Olympic volunteer ready to help again

| 24/08/2016
CNS Local Life

Marzeta Bodden at the Rio Olympics

(CNS): Caymanian Marzeta Bodden was not an Olympic athlete but her three-week attendance in Rio proved vital to the running of the Games as one of the 50,000 volunteers who donated their time to help facilitate the event. She recalled the lengthy process to get chosen as a volunteer. “I applied about two years ago. I had to complete an application form with the usual things you would when applying for a job: your background, history, interests, and why you want to volunteer,” Bodden said.

“Then shortlisted applicants had to go through a seven-step process which involved testing, interviews, small mini projects and activities; that process took another eight months or so.”

Invitations were sent six months later, which was eight months before the Olympics actually began.

The worldwide selection process began in August 2014, with more than 240,000 people applying for the 50,000 positions available. While the majority of candidates were from Brazil, there was also a strong international presence of about 10,000 volunteers. The successful applicants, representing 191 countries, began receiving their letters of invitation in November 2015.

“It was an investment as you can imagine,” Bodden said, explaining she had to pay for her flights and accommodations, though local transportation and one meal were covered on her workdays. “I think most volunteers spent about US$3,000-US$4,000, on average, to support this event.”

Bodden connected with a group of volunteers via the Olympic Volunteer Facebook Page to find shared accommodations. Her group of six found an apartment located two hours from her work-assignment venue. She commuted using two metro lines and two buses each workday.

“I was assigned to table tennis and my true love at the Games is gymnastics, athletics and swimming so when I didn’t get one of those I was kind of bummed. I was like, ‘All right, fine, table tennis it is’. I came here and really got to appreciate the athleticism, the strategy, and the technique of these athletes.

“…While watching the women’s singles gold medal match live, it was almost like I developed an instant love for this sport. It just goes to show all these disciplines at the Games are absolutely incredible in their own way and that golden moment was almost like a turning point for me in terms of the work that I was actually doing in table tennis.”

With few English speakers available, Bodden, like many of the international community, quickly had to learn essential Portuguese words, such as “oi” (hello), “obrigado” (thank you) and “tchau” (goodbye).

“The language barrier was a lot bigger than I thought it would be,” she said, adding that after three weeks she was able to understand it “quite well”, but speaking the language was more of a challenge.

She said that the people in Rio were “fantastic” and would “light up a little” when they saw her in her uniform. “Some people even said, ‘Oh, thanks for supporting the Games’”, or asked what sport she was working in and where she was from.

As to the pre-Olympics fears about zika and safety, she said, “Of course I had concerns, my biggest one was security because I knew about the budget cuts. There are a lot of people who have been working really hard to make these Games happen, to make them really successful and very safe. So I came and the minute I stepped off the plane, the level of security was amazing and (I) felt safe the entire time.”

Bodden said she was looking forward to sharing her “indescribable experience” with family and friends, adding, “I definitely want to do this again.”

She recalled the excitement she felt both working at the Olympics and watching various events. “(T)hat feeling of seeing someone jump higher than they have, run faster than they have before, just feeling the crowd and the pride, there are no words to describe it.

“I really hope the world and the media really applaud and celebrate Rio. They have overcome tremendous challenges to make these Games happen. It hasn’t come without its faults here and there but they have been able to deliver a Games and the country and its people should be applauded. I’m very proud of what they’ve done here despite everything that has happened.”

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Category: Sports

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