Cayman volunteer’s Olympics experience

Cayman volunteer Marzeta Bodden enjoys her three-week Olympics experience.

Marzeta Bodden

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. Then, short-listed 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. Six months later they started sending out invitations, and then about eight months after that we find ourselves here in Rio de Janeiro.

The selection process began in August 2014, with more than 240,000 people from around the world 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 of 2015.

It was an investment, as you can imagine. Of course there were the flights to come to Rio and accommodations. They provided one meal per day for us while we were working and then transportation to and from work on the days we were working. I think most volunteers spent about US$3,000 to $4,000, on average, to support this event.

Here, Jade Webster, Cayman International Olympic Committee press representative adds: With all funds coming out of her pocket, Bodden connected with a group of volunteers via the official Olympic Volunteer Facebook Page to find shared accommodations. The group of six shared an apartment located two hours from her work assignment venue. She commuted using two metro lines and two buses to and from her assigned venue each workday.

I was assigned to table tennis and my true love at the Games is gymnastics, athletics and swimming, so when I did not 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.

My appreciation for what they do has really deepened. 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.

Webster notes: With limited English speakers, Bodden, like many of the international community had to quickly 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, but three weeks in now, my ear is pretty good and I can understand it quite well, but I’m still getting there on the speaking. It’s been really good; the people have been fantastic. You see them light up a little when they see you in your uniform. Some people even said “oh thanks for supporting the Games” or they ask me what sport I’m working in and where I am from.

Webster noted that many people the world over questioned whether Brazil could host the 2016 Olympic Games, considering security problems and Zika fears.

All the eyes of the world are watching, a lot of people were working hard to make these Games happen in the best way possible, and I had to trust that. I can’t live my life in fear.

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’ve felt safe the entire time.

I definitely want to do this again. I think about how I am going to explain this experience when I get back home … no idea how! I can feel the excitement at work and then when I go to events as a spectator, that 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. I hope when the Games are over, the media will give them a high-five, deservedly.