It still hasn't sunk in, and I'm not sure I'm really, Really, REALLY gonna believe it until I have an airline ticket and a valid Russian Visa in hand...but if nothing strange happens then yes, I am going to the Winter Olympics.
Actually, I'm going to the Paralympics, which begins a week after the regular Winter Olympics. I will serve as a Volunteer in "Village Management" working in one of three Olympic Villages through most of the month of March in Sochi, Russia.
I first learned of the 2014 Winter Olympics back in 2010 when I was studying the Russian Language in South Carolina. I thought back then that I'd be fluent in Russian by now and it would be easy for me to go to the Olympics since it's right next door, in Russia. In 2011 I took a Phonetics and Linguistics Class at International Teams' headquarters and I used the Olympics as one of my "motivational milestones" for language learning, ie, I set the Olympics as a goal for me to be at an advanced intermediate level by then.
Well, I'm not anywhere near "advanced intermediate" yet. If anything, I think my language ability is about the same as when I got here just a little more fluid, that is, I can say what I could already say, just better...if that makes any sense.
But as it turns out, the Olympics is more concerned with English ability than with Russian ability...so I'm IN!
Here's some fun facts: There will be about 25000 volunteers at the Olympics and Paralympics with about 15000 at the Olympics and 10000 at the Paralympics.
The ages of volunteers range from 18-55ish. The median age is just 22, that means a TON of volunteers are at or below 22 years of age. 70% of the volunteers are girls. Only 8% of the volunteers are foreigners (like me). To me that's pretty interesting- in other words, Russia is providing about 17,500ish 18-25 year old girls. My experience here in Ukraine is that a lot more girls speak English than guys- ok, so that's probably the case in Russia, too. And maybe there's an expectation over here just like back in the States where young men "work" and do jobs that preclude them being able to take time off to volunteer (one of the purported reasons why you don't see so many young men doing missions in America).
But you also have to wonder if there hasn't been some sort of a push to put 17000+ young girls out front in a venue that has a reputation for being a trafficking magnet (the Olympics, and all major world sporting events like the Super Bowl or World Cup). At the last Winter Games, in Vancouver, the median age of volunteers was in the 40's I think.
As far as I know, both Red Cross and The Salvation Army will be there doing Anti-Trafficking work and both will receive some training from my friends at A21. I should have access to some of that training, too and will have my eyes peeled while I'm there.
I hope to blog a lot from the Olympics and maybe about once a week between now and then just to talk about preparations.