How to Volunteer at the Olympics and My Experience Volunteering in Rio 2016

Shea Powell Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympics Volunteer Tokyo The Travel Women

I just returned from Rio, Brazil where I was a 2016 Olympics volunteer and I cannot begin to express what an amazing experience it was.

After visiting Rio de Janeiro for the first time in 2014, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to be there for the 2016 Olympics. I applied for the experience of a lifetime in October of 2014. I went through an interview process and was selected to be one of the 50,000 volunteers in November 2015. On July 29th, I was en route from Kingston, Jamaica to the Olympic city, Rio de Janerio. So far, it is one of the best decisions I have made.

Shea Powell Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympics Volunteer Tokyo The Travel Women

I have always viewed volunteering as the best way to give help where it is needed whether it be locally or internationally. It is also a really good opportunity for anyone looking to travel, meet people from around the globe and to experience a different culture. Within my first couple of days I met volunteers from Russia, Italy, Paraguay, Germany, Mexico, England, Argentina, Estonia and of course, Brazil itself…just to name a few.

Shea Powell Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympics Volunteer Tokyo The Travel Women

After being assigned to assist in language interpretation and ticket resolution, each day walking into my assigned stadium was always a day filled with adventure, from the opening ceremony to casually seeing star-athletes to watching the olympic games.

It was surprisingly hectic to resolve ticketing issues, from faulty barcoded tickets to spectators not being able to find their ‘assigned’ seats simply because they do not exist.

Basketball, Fencing, Indoor Volleyball, Football, Equestrian were the Olympic games. Thanks to the Rio 2016 Volunteer Committee. Apart from getting to enjoy the games, I took every possible opportunity to roam and explore the city. I love Rio. The people are friendly and the environment is beautiful. 

Shea Powell Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympics Volunteer Tokyo The Travel Women
Shea Powell Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympics Volunteer Tokyo The Travel Women
Shea Powell Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympics Volunteer Tokyo The Travel Women

Rio 2016 was a 2-year process that isn't easy but still totally worth it.

If you are thinking of being a volunteer for Toyko 2020, here’s what you need to know:

  • The portal opens up 2 years before the starting of the games. Apply early. The earlier the better and the more likely you are to get your preferred job and sports location. Keep checking HERE for updates.
  • Pay close attention to the email that you signed up with. Updates will be emailed to you from time to time, along with how to book your interview date and possibly your “Welcome to the Team” letter. You don't want to miss out on this!
  • You will get an entire uniform kit so pack to accommodate the extra Tokyo 2020 gear.
  • Make sure to bring multiple outfits that represent your country, whenever you are not working. It is so fun to represent. I made the mistake of just bring 2 shirts that represented my country for Rio 2016. Now I know what to bring for Tokyo 2020.
  • Get a few tickets ahead of time for some of the games you would like to see while you are there. The earlier you buy them, the cheaper they will be. It will be more difficult if you wait until you arrive in Tokyo to get tickets.
  • Spectators, volunteers and participants are really enthusiastic about pins. Let me stress this again. Everyone is really enthused about pins. If you are into collecting Olympic-themed pins or just regular pins from different countries, here’s my advice. Before landing in Japan, order a few dozen custom-made Olympic-themed pins that represents your country. You will get to be a part of the game by swapping a pin with spectators, volunteers and participants. Another mistake I made before landing in Brazil. I was completely clueless that this was a thing.
Shea Powell Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympics Volunteer Tokyo The Travel Women

Shea Powell is one of The Travel Women Ambassadors, read her interview here