Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games 2000 

David Brettell  
Program Manager, Venue Staffing Services, SOCOG'2000, Australia

The Games present a wonderful opportunity for volunteerism in Australia  

Volunteerism is about doing something good and feeling something real (the Points of Light Foundation). 

Volunteer management is about making volunteers feel good about what they have done  

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and best wishes from the Organising team for next year's Games 

There are many things of importance to the successful delivery of mega-events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games - one of the more important is the delivery of a memorable experience to the stakeholders. 

It is through volunteers that at least some component of that experience will be achieved. Volunteers will the face of our Games - first person a volunteer and last person a volunteer. And the memories and perceptions of our Games will be strongly influenced by the hospitality and work performance of our volunteers.  

Volunteerism in Australia has a long tradition and is quite strong. Sport in Australia has long been reliant on volunteer support and sports volunteering has also been quite strong.  

This strength has been evident in our efforts to bring together a 50,000 strong volunteer workforce for next year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sydney.  

BUT there are threats and challenges to volunteerism. And we at SOCOG are facing those challenges.  

Challenges face ALL voluntary organisations.  

Volunteering in Australia and volunteering in sport are losing numbers and are being "challenged" by the same pressures which are reflective of our society and the world's society.  

Included among these challenges are the ageing of our population, the ageing of our volunteer force, the professionalisation of sport, and the daily demands and stresses of life. 

Whatever the challenges though, all organisations which rely on the support of volunteers, should remain mindful of the following points: 

  1. They will CONTINUE to be heavily reliant on volunteers irrespective of the involvement of corporations, irrespective of their increased professionalism and irrespective of the appointment of additional paid staff. 
  2. People will CONTINUE to WANT to be involved in a voluntary capacity.
  3. People will be happy to STAY involved in a voluntary capacity IF a number of things are right - IF they feel they are making a useful contribution, IF they are prepared and managed well, IF they are looked after, IF they are never taken for granted, and IF they are enjoying the experience.
  4. They need to be "on guard" to an important reality about volunteering - it IS getting tougher to recruit volunteers and it will continue to be tough. Changes to social and community "conscience", as well as the generally busy lifestyles of people, can be expected to seriously impact on the success of recruitment and retention of volunteers.
  5. They should never forget the strength of the primary motivation for people offering their support as volunteers - CITIZENSHIP - people want to contribute to THEIR society, THEIR community, THEIR sport. They want to be part of it and they want to feel "ownership" of it. 
In implementing our Volunteer Program for the 2000 Games, it has been important for us to appeal to that citizenship motivation, to begin to develop a sense of Games "ownership" by the volunteers, and then to begin the all important integration of our volunteers into our ONE TEAM concept. 

Current Status 

Firstly, the good news about Sydney's Volunteer Program for next year's Olympics and Paralympics: 

Those who have volunteered for the 2000 Games are passionate in their support of the Games and for assisting as volunteers;  

We have a very good number of applicants although perhaps fewer than we might have anticipated;

We have high quality applicants - we have been fortunate to accept as many as 95%.

They have a strong commitment and are very genuine about being involved and stamping their own mark on the Games. 

In almost all 43 functional areas and 28 sports, our progress towards selecting our volunteers is running to target 

We are optimistic that there will be positive outcomes and longer-term legacies for volunteerism and sport in Australia 

None of this good news however is to suggest that the job to date has been easy - it hasn't. 

For a country of Australia's relatively small population base, recruiting a 50,000 strong volunteer workforce was always a big ask. 

As you know, making a Volunteer Program work is VERY demanding. 

Recruiting, preparing, managing and retaining volunteers demands many things, but two are of fundamental importance: 

  • A genuine organisational commitment AND 
  • Dedicated resources to make it happen. 
In Sydney, we have been fortunate to have had both from our two Boards and Senior Management - and it is paying dividends. 

Our progress to date has been positive ... and VERY INSPIRATIONAL to our paid staff.  

Many of our paid staff have not previously worked with volunteers and therefore carry what I call "baggage" - there are many with preconceived views and attitudes on volunteers, and not all flattering - many of those perceptions are wrong and emanate from ignorance. 

Our Volunteers 

Our FIRST GROUP of 500 volunteers have been on board with us for some years now and have already contributed considerable time to our preparations for the Games - in all sorts of roles  

We call them our PIONEERS - the first - they have contributed 150,000 hours of time already to our preparations  

The eyes of our paid staff have been opened wide by this connection with our volunteers - to their tremendous skills, to their amazing dedication, and to the significance of their contribution.  

Many of our staff are building good working relationships with those volunteers and commenced the all important team building process.  

That's exactly what is needed not only for the Games themselves but also for the longer-term health of sport and volunteerism beyond the Games  

Our SECOND GROUP of 25,000 volunteers are our SPECIALISTS. I'm referring here to those people with particular skills to match the demands of the job. Examples include roles in Medical, Media, Technology, Sport and in Languages.  

We began sourcing this group of volunteers in September 1997 primarily through professional associations, sponsors and tertiary institutions. A key source of this group has been 21 Australian universities. The universities have been wonderfully supportive in providing students to roles directly related to the practical component of their courses. One of these universities (UTS) has also worked with SOCOG to source 68 candidates from Greece to work full time with the Organizing Committee (Note: a separate paper on this is to be delivered at this Symposium). 

Our THIRD GROUP of volunteers are those for more general roles - the many front and back of house positions.  

This group of volunteers are from the general community - an official call for applications was made for these roles in October 1998  

Recruitment process 

Our recruitment process has been: 

  1. Prior to our official call for volunteers, we sought early volunteer expressions of interest - this didn't commit anyone but it did serve as "a springboard" for assessing the likely interest and then for late follow-up action with those people. 
  2. We formed partnerships with sponsors, tertiary institutions, professional associations, our National and State Sports Federations and local sports and federations. Each sport formed a Sport Technical Advisory Committee and they have helped to facilitate the selection of volunteers for their particular sport.
  3. A face-to-face interview with applicants has been part of our strategy - some individually and some in groups. This has been very time consuming but important to us building relationships and helping to manage expectations. More than half of the interviews have been carried out by senior undergraduate and postgraduate HR students and various volunteer associations. 
  4. Specialist volunteers were given a PRE-CODED application form because we needed to be able to access them differently to confirm their skills and qualifications.
  5. Opportunities to volunteer have been provided to people across the country not just to those in Sydney - this is good for the longer-term health of sport and volunteerism throughout Australia 
It may interest you to know the following copule of pieces of information about our applicants. 

Gender of our applicants 

Female 55%  
Male 45%  

Age of our applicants 
under 18 2%
18-24 21%
25-34 18%
35-44 18%
45-54 19%
55+ 22%

So, 41% under age 35 and 59% under age 45 

Our training plans 

Effective preparation of our 50,000 volunteers is quite a task.

We well understand the importance and magnitude of this task  

Volunteers expect and deserve to be well trained and we have a responsability to give them the best possible opportunity to perform to their very best.

And we are committed to getting it as right as we possibly can.

Such a huge exercise could not be done without the support of a major training or educational institution - TAFE NSW is one of our Games sponsors and is doing a wonderful job in helping us develop our training program.

Our training of all our volunteers will cover: 

* Orientation 
* Job specific training  
* Venue training  
* Event Leadership  
* Training your team - directed to each functional area 

Quite a lot of training has already been done - for the 17 Test Events already held and also for those volunteers assigned to roles demanding a lot of training. 

The Challenges  

While our current status is quite positive, we HAVE faced some issues and we STILL have a few hurdles to get over.

The biggest early challenge was to the principle of recruiting non-paid staff for such a huge profile and budgeted event.

The current biggest challenge is to retain our volunteers during periods of controversy for the Olympic Movement and for our own organisation. 

Let me just highlight a few of the more important issues and how we've had to work on:  

  1. Building an organisational empathy with volunteering and support of our volunteers - critical to positioning and team building. Not many of our paid have worked with volunteers in such large number 

  2. SOLUTION: Board and Senior Management imprimatur: education; "selling" the skills of our volunteers; developing advocates; experience at events - the very best way.  
  3. The differences between specialist and general volunteer roles - there wasn't a complete understanding initially and this initially led us to think about CENTRALISED recruitment. (This was not the favoured approach by Sport and they were correct). 

  4. SOLUTION/S: Decentralisation of responsibility to the respective sports; the Expression of Interest process; the pre-coding of application forms.  
  5. Handling the excess application forms for certain functional areas 

  6. SOLUTION/S: place in an alternative role likely to provide them with the same level of satisfaction - eg: in the same venue  
  7. Shortage of volunteer applicants for some functional areas or venues, particularly those sports which don't have a high profile in Australia. 

  8. SOLUTION/S: Increase profiling of what sport in the Sydney media; some utilisation of the many volunteer applicants we have received from overseas; additional effort into promoting the opportunities to university students.  
  9. Volunteers inexperienced in conducting events - limited knowledge therefore in the operational dimensions and dynamics of an event (as distinct from a more "traditional" organisation).

  10. SOLUTION/S: Lots of training is planned; we're providing as many volunteers as possible with experience at our Test Events and also at other major community-run sporting or other events.  
  11. Managing the expectations of the volunteers themselves - as I know you will understand, there are an amazing array of expectations that people have about their inolvement in an event like the Olympic Games 

  12. SOLUTION/S: We have to be very open and honest with people - telling them how things really are - providing an honest assessment of the demands and requirements  
  13. Managing the "high maintenance" factor and preparing our paid staff for volunteer management - as you know, there is an additional workload associated with the management of volunteers and not everyone is always adequately appropriately resources to meet that load.

  14. SOLUTION/S: Make sure the workload is understood and that the necessary resources are available; most importantly ensure that the best people are available to manage the "people issues" (more often than not, the best managers of volunteers are other volunteers, not paid staff); good training and volunteer management - Event Leadership Training; and demand documentation on plans for the management of volunteers.  
  15. Communication with our volunteer applicants is a big issue for us because our hope to finalise the greater percentage of our volunteer applicants by early 2000 - that's quite a long period before the Games begin and the challenge is to keep them motivated and enthused during this quite long lead time. 

  16. SOLUTION/S: Various forms of communication will occur during 2000 - some will be centralised and some decentralised. Opportunities to keep in touch will occur at Test Events, at volunteer training, and at the time of uniforming and accrediting our volunteers 
The legacies 

The Games obviously present opportunities for the wider community to benefit long term.

As you know 2001 is the designated International Year of Volunteering.

The Olympics and Paralympics is a perfect springboard for the volunteering movement in our country to leap into this important year.

A constant dilemma for any Organising Committee is and always will be to find the right "balance" between running a great Games and also fulfilling broader community responsibilities  in this case to volunteering beyond the Games.

we have always taken the view that our Games-specific responsibilities must be our prime driver and I know that everyone has supported us in this.

We have also always maintained that the biggest and best legacy we can provide for volunteerism will come from how successful our Volunteer Program is.

And this is both before and during the games. 
But SOCOG is merely the catalyst for the generation of legacies - the community needs to work with us, learn from our successes AND failures, commit to their their own action and of course make directional changes where necessary. 

Let me share just FIVE EXAMPLES of what we see as important legacies resulting from our Volunteer Program - some of these points are relevant messages for the future direction of volunteerism.  

  1. Profile of Volunteerism and Volunteers. 

  2. In lots of ways, the Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For volunteerism, this is certainly so. The Games has lifted the profile of volunteering - in both the media and in the community generally.  
    Also has been good for enhancing the image of volunteering and volunteers in the events business.  
  3. More Volunteers. 

  4. A new NUMBERS BASE  
    a NEW BASE of skilled volunteers  
    a new "breed" of volunteer - 41% of our applicants are under the age of 35 and 59% under the age of 45. 
    Many of our Games volunteers are "first-timers" to volunteering; some of course are driven uniquely by their passion for the Games; if they value their volunteer experience, they will continue volunteering beyond the Games  
  5. The Involvement of and Sharing of Information with Community Leaders 

  6. We have an extremely positive relationship with a community-based Volunteers Advisory Committee - comprises the leaders of community and volunteering organisations - representatives of Lions, Rotary, Volunteering NSW and Australia, the AOC, the State Emergency Service, the Rural Fire Service, the multicultural community, the indigenous community. The YMCA, the YWCA, Surf Lifesaving, and the Sports Council for the Disabled - these groups review and input to our plans and have given much valuable advice.  
    They are tremendously supportive of our work and we are confident our work is helpful will be helpful to their ongoing work  
  7. Partnerships 

  8. Our recruitment partnerships with universities is a win for all - their students assist in the selection of our volunteers - this results in a 3-way win - SOCOG wins because we get well skilled volunteers; the students win because they embrace Olympic experience and gain a valuable insight into this thing called citizenship; and the universities win because it enhances their profile and gives their students valuable work experience.  
    Our training partnership will almost certaintly provide an impetus for volunteering and also assist in establishing a model for the training of a mass number of volunteers 
  9. Corporate volunteering 

  10. Winning the minds of corporate leaders is vital to the success and growth of volunteerism beyond the games.
    Our partnerships with our sponsors has great potential for volunteerism. 

    Some sponsors have been quite active in recognising the support provided by their staff to various community organisations. For the Games, a number have generously offered to provide some time off to their staff to assist in voluntary roles. 
    And part of the selection criteria they themselves have insisted on for their Games volunteers is previous volunteering experience. 
    At least some part of the future direction and success of volunteering rests with this type of involvement from the corporate world. 

As I move towards concluding my address, I want to highlight a few challenges for volunteerism in sport.

Civil society and volunteering go hand-in-hand. 

But civil society hasn't always been easy to apply to sport.  

Why ? Let me suggest just 3 reasons:  

  1. There appears to be an image issue with the word "volunteer" in sport. Most non-paid people working in sport don't consciously acknowledge themselves as volunteers. 

  2. They often see volunteers as being more closely linked to the welfare sector and therefore working in more menial and less meaningful roles.

    I don't offer this comment as a criticism of sports especially.  
    But it does highlight a challenge for volunteerism generally and sports volunteerism in particular 
    TAKING PRIDE IN BEING A VOLUNTEER IS IMPORTANT TO ANY REPOSITIONING - it's actually OK to say "I'm a volunteers" - It is not OK to say "I'm ONLY a  volunteer". - and my blood boils whenever I hear a volunteers say it.
  3. Because today's sport now has a stronger reliance on sponsorships.The involvement of corporations in sport is much needed and highly valued. 

  4. BUT it does cause some conflict with one of the PRIMARY motivators for people to offer their support as volunteers - and that motivation lies in that somewhat esoteric term called CITIZENSHIP.  
    Business interests quite reasonably think firstly of the value of their corporate sponsorship - then they MAY think of the citizenship value.  
    There's not a NATURAL fit between business interests and civil society interests. 
    Again, NOT a criticism - corporate support is needed and many corporations ARE committed to good corporate citizenship - but again it is a challenge for sport - sports leaders must know how to play the game to ensure that all parties are winners.  
  5. Because as sports have "professionalised" their administration, they quite understandably have had a need to increase their number of paid workers. 

  6. Of course that's good for sport. But it would be wrong to believe, as I think may sometimes be the belief, that the extra paid workers are a REPLACEMENT for volunteers. What does happen though is the development of some antipathy from the volunteers - the "why should I do it for nothing" mentality when others are being paid to do it - it's only human nature of course - not easy to overcome but necessary that it be overcome. 
As I said in my opening comments, SOCOG recognises the importance of its role to the longer-term health of volunteerism and to sport.  

That is precisely the reason for us developing strong connections with the respective sports federations, with professional associations, with corporations and with the volunteering bodies.

It is also the reason why we have developed what we call "The Volunteer Experience" - this document represents "AS da in the life of a volunteer at the Games" - including their needs and expectations. 

The longer-term legacy for volunteerism in sport in Australia will be strongly influenced by how well we now implement our plans. 

Effective management of our volunteers is the key to creating positive experiences for them, keeping the attrition rate at a low level, and generating the legacy for volunteering and of course for sport. 

We are pleased with the current status of our Volunteer Program and are confident of delivering an effective Program at the Games.We have made mistakes and are sure to make more - but as long as they are minimal.

Thank you very much for your interest in our volunteer Programm and more importantly for your support.


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