ON FEBRUARY 9th, the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games rung up the curtain with a magnificent opening ceremony. As athletes from 95 countries entered the pentagonal stadium waving their national flags, what attracted the audience’s eyes were a circle of anonymous people dancing in red uniforms. The choreography was not highly complex, being rather close to a series of minimal rhythmic moves. However, what impressed global citizens was the volunteerers’ effort of dancing without a pause for one hour. These members had accounted for a large proportion of the organizing workforce in the Olympics. Many of them were university students who had invested their winter vacation for the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic games. The Yonsei Annals reporters covered the scenes of Olympics in the lens of university students as a receptionist in the Media Village and a press operation volunteerer in Phoenix Snow Park.
I told everyone that I was working for the Olympics. They inquired the real-life size of the five rings, the main Olympic Park and the lewd rumors surrounding the Sportsmen Village. I could only pass on things I overheard from a two-minute break spent scrunched in the storage room, for I had seen the athletes only once over the windows of Ediya Coffee; My work at the front office was far from the Olympic Games itself.
I woke up every morning on the creaking bed in a 8 m^2 flat to catch the bus to Gangneung Media Village. On the day of arrival, a handful of twenty-something-year-olds discovered that they would be running the Media Village. We scurried busily about in the temporary “front offices,” or white tents, that would accommodate 6,021 rooms, painfully learning the improvisable nature of global-scale events. Men from the organizing committee came often to the front office to remind us of the grave mission of being the faces of South Korea and encouraged the girls to put on some make-up. Most of the girls did, even the ones in the overnight shifts from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The ideal of the Olympics and the promise of attaining a once-in-a-lifetime experience operated the front office from day to night without rest. We ate quickly during a one-hour lunch break of things like kim-bap and burgers, the taste of MSG still in my mouth before I washed it away with instant coffee. Excitement diminished quickly, and famous reporters arrived every day. Contrary to what I imagined, the hotel reception was no place to foster the cheerful gatherings of global journalists and myself; I saw a blazing timer above their heads when guests arrived, and set about checking them in at full speed. After a room key had been lost on the opening day, our panicked hands incessantly re-checked the numbers and caused us to smile a lot less.
If anyone asked about the most valuable takeaway from the job, I would not hesitate to put Gangneung city before anything. Although I urged guests to visit Seoul, I hastily added praises for the beautiful sight of the East coast offered in this god-made location. The East sea showed its purest face close from Gangneung. It had to be reached behind a line of pine trees and water sushi joints, but the glittering sea compensated for the lack of developed civilization abounding in Seoul. The delicious smell of freshly roasted beans in the air said Gangneung was a city for coffee-lovers. While day-tripping in Gangneung, my city-stricken eyes often feasted on the colors of baby pink, pastel blue and lemon-yellow pasted on small cement houses. I became sad to leave the lovely roads when I had to return to my post in the front office where work had become as simple as getting rid of blocked toilets. Away from the city, I sat in the reception all day making notes of unchanged bed sheets or particularly noisy elevators. The front office had settled down after most guests arrived in the first week, and soon I was able to be washed up in the simplicity of having one job that would occupy most of the day and became grateful for the paralyzed unthinking days it offered.
I had completely forgotten the Olympics before the opening ceremony. On the day, I had been worn out from answering peak-time telephone calls from guests arriving back from work. I was grating my soul into describing Seoul as the most fascinating and advanced city among the great cosmopolises when I lifted my eyes due to a loud cheer. From the big television in the lobby, I saw the Korea united team entering the arena. I felt my eyes become hot. My time spent working for the Olympics had seemed so detached from the five rings emblazoned across the sky; I had been spending most of my days in the small tent, working in a position that did not require me to speak Korean at all. Nevertheless, my role as a receptionist for the media village in the Olympics enabled me to witness our nation successfully host the event. Close to PyeongChang I was able to serve the Winter Olympics with connected passion with my co-workers with whom I lived and laughed. As we all stood still and cheered for our country at each ensuing game, I realized that the festival outshines any one person’s post. I am grateful to have taken a minimal part.
Phoenix Snow Park
As a member of Passion Crew, which isa byname of volunteers in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, I got on a shuttle bus for Phoenix Snow Park at daybreak, rubbing my sleepy eyes. After a 40-minute drive, the shuttle bus dropped passengers off armed with a bright red uniform ski suit with Han-geul patterns. Even before sunrise, we went through security check points, checked into our workplace located withinPhoenix Snow Park, and headed towards the Venue Media Center (VMC).
Aday as a Passion Crew member in the press operation area started with arranging the VMC to greet reporters and photographers who would be busy covering vivid Olympic scenes and transmitting articles all day. To facilitate the coverage, we filled out the updated starting lists and got rid ofoutdated result lists in pigeonholes, where documents of the match schedules and participating athletes of the day were stationed. The starting lists are must-haves for the reporters going up to the Mixed Zone; therefore, volunteers made sure to equip them before reporters came to the VMC in the morning. After getting prepared for the opening of the VMC, all members moved to their respective positions—Mixed Zone, Tribune, Press Conference Room (PCR), and VMC—where they spent the following four to five hours carrying out assigned roles.
For the workforce, the daily routine went on par with the match schedule. When the first match of the day began, Passion Crew members got busy. In the Mixed Zone, the mingling crowd of individuals and media authorities heralded the start of the day. As a Mixed Zone leader, I restricted the access of this crowd in the media area and guided thosemedia authorities wandering in the crowd to come to their assigned areas.
Another important duty in the Mixed Zone was to distinguish the passage of media authorities, athletes, and so on. There were three entrances within the Mixed Zone.One was for athletes and with those concerned, such as coaching staffs, and attachés who were dispatched from each national team to support and translate each of theathletes’ interview. The other two were for media authorities; more specifically, one for a broadcaster, the other for reporters and photographers interviewing athletes. Within the congested media area, it was the volunteer’s role to control the access of people with different AD cards. It was common to witness media authorities tryingto enter the way the athletes go through. On the very first day, I was confused with the access of numerous different AD cards and was often embarrassed by unseen alphabet acronyms which were my only reference source to determine their accessibility. It was exhausting to deal with reporters’ endless questions and requests, and to, simultaneously, block the public from attempting to trespass restricted areas, especially on the final round. Still, it was worthwhile to assume a certainresponsibility to maintain order within the arena. The absence of a Passion Crew member can easily bring about chaos, which proves how the volunteers’ roles were crucial to operating the arena seamlessly.
If the Mixed Zone was where the media can capture the most “live” scenes of athletes panting for breath, the PCR was where press can ask them in-depth questions. The flow of coverage proceeds from the Mixed Zone to the PCR, and it was also a part of the Mixed Zone volunteers’ job to escort athletes to the PCR after athletes fought their way out of crowds of reporters in the Mixed Zone. It was a precious opportunity to confront the athletes from very up close, but responsibility followed: to escort athletes safely so as to notmake them slip on ice or get lost in the arena.
To draw an analogy between a Winter Olympics volunteer and a military position, the Mixed Zone is like the frontline of an army. Due to afrigid cold weather there were even volunteers suffering from frostbite. Freezing in minus 20 degrees Celsius, volunteers could only rely on a small hot pack and their burning passion for the Olympics. However, involved as a press operation member, I was offered with much more security access comparedto other Passion Crew staff. Even within the press operation team, Mixed Zone members resided in the best spot to watch the match. Though the working condition was harsh, all my struggle was compensated by joining the most dynamic scenes of the Olympics. It was an undeniably unforgettable experience to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as a Passion Crew member.