When someone finds out I was a volunteer at the 2016 Olympic Games, the first question typically is "How did you get to do that?" Attending the Olympics had always been a dream of mine and one day while getting lost on the internet, as I often do, I stumbled across information on becoming a volunteer at the 2016 Olympics. After just a short glance at the basic information and requirements, I decided to apply. The process was fairly simple. You created an account on the portal, filled out all sorts of information about yourself, and then submitted it. On January 8, 2015, I finished my application and submitted it with the mindset that I wouldn't get accepted due to the competition. There were more than 240,000 applications submitted with only around 50,000 lucky chosen ones (initially they were aiming for 70,000).
Over the next several months I completed additional tasks, activities, and required documents. The next major step was a Skype interview which was scheduled for August 22nd. Leading up to the interview, I didn't know what to expect. I had never had a Skype interview before nor had I been a part of any previous Olympic Games. August 22nd quickly arrived and the interview went much better than anticipated. It was a group "interview" and was more of just a quick chat and overview of the volunteer process. Fast forward a couple more months to November 2015 and the highly anticipated Letter of Invitation phase had begun. It was during this phase, if you were chosen, when you would receive a letter to serve at the games.
The Waiting Game
At this point in time, opening my inbox multiple times a day became a habit as I anxiously awaited to hear if I was accepted or not. At last, on November 30th I opened my inbox to find the much-anticipated email saying "You have been approved to be part of our team!" The past 11 months had felt like an eternity and I was glad to be done waiting. Well, come to find out, this was just the beginning of another 6+ month stressful waiting period. While the email confirmed I was invited, it wasn't really official until I received a formal letter with my assignment and start date. During this additional waiting period, those who were invited to be volunteers began online Portuguese lessons through EducationFirst as well as various other pieces of training such as the history of the games, cultural diversity, customer service, etc.
As August 2016 drew closer, I, along with many of the volunteers, grew frustrated playing the waiting game. With the games quickly approaching, airline tickets were beginning to rise, affordable accommodation options were slipping away, and sporting event tickets were disappearing. And yet, many volunteers still didn't have a definite answer on the date they needed to be in Brazil. Email inquiries sent to the organization were simply met with "We apologize for the delay. You'll receive yours in the next month." With time running out, a lack of information, and my hatred for procrastination and last minute planning, the last week of May 2016 I purchased my plane ticket to Rio, began finalizing accommodation plans, and bought tickets to various sporting events.
On June 15th, 2016, a mere 50 days before the opening ceremony, I received an official letter with my job position (Laser Operator at the Olympic Golf Course), training dates, and work schedule. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders and it became a reality that I was going to be a part of history at the first Olympic Games in South America! After a year and a half process of ups and downs, my dream of attending the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro was set in stone. A month after receiving my official letter, I was on a plane to breathtaking Rio de Janeiro to embark on an amazing journey of a lifetime!