By Rebecca Ryser
The final of ten sessions of the Team 2002 Kickoff volunteer Olympic training, held Saturday, Sept. 15, appeared more like a pep rally than a training meeting.
President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, Mitt Romney, together with former Miss America, Sharlene Wells Hawkes, led nearly three thousand volunteers for the Olympics in cheering, screaming and clapping.
People dancing in the new Team 2002 uniform, vacuum cleaner and microwave oven giveaways were all an effort to get these volunteers excited to be “the best Games workforce ever.”
Team 2002 members were like cheerleaders playing the kazoo and pepping the crowd up to yell CHARGE, the Team 2002 game plan, in unison.
The acronym CHARGE was used to help the volunteers remember to be committed, helpful, adaptable, respectful, gracious, and to enjoy.
The Olympic uniform was unveiled to a celebration of music as people paraded around the stage in the colors of mountain shadow, forest green, amber and wildfire red.
“This is Utah. We will serve America proud and the world proud,” Romney said, encouraging the volunteers.
Those in attendance watched as the images of the Salt Lake Valley were displayed with symbols of the Olympics and Neil Diamond”s, “Coming to America.”
BYU student Dave Haynie, 23, a finance major from Sandy, Utah, attended Saturday”s program.
“It was fun to see the Olympic logos and the Olympic music played with images of Salt Lake in the background,” Haynie said. “The Wasatch Mountains and places that I”ve been. It kind of made it more real.”
“This is our tenth of ten…and the crowds were just amazing,” said Ed Eynon, Senior VP of Human Resources and International Relations, referring to the Kickoff.
“If there was an area in the United States to have a volunteer program, this is the place. That”s just a fact,” Eynon said.
The volunteers vitality to the Olympic Games was expressed by Romney.
“The face of the Games, that is given to the spectators, to the athletes, and to the media,” Romney said. “which they use to characterize the success or failure of this Olympic Games is the face of the volunteers.”
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee wanted to address their volunteers in an intimate environment.
“We wanted to talk to them, we wanted to thank them, we wanted to kind of motivate them a little bit, and introduce them to the training effort program,” Eynon said.
Along with getting one of the bright colored jackets, volunteers will also receive micro fleece turtlenecks, nylon pants, jackets sewn with silver threads and embossed snaps, and Olympic cross packs containing lip balm, sunscreen, lotion, and antibacterial soap.
“You”re going to have the experience of a lifetime,” Romney said to the volunteers. “You will be left with the knowledge that you were part of history.”
BYU student Adam Lindsay, 23, an accounting major from Sandy, Utah, said the Kickoff was “definitely well done,” and “fairly inspirational.”
The inspiration Lindsay said he felt came from seeing images of “people who have been able to dedicate their lives to something and be the best at it.”
“Olympic athletes are not just great sports heroes, they also display such enormous quality of human spirit,” Romney said. “There is a fire that burns in them that I want my kids to feel. They inspire us even if we”re not athletes.”
Ben Huff, 23, from Ogden, will be maintaining the track for the bobsled and luge as a volunteer during the Games.
“It”s just exciting to know what you”re a part of,” Huff said after the Kickoff.
Even though a lighthearted atmosphere dominated the meeting, more feelings were felt than just excitement and laughter.
The spirit of the Olympic theme “Light the fire within”, coupled with the spirit of the Paralympic theme, “Awaken the mind, free the body, inspire the spirit,” promoted at the meeting, aroused a sense of American pride.
Romney reminded people of what it means to have the Olympics in a country where dreadful terror has just occurred. “The Olympics stands as a symbol of humanity, of civilization and civility. It stands for the fact that we in America push forward, that we don”t stop, that we don”t bow down, that we don”t give up, and that we go forward.
Hawkes sang the national anthem, and the entire audience stood for the pledge of allegiance and sung “God Bless America” in unison.
The Kickoff marked the beginning of a 15 to 26 hour volunteer training process.
The three types of training still to come are service training, job specific training, and venue training.