This past week I had the privilege of being a volunteer for the 2015 Pan Am Games and it was the most incredible experience. Not only did I have fun, not only did I get to cheer on Canadian athletes to the gold medal, but I feel so honoured to have been part of the team of 23 000 plus volunteers that made it all possible. It was the largest peace time deployment of volunteers in Canadian history. As I write this I’m watching the pre-program of the closing ceremony and its finally starting to hit me that I was there and I saw that race and I saw those athletes make the podium.
My journey started about a year ago when I signed up to become a volunteer online. Shortly after I received an invitation for a video interview. Six months later I received an email telling me I had been selected as a Event Services Host at the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Athletics Stadium; even though I knew that pretty much everyone who applied got accepted, I was overjoyed. I then completed online training modules, culminating in an in person training session on venue.
But first, the opening ceremonies. All volunteers received tickets to the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony featuring Cirque Du Soleil, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Canada’s National Circus School, Canada’s National Ballet School and Toronto Dance Theater. It was a spectacular show that included dance, acrobatics, bike stunts, music, a light show, pyrotechnics and fireworks.
My role entailed being a ‘host’ for the games – I interacted directly with athletes, coaches, journalists and photographers, and of course spectators. I rotated between being an access control monitor, checking that people had the correct accreditation required to enter key areas, and being an usher, helping direct people to their seats and other locations of interest such as bathrooms or concession stands. It is such a great feeling to be able to help, to be a part of a team of volunteers responsible for the games.
I got the chance to watch Canadian athletes go higher, faster, stronger; I was a part of the crowds that gave energy to the athletes to succeed. Crowds which were crazy enthusiastic and lent their fullest support to the athletes. I cheered and clapped and screamed and proudly sang Oh Canada when our athletes topped the podium.
As a volunteer, I also received lots of swag (the mug is the only item I purchased):
I’m so blessed to have been able to partake in this amazing experience and be part of something special and meaningful for my home city Toronto, my country Canada and for the entire Americas. The games touched not just the athletes but will leave behind a lasting legacy in Toronto in the form of state of the art training facilities, a greater awareness of sport and American culture, and memories to last a lifetime . Now all that’s left is to sit back and watch the closing ceremony.
I’m so so sad that’s it’s over, but since I’m a volunteer for the Parapan Am Games as well, I’ll get to do it all over again in two weeks time!
** All photographs are mine 🙂 **