherever the new games take place. Indeed, it is such a fantastic bonus to meet here again my ex-co-assistant for team Croatia, as well as several Chefs de mission I worked with in Rio. Moreover, you never know whom else you are going to meet in the Olympic village: “I’ve just opened the door to the prince of Monaco!”- just another message to the NOC assistants chat.
Strong Focus on sustainability, Lausanne 2020 athletes are using public transport to go to competition venues. And not only there. Imagine the stadium-size building of Vortex, full of young athletes - laughing, making friends, exchanging pins. All have to be accompanied by just 16 volunteers and transported to the Opening ceremony at Vaudoise arena by metro! I’ll never forget the eyes of those lucky city metro passengers coming back home on that evening and having to squeeze a little bit when hundreds of international athletes jam-packed into the trains.
So many memories linked to Kosovo team that I was assisting this time. Small team - big challenges. When the official uniform was stuck at customs and then at boundless warehouse, there was a tangible risk for the athletes to miss the ride. We were hastily looking for possible solutions when the warehouse workers, who happened to have Kosovo origins, heard of the issue, so they searched among thousands of items to find what was needed and bring it directly to the village - just in time.
Very unfortunately, one athlete from Kosovo team broke her leg on the slope. Era was wearing that uniform for the very first time. At hospital, before the operation, despite the immense pain, she asked the doctor whether the Olympic suit could be kept and taken off her leg without cutting... Staying at hospital on her competitions day, Era got visited by people she never knew before, who brought her kilos of chocolate and tons of support. She certainly knew Thomas Back though, who also came to the village to greet and encourage the young Olympian.
Hard work and big dreams, the unexpected bitter that makes you stronger – a concentrated mixture of events and all kind of emotions packed in just one week. This is probably what makes that Olympic world and spirit so addictive.