Feb 132014

A look back to a special time in my life as an Olympic volunteer, when Salt Lake City hosted the Olympics in 2002. Olympic Torch
The 2002 Olympic motto was Light the Fire Within and the Cauldron was created with the Fire and Ice theme in mind. Designed to look like an icicle, it was made of glass which allowed the fire to be seen burning within. Small jets sent water down the glass sides of the cauldron to give the effect of melting ice.
Olympic rings with Airforce one President plane
Air Force One landed with President George W. Bush on board. To be visible across the valley, the illuminated Olympic Rings were displayed across an area the size of ten football fields.
Olympic opening trade center flag
The tattered flag was recovered from the World Trade Center ruins after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York City. It was carried into the opening ceremony by eight athletes escorted by New York City firefighters and Port Authority police.
Olympic chair lift from tents toshovels
Every morning our course crew teams were sent up the mountain at Snowbasin in Ogden, Utah to prepare the Women’s and Men’s Downhill courses. We looked like Blue Smurfs skiing to our designated areas.
112 clean course between racers
This is what you didn’t see when you watched the Olympics. We were a small part of the many volunteers making this the best possible Olympic event ever. I’ll never forget how dedicated these volunteers were to work for “free” just for the pride and love of the sport, country, and the fact that the world was watching us.
Olympic day with Wisconsin skiers

All volunteers received extensive training on being helpful and friendly to the visitors. Being part of a photo op was the easiest part of my job, since these three guys were visiting from my birth State of Wisconsin.
Olympic Mascots with Mitt Romney
The three Olympic mascots are: Swifter, a snowshoe hare. Higher, a coyote. Stronger, an American black bear. They are based on a Utah legend inspired by petroglyphs from a Native American tradition. Mitt Romney was the President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, and more recently the Republican nominee for president of the United States.
037 Kari's view of mountains
023 sunrise





Since our days began as early as 4 a.m., we enjoyed beautiful sunrises at the top of Snowbasin Ski Resort. My daughter Kari stands near the starting gate of the Woman’s Downhill course and a view of what the Olympic skiers saw on their way down the mountain.
Olympic Volunteer party 1
After the Olympic and Paralympic games ended, the volunteers came together one last time. This special night was given to honor all the dedicated volunteers, with a concert on the Olympics Medal Plaza.

What is your favorite Olympic memory?

  109 Responses to “The Time of My Life As An Olympic Volunteer”

  1. How cool of an experience.. it must have been even more special because of the 9/11 attacks..

    • At first we were wondering if we’d be safe at the Olympics. Then we decided that the Olympics was probably the safest place to be.

  2. Wow! What an experience, it was only in 2012 that I found out these volunteer positions were available. A friend of mine was selected to go. I am so inspired. I am a Winter Olympic junkie, this would be right up my alley. Congrats on living the dream!

  3. What a wonderful opportunity to serve in an Olympics in the USA. Your photos add to your memories.

    • We’ve always watched on television, but to actually be there was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We didn’t want it to end.

  4. This would have been an awesome experience, Neva! This year’s Olympics has probably been my least engaged time-wise to them ever. Both because of my schedule and because of all of the problems over there. I’ve been catching what I can on DVR. That is absolutely AWESOME that you were able to volunteer in 2002. Having done a lot of volunteering myself I know it’s a ton of work and not about just getting to go sit on a nice chair and watch. I loved your pictures too….especially the one the rings in the background to Air Force One….goosebumps there. My favorite memory still remains The Miracle On Ice 🙂

    • I agree, but I’m glad there haven’t been any big problems in Russia. It should be all about the best athletes doing their best and not about politics.

  5. Thanks for the look back! I like the picture with the mascots. 🙂

    • The mascots are still making appearances. I’m so glad we could share pictures with other volunteers and made a lot of friends.

  6. What a fun experience you had!

  7. Amazing pictures. I don’t have any memories of OS, cause I usully don’t watch it:)

  8. Oh, I loveeee your blog! You’re always so cheerful and fun! You have such an amazing personality, I wasn’t surprised that you were a volunteer!

    • Being cheerful is one of the things that I still have control over at my age (snicker). I’m so glad you enjoyed the story and volunteering was an exhausting blast.

  9. Wow, what an amazing opportunity. I can only imagine how that would be.

  10. WOW, what a incredible experience and something I would never forget. As for me it is just being able to sit down with my son and husband and watch it as a family.

    • I have an entire ski outfit as memorabilia. I still wear them since the clothes are great quality and bring compliments for that wonderful time now 12 years ago.

  11. These are some really cool memories! It must be great to have been part of something like this. And to have made it to happen 🙂

    • I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful event. We watched these Olympics on television and now to actually be there was worth getting up at 2 a.m. for so many days.

  12. What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing this special moment in your life. I will always remember watching the one in Georgia when the gymnast sprained (broke?) her ankle and continued on anyway to secure the gold. I thought this was amazing. As a dancer myself, I was also obsessed with figure skating, although I’m better on ballet pointe shoes than skates any day!

    • Yes, the gymnast was determined to succeed and this feeling of accomplishment is all part of the Olympics. I’m so honored to have been part of the experience as a volunteer.

  13. What beautiful pictures and wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Hi Neva! Wow what a story – thoroughly enjoyed this and never even thought about the behind the scenes work that must go on! Love the AF1 photo and the lit rings and the mascots 🙂

    • It was such a sense of pride to be part of an Olympic event. I met so many friendly people from all over the world to share this experience with. It was the greatest time in my life and love sharing the pictures.

  15. I really enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at what’s involved in hosting an Olympics. I never considered how many people it must take and that volunteers would be doing it for the the sheer joy of being part of such a significant event. If there’s ever a Summer Olympics near me, I’ll have to figure out how I can volunteer. I haven’t been able to watch any of the current Olympics. Our TV hasn’t been working, and I’ve been too lazy to figure out how to watch on my computer. Figure skating is my favorite winter sport.

    • The experience was very special as volunteers from all over the world were with us. After always watching the Olympics on TV and suddenly being a part of it was the only way to see it up close and personal. I still wear those blue Olympic ski clothes on the ski hill. People have huge smiles and friendly comments, knowing I was part of the volunteer ski team. The US figure skaters are doing us proud this year.

  16. Thank you for the special insight into a wonderful event. This is the kind of information that would be lost if not for people like you. Great post!

  17. I had the opportunity to work at some Olympic venues during the summer Olympics when they were in Atlanta. One of the best experiences in my career in the Army.

    • Because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, we had marines at our venue. We were mag n’bagged everywhere we went. We never felt so safe after that attack left the world feeling so unsafe.

  18. Amazing! How cool is that? First of all, I had no idea that everyone that did all that were volunteers! What a great experience you must have had!

    • It was an amazing experience. They asked for 20,000 volunteers and got 50,000. The volunteers were people from all over the world

  19. WOW….What a once in a lifetime experience. I am just happy to say that we love watching the Olympic on TV. but to see it first hand and in action. Mind blowing.

    • So true! All the years of watching on TV and then being a part of the excitement. We were exhausted when it was over, but didn’t want it to end.

  20. This is so cool, Neva! A once in a lifetime experience that very few people actually get to enjoy. I loved learning more about what goes on behind the scenes at the Olympics and enjoying your photos. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  21. What a fun experience. I enjoy parts of the Olympics, but right now, with two young kids, I haven’t really paid it much attention… next time.

    • I love winter sports as well as summer sports. After being a volunteer, I understand better what it takes to make this event successful.

  22. We don’t really watch the Olympics and it would never have occurred to me that so much goes into preparing for the games.

  23. What great memories and how fun! I’ve always wanted to attend at least one event from the Olympics. I don’t know which one it would be, but I also don’t know that it would matter if I could just attend one.

    • Attending an Olympic event makes you so proud to be cheering with other people from your country. Any event would give you the sense of pride to cheer on an athlete. We see World Cup Events in our home town and feel so fortunate to watch many of these athletes competing yearly.

  24. Such an amazing experience, a once in a lifetime thing! I loved reading about it.

    Every time the olympics roll round I watch the opening ceremony with my mom. Even now as an adult, living several states away we were on the phone together watching.

    • I agree, it’s so much fun sharing and discussing an event that only happens every 2 years. We will always enjoy looking back at the experience.

  25. That is such an amazing, once in a lifetime experience! I am very very jealous. I would like to make it to an Olympic Games someday but to be able to experience it from this perspective. What a memory!

    • Thanks for your comments. We were so fortunate to be part of watching the best athletes in the world, instead of seeing them on television.

  26. You have me beat by a long shot. What a wonderful experience that must had been. All my Olympic moments are from watching them on the tv. The winter Olympics are my favorite to watch. So sad that not many people seem to be watching the games this year or if they are no one in my circle are talking about them.

    • The Olympics only happen once every four years and I love watching most of the events even when I know the outcome. I wonder if “your circle” of friends aren’t very athletic and enjoy other events instead.

  27. What an amazing opportunity! We are due to retire here in 12 years as soon as our littlest graduates and then we hope to do the same kind of stuff.

    • Retirement begins an entirely new life after the world of dedication to working 9 to 5. It’s a dream that everyone looks forward to and few really learn how to fully enjoy. I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing about your pre-retirement escapades.

  28. What a wonderful experience. I hope I, too, can volunteer for the Olympics someday. Looks like you had a fantastic experience.

    • This is a unique experience that only happens every other year. When it came to our home town, we just had to be a part of it.

  29. What fun!! My hubby was a bus driver during the Atlanta Olympics. I don’t know how he did that driving around in that traffic. But he loved it and met a lot of people from all over the world. What an experience.

    • Kudos to your hubby for doing this. One morning a bus driver from Hawaii missed the turn into the parking area at the top of the mountain at Snowbasin. When we heard him say “oh, oh” we all looked up to make sure he was staying on the road. (whew), he just had to drive down the mountain to the first turnaround and go back.

  30. Neva, What a great opportunity for you. This was a great post and I’m glad I got to see it – this was a rare opportunity that you had and I’m glad you shared it on your blog. It would be fun to go to the Olympics one day. Blessings, Tina

    • Thanks for the kind comments, Tina. We loved it, but it was exhausting to get up at 2 a.m. every day. By the third week, we were taking quick naps so we could enjoy the evening events going on. The Olympics mean more after being a part of it in 2002.

  31. I have two little boys. One is just now old enough to understand the Olympics, the concept and sports. The baby just enjoys watching all the movements and fanfare! The older one has come up with his own version of some of the events, so it has been fun watching him learn how to skate and ski. Your memories are awesome; ones which you can treasure for a lifetime!

    • As the years go by, those pictures bring back so many memories. Teaching the kids and now the grandkids how to ski has made a three generation love of the sport.

  32. Wow what an adventure! Seeing that flag again makes me want to cry 🙁

    • Yes, that torn flag made everyone go silent. It added to our sense of pride for our country and our freedom to enjoy celebrating the Olympic sports.

  33. I remember the Salt Lake Olympics very well. We live near there and I can remember how fun the time was. I was 8.5 months pregnant with my first and unable to volunteer, but I watched all I could. (with my feet up and some kind of treat in my hand…) I remember what the different colors of the volunteer coats stood for different jobs and how jealous I felt when we’d see folks sporting theirs. I also remember the USA Roots berets and standing in line forever to buy one for my husband’s little sister. Funny the things you remember.

    • You definitely have similar memories to mine. I wished that I looked good in a Roots beret, but didn’t buy one. Then it became such a hot item. We were supposed to wear the green jackets and luckily there weren’t enough so we got the Mountain Mist blue which we loved better.

  34. My favorite Olympic memory is being in downtown Vancouver during the Gold Medal Hockey game in 2010. The tension during overtime was almost unbearable and the jubilation that erupted when we won the winning goal – being part of that is unforgettable!

    • That must have been a wonderful and unforgettable experience for you. Being surrounded by people enjoying this event makes it so much more personal.

  35. Wow! How cool was that? I really enjoyed the pictures as well. My sister and I were just speaking today about getting out to travel more as we really enjoy it and just seems as though life has gotten in the way over the past few years. Thanks for sharing!

    • I so agree. My husband and I need to get out and travel to somewhere that we wouldn’t usually visit. Life is moving so fast and we are moving slower each year. I’m glad you enjoyed my story

  36. Thanks for letting us in on your wonderful experience.. Something I too would love to be apart of sometime

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures and story. I’ll be retelling it forever since it’s one of my favorite experiences ever.

  37. I sort of watched the Winter Olympics this year but I am mostly a Summer Olympics gal. I enjoy watching track and field, and gymnastics. I would say my favorite memory was watching the 1996 Olympic Games, with Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, Kerri Strug, Amy Chow, and other ladies known, ‘The Magnificent Seven. They became the first ever women’s gymnastics team to win the Olympic gold medal for the USA. I could not get over Kerri Strug’s landing on one leg 🙂

  38. What an exciting time! I’m sure it has been fun to reminisce on this time with the Olympics in Sochi underway!

    Great photos!

    • Yes, each year I do a presentation at a Senior Center. They love seeing all the pictures as much as I enjoy sharing my memories of this wonderful event.

  39. What an amazing experience you had! And honestly, even 13 years later, seeing that flag brings tears to my eyes. Great photos and I thank you for a happy reminder of years gone by. My hubby, Just Plane Dad, used to be Air Force and we’ve been near AF! so many times. I miss those days.
    I never even thought about all of the workers that it would take to run the Olympics. Wow!

    • They needed at least 25,000 volunteers and 45,000 responded. We were strangers that become patriotic friends for this event. No one wanted the event to end even though we were exhausted from being there on the ski hill everyday for 3+ weeks.

  40. What an honor to be a volunteer. I bet you have many more photos and memories. I didnt know there were volunteers but I guess that makes sense. I must have been awe inspiring. What an amazing memory and feeling you must have.

    • Yes, I was able to also get pictures from other photographers to add to my memories. Every year I go to a senior center and show all my pictures and retell the memories. They really love reflecting back to an event that happened in their own area.

  41. THis looks like it was an awesome experience! I’m sure you will never forget it. 🙂 I remember a little about the Olympics in Atlanta, those were my favorite because of the gymnastics. 🙂 What little girl doesn’t liek gymnastics?

    • I guess my answer is little girls like gymnastics in summer and skiing in winter. Watching athletes perform are so awe inspiring, I never get enough of watching all the sports.

  42. Thanks for sharing your experience. My hubby worked for the Japanese broadcasting during the olympics since he served his mission in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese… so it was nice to hear someone elses experience with the Olympics!

    • How fortunate that your hubby could share his experiences with you while working with the Japanese broadcasting. He must have had some great stories to tell too.

  43. What a fun memory! 2002 Olympic games hold a special place in my heart as well, but I didn’t get to go. I was born in Utah & lived there until I was 12, when we moved to Appleton, WI (looks like we switched places with you in Utah). I was in Appleton during the games & unable to fly out to watch them or help out with them. I remember watching as much of them as I could though. I also have fond memories of Snowbasin because we lived in Ogden and my Dad & I used to go skiing there a lot when I was little. I think the first time he took me I was maybe 3! SO much fun! Thanks for sharing! (:

    • Isn’t this the wildest that we have changed places. I loved being born ‘n raised near the Appleton area. We followed our kids as empty nesters. We love the Ogden area and Snowbasin is a great hill to ski or visit during the summer too. Glad we met in the blogging world.

  44. The photos you included were absolutely moving. What an incredible thing to be reminded of our country’s ability to triumph after 9/11 and participate in the games. Coming on the heels of the 2014 winter games, it is great to reminisce. This year was the first time I was really that aware of some of the controversy though that can come along with it–the Russian ice skater winning gold, despite falls, etc. Since you have actually been part of an olympic games, what do you think of all that? It’s hard to sort out what is real and what is hype.

    • Thanks for your comment and question. I’m sure like all publicity, you have to get both sides of the story which is sometimes difficult with only one press release to go by. Some former Olympic skaters pointed out that the scoring system was actually fair. Interesting subject.

  45. What an incredible honor! I am quite a bit away from retirement, but I still want to make a difference when I am at that age. I always dreamed of being a member of the USET, but when you come from humble means, it is not usually possible. Now at 41, that dream is long gone.

  46. What an amazing experience that must have been. I have never been a big sports person but there is just something about the Olympics that draw me in every time they are on.

    • It was an experience that I never dreamed I could be a part of. When we moved to Utah the summer before, my daughter encouraged me to sign up and we had a blast.

  47. What an awesome experience that was! It is really neat to see all of the behind the scenes action that you were a part of. I’m not much of a winter sports person (or a winter person in general) but I do enjoy watching the snowboarding events.

    • I also enjoyed the new snowboarding events. You don’t realize how dangerous it is until you hear about all the injuries these young athletes have endured.

  48. I have always loved the Olympics. My family and I really enjoyed this Winter’s Olympics. We even watched some of the more obscure sports.

    It is truly wonderful you were able to volunteer at such notable event!

    ps. you look great on skis..

  49. I never knew there was a team of volunteers at the Olympics, what an amazing experience that must have been! I’m sure even though you were working, it was a once in a lifetime event you’ll never forget! I barely paid any attention to this year’s Olympics and am much more into the Summer Olympics, with that being said, most memorable moment for me was 1996 magnificent seven getting gold despite an injury!

    • The 1996 Magnificent Seven were gave us a great sense of pride and will never forget. We have hundreds of photos that we gathered from other volunteers and love sharing at group events. It was truly a once in a lifetime to be there.

  50. What an amazing way to experience the Olympics! I have a friend that did this in the London Olympics, and she had the time of her life! Definitely something you’ll cherish forever.

    • I still wear my Olympic ski clothes when I’m skiing. I don’t mind the smiles of people recognizing the decals.

  51. Clearly, it takes a “village” and then some to pull off hosting the Olympic games. It sounds like it was a lot of work, but also fun. I know getting it to all come together in Salt Lake City was a huge undertaking. The same panic and second thoughts seem to plague every city/country that hosts the games. But, I hope we’ll all keep on keeping on. I think every chance for the people of the world to come together is invaluable to remind us of our shared humanity.

    • The people living in Salt Lake City and stubbornly stayed away from the games are lamenting that they missed out on something special. So many security measures were developed during this time. I was scanned so many times, I couldn’t have felt more secure. I wouldn’t have missed it for the anything and now look back with fond memories at the pictures.

  52. What an awesome experience for you! It must have been really special to be a part of something so extraordinary! Some day I’d like to visit an Olympic game, but since I really don’t enjoy crowds, not sure it is going to happen, but maybe!

    • You mentioned you didn’t like crowds and Salt Lake City really did an amazing job with this issue. Everywhere we went, we didn’t have any problems cause there was friendly but great crowd control.

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