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Volunteers already eyeing up London, Sochi Olympics



Many volunteers for the Winter Games in Whistler are having such a good time they are already planning to work for future Olympic Games.

Phil Youwe is one of those enthusiasts.

On Friday morning, wearing a blue volunteer jacket and toque, the B.C. Forest Service worker from Kamloops said the Olympics have exceeded his expectations, not just in terms of organization but also in terms of the overall atmosphere.

"Whistler is really doing an awesome job and people I've talked to have said this is one of the better Games they have been too," said Youwe, who is volunteering with the transportation department.

"This morning I picked up a man from the Netherlands and took him to the sliding centre and he just commented how fantastic our transportation system was."

Youwe lives near Sun Peaks, B.C. and has always enjoyed winter sports.

He decided to sign up with the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) because he worked with the World Biathlon Championships last March and thought he had something to offer. And even though this is the first Olympic Games, he is already planning to apply for a job with the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.

"It is a global village with people from all walks of life brought together by sport, and everyone is open to conversations and sharing their experiences and meeting people," he said. "It is just a fantastic opportunity."

Pat Treacher from Vancouver echoed Youwe's enthusiasm, adding she has her eye on the Summer Olympics in London in 2012.

"It is a great experience," said Treacher, who is volunteering at the athletes' village. "I actually took time off work for this so it is a lifetime experience for me. I have always wanted to do this."

Treacher said she is meeting people from all over the world and the volunteers say "Hi" to each other and get together sometimes for lunch. She is not sure if she'll keep in touch with the other volunteers she met because most people are retired and she is a full-time working mother, but she is still having a great time.

Most volunteers hail from across Canada, although there are Americans, Australians and Europeans also lending a hand.

Ann Doherty-Amantea from Calgary said she has wanted to volunteer with the Olympics ever since the 1988 Games in her city.

"I was part of the 1988 Olympics, just as a spectator, so I thought if it ever came to Canada again I would stick my heart and soul in it," said Doherty-Amantea, who is a home-stay team leader. She said her experience has been fantastic so far.

"I completely love it. People are great. The country has come together and the world has come together. There was such speculation before the Games, so it is nice to see it so wonderful."

Not everyone wants to volunteer again, however.

J'anne Greenwood from Vancouver and Whistler said while she is having a great time, her last volunteer shifts will be with the Paralympics.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure, but I certainly wouldn't like to do it again," said Greenwood, who is volunteering at the Whistler Sliding Centre. "It is different than your usual habit of life."

Greenwood was on her sixth day of volunteering without a day off on Friday. Her stint included a couple of 11-hour days so she said it has been hard to catch up on sleep.

She originally decided to volunteer because of her strong connection to Whistler.

"Actually my mother had some part in encouraging the 1968 Games to come," said Greenwood. "She has long since passed away, of course, but I felt that Canada should put on a good show and I would like to welcome people to Whistler.

"I am enjoying the volunteering, but it is a bit tiring and a bit hectic," she added.