With the eagerly anticipated start of the Pan Am Games this week and the Parapan Am Games in August, some 23,000 volunteers will contribute thousands of hours of essential services to the events.
Outfitted in their Games regalia, the volunteers will be visible across the Greater Toronto Area. They will offer assistance to visitors, athletes and organizers through their work in ticketing, as guides, event ushers and escorts for athletes, participating in the opening and closing ceremonies, and more.
York University kinesiology student Anisha Akhtar is enrolled in her third year of studies in the Faculty of Health. Akhtar says she decided to volunteer for the Games because she was interested in learning about the event and was intrigued by the new experience.
“I have never done anything like this before, so I am really excited for this new adventure,” she says. “I am hoping to meet many new people and get to see some great athletes. Most of my university friends are volunteering at the Games, but they’re scattered throughout the zones. I think this event is actually an excellent opportunity to meet new people from all around the world!”
Running for a total of 16 days, the Pan Am Games will be hosted in 33 different sporting venues and will include 48 different sports. This will be one of largest sporting events of its kind in Ontario, and Akhtar recognizes this.
“I have volunteered at many different events, but never anything this big. Events like community festivals or other large-scale celebrations usually have up to 5,000 attendees, but the Pan Am Games will have 23,000 volunteers alone,” she says.
Even with secret aspirations for a possible television cameo, Akhtar says she is focused on her role to provide the best experience for the athletes. “The medal ceremonies are a very important, emotional and touching moments for everyone watching,” she says. “It is an honour to be part of such an important moment in history.”
Recent York U nursing graduate Julian Yim says he will be volunteering for the Pan Am Games and the Parapan Am Games as a medals ceremony “athlete and presenter escort,” and he expects it to be a busy time.
“The role of the medal ceremony and flag team is all about the athletes’ experience, we are there to facilitate and support the best possible, most memorable experience for the athletes as they achieve the pinnacle or milestone of their career,” says Yim.
“[This is] a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a sports venue of this scale in my city,” he says. “I also play a few sports, like table tennis, basketball and volleyball, [so] I wanted to be part of the festivities.”
Yim is eagerly looking forward to his role in the events. “I expect it to be quite bustling. The schedule shows one week of July to be completely packed with events. I also have to study for my nursing boards exam, so my schedule is going to be pretty jam-packed in July,” he says with a grin.
Pan Am volunteers will have access to a variety of events and activities during the Games. They will get a sneak peek of the opening ceremony that is being created by Cirque du Soleil, exclusive access to Games promotions and events, free Games-time access to public transit and, of course, the snazzy uniform.
“Volunteering in sports has nothing but positives,” says Akhtar. “It is an excellent way of giving back to the community, improving their health while getting your own exercise at the same time. With rising incidences of obesity and other problems being caused directly or indirectly by physical inactivity, sports are a huge need for our communities right now.”
Submitted to YFile by Hamid Adem, York University’s student Pan Am Communications Officer