With the excitement of the games already a week underway, the blog postings have fallen a bit behind. Between Krista volunteering for the Olympic team processing two weeks ago, Zach and Krista taking part in an amazing “Let’s Move” experience at the Ambassadors residence (separate blog post to come), scouring the web for Olympic tickets that open up daily, watching the events that we CANT get tickets to on tv, researching and deciding which countless Olympic themed activities out and about the city to attend, being buried under 8,000 lbs of sea freight boxes that were just delivered on Wed, SENSORY OVERLOAD is at an all time high!
Before the games are actually over however, I wanted to share a little bit about the neat Olympic USA team processing that I experienced two weeks ago. When you watched the Opening Ceremony, when you watch the athletes as they stand on the medal stands, and when you will watch the closing ceremony you will notice the different outfits they are wearing. The opening and closing ceremony outfits are Ralph Lauren contracted and the medal stand uniforms are all Nike outfitted. I had the pleasure of helping many of the athletes get fitted for their Nike medal stand uniforms as well as welcoming them to the team processing center, one of the first places they stopped after arriving in London. The rundown of events that would happen when they walked in the door: Welcome the athletes to London and congratulate them for their successful endeavor. Hand them a list that stated all of the things they had to do at team processing including: getting fitted for Olympic rings, retrieving their Olympic watches, Oakley sunglasses, and a giant bag full of P&g products, getting fitted for their opening and closing ceremony outfits, checking in with the doctor for any outstanding medical issues, checking with USADA (U.S. Anti-doping agency) and finally mailing home any of the five bags of free clothing they received from Nike and Ralph Lauren upon walking in the door. After welcoming them, I would walk them around to their corresponding stations and sometimes be paired up with an athlete to be their personal clothes runner (if a piece of clothing didn’t fit them, I would run back to the giant warehouse to exchange sizes.)
While much of the staff of team processing were paid USOC (United States Olympic Committee) employees based out of Colorado Springs, CO, a LARGE portion of the workload were the 100+ group of dedicated volunteers who worked tirelessly to make sure these athletes’ clothes were organized and that they had a great first impression. Keep in mind there are over 500 TEAM USA athletes. As I mentioned before, each athlete gets approximately five bags of clothes that are already packed up and waiting for them to try on upon their arrival. You do the math and then imagine the massive operation it was to pre-stock the bags with appropriate individual sizes before their arrival. The behind the scenes “Make it Happen magic” was amazing: something I had never even given thought to when I’ve watched the Olympics in the past.
In addition to opening and closing ceremony outfits and the leisure clothing they are given, each athlete is given a medal stand uniform. Depending on the sport, depends on which medal stand uniform an athlete gets. (Each athlete is issued a medal stand uniform regardless of their chances of winning a medal) Notice next time you watch–the outdoor sports such as equestrian, archery, fencing, canoeing/kayaking…all those athletes get a medal stand uniform that is a brown jacket coordinated with jeans. Whereas the traditional sports such as gymnastics, basketball, swimming–they get a silver jacket uniform with straight black leggings. But get this…. once they are issued their sport specific medal stand uniform and ensured that it fits properly, they are also issued the other two medal stand uniforms that not part of their sport–just becasue! So each athlete gets a combination of three different medal stand uniforms and thousands of dollars of leisure Nike and Ralph Lauren wear.
I should have kept better track of all the different teams and individual athletes I talked to and worked with, but the ones I specifically remember included, the men and women’s rowing, gymnastics (those girls REALLY are that tiny in person!), weightlifting, equestrian, canoe/kayak, pentathlon, archery, fencing, water polo, shooting, cycling, and basketball teams. I had a nice long conversation (in Romanian) with women’s gymnastic coach Marta Károlyi’s (the coach who trained Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton), and talked at length with last week’s fourth place ladies archery winner Katuna Lorig.
The thing that I took away from this experience (in addition to several working t shirts and a cool USA sweatshirt for Ray) was the gratifying feeling of helping the athletes and seeing THEIR true appreciation for the volunteers who working to make their experience a good one. Here are some of the pictures I snapped in secrecy (we weren’t allowed to take photographs in front of the athletes but you know me–I like to break the rules sometimes 😉