Volunteers young and old combine to play crucial role at men’s European Olympic Qualifier
2016 European Olympic Qualification - Men
Berlin, Germany, January 10, 2016. Volunteers play an essential role in the delivery of major sports events and the men’s European Olympic Qualifier in Berlin was no different. As many as 230 people applied for the volunteer programme that started in early November and 90 – plus 60 young ball retrievers – eventually had the chance of working at the first major volleyball competition of the new year.
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Rüdiger Sauer works at the German Volleyball Federation (DVV) and has been responsible not only for the recruiting process, but also for the management of this cosmopolite crew on site at Max-Schmeling-Halle. “We first received applications in early November and about one month later we started screening and reviewing them,” Sauer explained. “We focussed on the people’s experience and skills. Our volunteers could choose from seven different areas to help with the delivery of the event and special attention was paid to the selection of those who were supposed to be working more closely with the teams.”
Applications were submitted not only by locals, but also people from abroad, with volleyball enthusiasts from Poland, Russia and Serbia all willing to join in. “We made an extra effort for the recruitment of the team guides,” Sauer added. “We chose people hailing from each of the countries participating in the tournament. Serbia’s team guide travelled to Berlin on New Year’s Day to be here on January 2 for the first briefing with all other volunteers.”
Finland’s team guide, for instance, is a young lady from that same country who is currently studying in Cologne and the same principle was followed for all other teams apart from France. “It is important to be able to rely on people who have a good understanding of their counterpart’s mentality and can get along well with players, coaches and officials alike,” Sauer emphasised.
The organisers of the men’s Olympic qualifier involved a number of volunteers who have experience from previous international competitions, such as the home rounds of the FIVB Volleyball World League or the women’s European Championship which took place in Berlin in 2013.
The most experienced of them all is Renate, a 79-year-old lady who has been working as a stewardess, showing supporters from all over Europe and even from overseas the way to their seats. She proudly recalled that she has been volunteering for many years and attended her first event at Max-Schmeling-Halle in 1997. She previously helped out with the organisation of swimming and track & field competitions for Paralympic athletes. “It is a lot of fun and I am always very happy if I can be a member of the local crew,” she said. “I am also hoping that Germany will win their match with Poland and finish among the top three of the tournament,” she added, demonstrating her remarkable knowledge and understanding of what was at stake on the last day of competition.
She wore the blue t-shirt designed for all volunteers and proudly showed a number of autographs collected since the opening day of the tournament. “Those on the front side are from players of the German team, whereas on the back I have some from members of the Polish squad. They all were extremely nice to me. I have made an agreement with Germany’s captain, Marcus Böhme. He promised that after the match with Poland he would come back to me and we would take a picture together.” She does not call it a selfie, but Renate is as much involved and passionate as her much younger colleagues.
On Saturday, the penultimate day of competition at Max-Schmeling-Halle, the 90 volunteers on duty at the men’s European Olympic Qualifier came together for a small celebration and posed on the court to reproduce the Olympic rings (see picture above). If the tournament in Germany’s capital has been a success, much credit should go to this cosmopolite crew, quite heterogeneous in terms of their age and background, but all equally passionate about sport and willing to enjoy the experience of a lifetime.