Actually, this story started with a lie. My apologies.
I’ve volunteered only once. That was last year at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But next year (fingers crossed) I’m going to do it again at the UEFA Eurocup, in London.
The discussions with myself have invaded my mind for months now. I know I love it, but at the same time I know I shouldn’t be giving my time and my effort for free (or for a meal) to a company that is making millions of dollars.
Will my decision change anything? Probably not.
Are companies taking advantage of people’s passion? Definitely.
Is it the right thing to do? I don’t know.
My amazing experience
As I said before, I was a volunteer at the Youth Olympic Games 2018, in Buenos Aires. It was the first time my country hosted such an important event and the first time I did such job.
Beforehand, I had no idea what exactly I was going to find or why I was doing that. Sports are the thing I love the most in my life and being part of that massive event was like a dream for me. Of course they are not the Olympics nor the World Cup, but those games were huge. They had “Olympic Games” in the name, so they were important. They are important.
I went there, I took my clothes and I started to work. Every single day was better than the previous one, and at the end of the games I had a feeling that something was missing.
The complete experience did nothing but adding value to my life. I’ve met people from all over the world, I’ve talked with them about their cultures and how sport and life is at the other side of the world. I had fun, a lot of fun.
I would wake up every morning at 6 am with a smile on my face knowing that I had to take a bus to the Olympic Park. I would come back home at 10 pm with even a bigger smile on my face knowing that, after going to bed, I was going to wake up to start the routine again.
My colleagues were awesome. We built an amazing team. Everyone knew that the person sitting next to them was going to work as hard as them, and that we were all living the dream. We did work hard, but we really enjoyed it.
I’m not going to give every single detail about that experience (that could be another story), but I want to make clear how much I enjoyed it, how meaningful that was for my life and that I consider that as one of the best things I’ve done in my entire life.
After those games finished, I’ve applied for the volunteer program at Lausanne 2020, Tokyo 2020 and the UEFA Eurocup 2020. So far, I’ve only got news from the last one. I’ve done the interview and they accepted me. So another experience is there awaiting for me.
Is it a moral thing to do?
From the people’s point of view, it is. Working for free in order to make possible for an event to become true is a completely honest and nice thing to do.
Things like that wouldn’t be possible if volunteers didn’t guide the fans to the exit, if they didn’t hold player’s bags or even if they didn’t dance a little bit in order to make that angry man at the crowd smile.
And there’s a lot more. Volunteers clean the pitches and the courts, they make sure athletes have water and food, they tell them which bus to take if they want to go to their hotel/village, they help journalists do their job. They do loads of things. And all of them are really important.
But what about they companies? They make millions and millions of dollars. People with the most important position fill they pockets after and event comes to an end. They receive crazy amounts of money from other companies that want their logo to appear on TV and from fans who pay tickets because they want to go and watch a game.
Volunteers are the biggest team of these big sports event, and what to they receive? Food and clothes. Sometimes free transport. That’s it.
Yes, they go home afterwards with their hearts and souls full of nice experiences and being conscious that they’ve done something worthy. And it’s true. But that’s the excuse companies use not to pay them.
Personally, I believe that’s completely wrong. No one can tell me the Olympic Committee or FIFA have no money to give them. I’m not talking about thousands of dollars, but at least the minimum hour rate. Is it impossible? I don’t think so.
I understand there are some volunteering situations in which money doesn’t exist at all. Doctors that go to really poor countries to help children or people that travel to little and unknown towns in the middle on the countryside to build houses for people with low incomes. In those scenarios money is an issue, so the debate here is more complicated.
But in big and wealthy events there’s no question at all: companies are stealing.
Then why do I do it?
I love sports. I want to be part of the game. I know there are loads of different ways of doing that, but volunteering is one of those.
All this may sound contradictory, and it is. I hate something, I know it’s wrong and I do it anyway. At the same time, I’m aware of what’s going on. I don’t deny this situations, which gives me a little bit more relief.
If we think about it, it happens every day with most of the situations in our lives. We go and buy clothes that are made in Pakistan or Azerbaijan by people that barely eat twice a day, we eat fast food restaurants and we don’t know where the food is coming from. We do “bad” things and we know we’re doing them, but we do it anyway.
Are we as guilty at the company itself? No.
Ar we guilty at all? Maybe.
What do you think about this?
As I said, I’ve had strong arguments with myself about this topic.
First of all, is volunteering a fair thing?
Second, if the answer to that is no, is it wrong to still do it?
I’d like to know what you think. Let’s see if together we can come to an agreement on this complicated topic.
In the meantime, I’m going to get ready. The Eurocup is awaiting…