When people ask how I got involved with the Olympics, they’re always surprised by my answer:
I moved to Singapore on a whim.
That small, random action ended up changing my life in so many ways I never could have imagined.
In the summer of 2010, I moved to the tiny island without any jobs lined up — a situation that left me with a lot of free time. A friend of a friend was working at the first-ever Youth Olympic Games, and suggested I use that time to volunteer at the Games, which were taking place in August. I heard “Olympics” and I was in.
After a couple volunteer training sessions, I became a Media Operations Supervisor at the Main Media Center (MMC), located in the newly-opened Marina Bay Sands (in fact, it was so new that even though it was technically open, there was still a good deal of construction going on on the ground floor). I had a wonderful team of young Singaporean volunteers, all of whom were still in high school or just about to start university.
Over the course of three weeks, we worked a variation of hours: early morning shifts meant we were picked up by the taxi pool at 5:30 am; night shifts lasted till 2:30 am. My team was located in the MMC’s media workroom, where we manned the workroom helpdesk.
Something I heard about the London 2012 volunteers was that they were so enthusiastic, they would want to come in on their off days. And I can totally understand that feeling — even when you’re just volunteering, that environment is so unique it’s addictive, and you don’t want to leave. I would have worked every day, every shift, if my supervisors didn’t make me take some time off.
Even on those off days, I surrounded myself with the Youth Olympics. I managed to attend one event: the boys’ tennis semi-final between Colombia and Russia (Colombia won).
My team also took a special visit to the Athletes’ Village (you can’t enter the Village without proper accreditation, so we couldn’t just show up for a tour; we had to arrange a trip out there). We explored the exhibition stalls set up by other countries, talked to some pin collectors, and even met a couple athletes.
Singapore pulled off a pretty successful Games, especially considering it was the first ever Youth Olympics; afterwards, more cities became interested in hosting future YOGs. And while it wasn’t without its share of political backlash over budget (what Games aren’t?), I think these Games had — and will continue to have — a positive impact on youth, sport, and the host city itself — not to mention the youth volunteers it inspired, and the few whose lives have completely changed because of it.