UCFB student blog – Charlene Oliver: My Rio Olympic journey
UCFB Wembley student Charlene Oliver has just returned from an amazing month in Rio de Janeiro where she was a volunteer at the Olympic Games.
Charlene, who studies BA (Hons) Stadium & Events Management, spent 12 days at the Hockey Arena in the ticket centre helping with spectator enquiries and guiding them to their seats. During her time in Rio, she met officials from a variety of different bodies which meant she was able to volunteer at other events too and gain access to watch some of the Games’ highlights, including Usain Bolt’s 100m gold medal and Mo Farah’s famous 10,000m win.
Below, she gives us a daily look at the life of a volunteer at the biggest sporting event in the world.
Charlene said: “My advice to all UCFB students is to always follow your dreams and take risks. You never know what experiences you will have. Volunteering is powerful and I urge everyone to try it because the benefits are priceless. I hope to see some of you at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo!”
Day 1, 07/08/16 – First shift at the Olympic Hockey Centre
It has been an eventful trip in Rio de Janeiro so far. The first day travelling to work at the Hockey Centre wasn’t straight forward due to the authorities closing the nearest train station. I spent most of the day speaking to tourists in English as the Brazilians speak very little. I am learning more and more Portuguese each day.
I was checking tickets for the afternoons games on pitches one and two and directing spectators to the various sectors of the stadium. Once the matches started I would start to walk around and check the stadium and seats, and also try and help spectators putting to good use the Portuguese I had learnt so far.
The Brazilian volunteers are extremely friendly and try to communicate even though they don’t speak English.
My shift ended around 9:30pm, and it took me over 90 minutes to get back to my accommodation. The military closed Teodoro station as it was a Sunday – there was a lack of communication with the transport system as it should have been extended for the Olympics. Luckily, there was a large group of us waiting at the train station.
I also received two free tickets to watch the boxing as a thank you to volunteers. I am also planning to purchase tickets to the Athletics on August 18th.
Day 2, 08/08/16 – Free boxing tickets
I was lucky enough to see some of the boxing today, with fights including Ireland v Spain at the Rio Centro indoor arena.
I then started my next shift at the Hockey Centre which began with assisting spectators and directing them to their sections of the stadium. I was responsible for checking each person’s ticket for the afternoon’s schedule of games on pitches one and two.
Team GB women were in action against India and beat them 3-0. I was located on Pitch One to watch the game as well as the second evening game between Spain and China. I had more of a stewarding role today to make sure everyone was seated and not restricting other spectator’s view of the field of play.
My hockey ticketing team mates are teaching me Portuguese every time they see me. I am really enjoying the experience and learning more every day.
Day 3, 09/08/16 – Hockey, Brazil v Team GB
My third day volunteering in Rio. It has been an amazing experience so far to be involved in the biggest event in the world. It’s been interesting to learn a new sport in hockey which I had no previous interest in. Also, the vast difference between London 2012 and Rio 2016, such as the organisation of crowds and signage has been noticeable.
Today’s role involved team members containing spectators in a certain area of the stadium primarily for the cameras. I was stewarding for most of this shift, not allowing spectators to sit in certain areas of the stadium. The first game of the evening was Team GB v Brazil men, a sold out event.
The Brazilians were in full force singing and chanting all game, and despite losing 9-1, the crowds were still cheering on their team.
The second game involved Belgium v Australia, which finished 1-0 to Belgium. Most spectators had left for this game, and I finished my shift around 10pm as I had to wait until most spectators had left.
Day 4, 10/08/16 – Basketball
Today I received my stadium upgrade pass! After speaking with my manager I received an accreditation which allows me to experience the different stadiums and events within the Deodoro Olympic Park. I have access to the Youth Arena which is hosting Basketball and USA women were playing Serbia in the preliminary rounds of the competition.
The arena was nearly full and had a great atmosphere from the Americans, and of course the Brazilians cheering on the underdogs Serbia. It was an exciting game which finished 110-84 to USA. My role at the Youth Arena involved more stewarding and added to the great Brazilian atmosphere I’ve experienced so far. It was great to see one of my favourite sports played live.
Later this afternoon I returned to the Hockey Centre to scan tickets and direct spectators to their seats as well as welcoming and directing with a loudspeaker.
Team GB men were taking on Australia and I met some amazing British spectators in full costume!
Day 5, 11/08/16 – Hockey heating up
Team GB men are out of the Olympics but the women’s team are going very well. Today I checked the stadium and spectators’ tickets allocations, and managed to watch the match between Team GB women and Japan. Team GB won 2-0 and proving a force in the tournament.
Some volunteers were given free tickets to the handball and I was lucky enough to be one of them. Another exciting opportunity has been presented to me to work on the modern pentathlon, an event I know very little about. A volunteer working at Deodoro Stadium which hosts the rugby sevens mentioned their manager would need assistance on this event and my experience is a benefit. I’m looking forward to trying something new in the last week of the Games.
Day 6, 12/08/16 – Day off and handball
I went to a handball game at the Olympic Park to watch Romania v Spain which was a great game and sat next to the Romanian coaching staff pitch side. After the game I visited the Rio 2016 Fan Fest with live performances from a Samba Band.
Day 7, 13/08/16 – Super Saturday
After volunteering today, I went to the Olympic Stadium to watch the athletics. Greg Rutherford winning bronze in the long jump, the amazing Mo Farah winning gold in the 10,000m and Jessica Ennis-Hill dramatic 800m race which saw her win silver in the heptathlon. It was amazing to be there with so many Team GB fans in the stadium. Many Brazilians left the stadium before the women’s 800m heptathlon race, and after all the shouting I did tonight I am starting to lose my voice. I was so lucky to be there and experience a great day for Great Britain!
Day 8, 14/08/16 – Bolt!
With the quarter finals coming up in the hockey there seemed to be more spectators for the games. Australia’s men were taking on Holland for a place in the next round. My shift began with checking tickets and trying to sort out any problems.
I left my shift early and went to meet another volunteer at the Olympic Stadium. She is from Jamaica and really wanted to see Usain Bolt in the 100m final. One of the perks of being a volunteer was gaining access to the stadium to witness history, with also South African Wayde van Niekerk breaking the world record in the men’s 400m final.
Day 9 to 11 – Count down to the hockey finals!
In the hockey quarter finals Team GB women took on Spain and won 3-1 to book their place in the semi-finals. They then beat New Zealand in the semi-finals and will face world champions Holland in the gold medal match on Friday 19th August.
Day 12, 18/08/16 – Nicola Adams
I received free tickets to watch the women’s and men’s boxing semi-finals in the Rio Centro arena. I was so lucky to see Nicola Adams win her fight and book her place in the gold medal fight against France. There was an amazing atmosphere in the arena with lots of Great Britain fans. Joshua Buatsi also collected his bronze medal for the men’s light heavy 81 kg.
I met a member of the Olympic Doping Team from England who passed me his details. I mentioned my degree and past volunteering experience in London and Brazil. He was keen to pass on my details to his manager who could give me some advice and maybe work experience for the future.
When heading to the Barra Olympic Park after the boxing I saw Clare Balding from the BBC interviewing some Team GB athletes, including Buatsi.
Day 13, 19/08/16 – Last day volunteering and a hockey gold medal!
I can’t believe my Rio 2016 volunteering journey finally came to an end on the day Team GB women took on Holland for the gold medal. The stadium was at full capacity and I started by welcoming spectators in Portuguese and English and checked all tickets as thousands were queuing. My manager gave me a free ticket to watch the match and I was among the Team GB fans who were outnumbered by the crowds of Dutch and Brazilian fans supporting Holland.
I met one of my fellow London 2012 opening ceremony drummers and experienced the penalty shootout and Team GB winning the match with her. It was the perfect way to end my last shift at the Olympic Hockey Centre. The experience has been amazing and I will miss Rio, but the contacts and experience I have gained will never be forgotten.
Now I have finished my volunteer journey I will enjoy being a tourist for the last week I am here in Rio.
Day 14, 20/08/16 – Hike to Christ!
I decided to visit one of the seven modern wonders of the world today – the famous Christ the Redeemer Statue. Some of my flatmates caught the train up to the Corcovado Mountain which the statue sits on, I climbed it!
We headed to the botanical gardens to start the hike which usually takes around two hours, but my aim was to do it in under that. The mountain is 2,300f t high within the Tijuca Forest National Park.
We started the hike at 2.45pm and ended at 4.30pm, just before sunset. We beat the two-hour target! It was extremely challenging and involved rock climbing with chains in the rain and very steep steps within the forest. Completing the hike to get to the statue was one of my greatest life achievements.
The statue is just epic. We stayed and took pictures and videos for an hour and also had the pleasure of meeting Team GB’s sports science team.