2020 TOKYO OLYMPICS: THROUGH THE EYES OF THE VOLUNTEER

Writer: Eveline Stella Budiman | Illustrator: Ariyani Nuraini | Photopgrapher: Andrew Ariel Darwin | Editor: Reinardus Darren




It has been over a full week since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics officially wrapped up, and yet we still can't seem to get over the hype of this major multi-sport event! For the past few weeks, broadcasting stations all around the world have relentlessly amplified its coverage on this year's Olympics and the competing athletes. However, despite the countless amount of exposure that the global event has gotten, we know so little of the people working behind the scenes. In this article, our team has gotten the chance to interview two of our fellow friends, Natashya (batch 36) and Freya Nadira Lathufia (batch 40), who also happen to be the volunteers of this year's Olympic Games.



How was your volunteering experience at the Tokyo Olympics?


N: It was such an unforgettable experience. I feel so lucky to be a part of this huge, most-awaited sporting event. I was volunteering in the Tokyo International Forum, where the Weightlifting competition was held. Coincidentally, weightlifting happens to be my favourite sport at the moment.


My job there was to help the Indonesian athletes while being interviewed by (foreign) media press. With that being said, I was working only on the day when the Indonesian athletes had to compete. I had the chance to assist two Indonesian weightlifting athletes, Windy Cantika, the women 49 kg Group A Weightlifting bronze medalist, and Eko Yuli Irawan, who won silver in the 61 kg Group A Weightlifting section. I also got the chance to meet the other Indonesian weightlifting athletes and their coaches on my last day of volunteering. It warmed my heart seeing our nation's best weightlifters share their happiness over the fact that they were chosen as Indonesia's representatives in the Olympics.


F: I was put in the Language Service Team, meaning that my job required me to translate everything that the athletes were saying to the media press. I was assigned to the Indonesian badminton team, so I had to translate whatever our athletes were saying in Indonesian to English in order for the international press to understand.


The entire volunteering experience was surreal. Not only did I get to meet and assist all of the Indonesian badminton players (and yes, that includes the Minions, the Daddies, Anthony Sinisuka Ginting, and our gold medallists, Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu), I was also given the chance to really step outside of my comfort zone and take on a huge role of translating for the athletes. I had no prior experience in translating, and to have the committee literally letting me do all the translating duties without the assistance of any professional made me nervous at first. I even had to translate for the Games’ press conferences and the live broadcasts done by the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). I also had to learn about how the whole badminton sport works, the terms used during the matches, and I also had to learn more about the athletes themselves. Overall, I learned a whole lot of things by taking part at the Olympics and I thoroughly enjoyed my days as a volunteer!


What made you decide to volunteer?


N: I came across the notice posted by APU on Campus Terminal that the Olympics was looking for volunteers. I know that this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that I had to at least try applying for the role. So without much consideration, I went ahead and signed myself up as a volunteer, and voilà – I got accepted!


F: Actually, I did apply as a volunteer for the Olympics two years ago, which was before I came to APU. Back then, cases of COVID-19 were none to be found, so the application was so competitive. Also, I wasn’t even living in Japan by that time, so I didn’t get selected. After the pandemic hit, however, I saw that there was a notice on Campus Terminal, saying that the Olympics are looking for volunteers. That’s when I decided to apply once again and see what happens as I thought that maybe I now have a greater chance at getting picked. Well, I was right because I actually got in!



What is it about this year's Olympics that's different or unique to you?


N: Definitely the lack of audience filling up the arenas. Spectators weren’t allowed to watch the matches due to the pandemic and also the state of emergency that was imposed by the government in Tokyo. This year, the Olympic committee was also noticeably putting greater stress on implementing strict health measures. For example, we were required to do PCR testing once every 72 hours to ensure everyone’s safety.


F: First off, the crowd. There wasn’t a single audience in the arena and the only ones who were allowed to be there were us volunteers and the Olympic committee. Second, I guess this year’s Olympics was understandably way more strict, particularly in checking everyone’s health. We had to be several feets apart from the athletes, wear our masks at all times, and we also had to take the PCR test every 4 days just to be safe. So, basically we had to follow a strict health protocol for the sake of the continuity of the Games. Third, I feel like the committee relied a lot on their volunteers this year around. Like what I had mentioned before, they even let me do all the translations, even during the press conferences and official live broadcasts, on my own without any help from a professional. In fact, I didn’t really see anyone else translating for the athletes aside from us volunteers throughout the event.




Did you get any reimbursement from the Olympic committee?


N: Yes! The Olympic committee pretty much provided everything else aside from our flight tickets and meals outside of our volunteering hours. We were given our Olympic Games volunteer uniforms (shirts, trousers, jackets, shoes, socks, and a bag), disinfectants, and even masks to be worn during the day. The Olympic committee also covered my accommodation costs (and no, we didn’t stay at the Olympic Village, but rather, we were given a very nice hotel room that is located at the heart of the city!). They also gave us meal vouchers and a prepaid VISA card that covers our daily transport costs.


F: Yes, I did. I was actually given an accreditation card, which acts as some sort of a pass to all the places you would like to visit, like the Olympic Village, for example. They provided us with food and beverages during our volunteering duties, and our hotel rooms were also taken care of. In other words, we didn’t really need to spend any money for both our meals and our entire stay in Tokyo. On top of all that, all volunteers got ¥1,000 a day to cover our transport expenses, regardless of the venue that we were sent to. So what they did was they gave us a VISA card that can actually still be used even after the Games have ended. These cards are accepted in any konbini and we can even use it to make transactions on Amazon!




What's the one thing you'll never forget from volunteering in the Tokyo Olympics?


N: I think above everything else, the one thing I will always remember is the times I got to meet all kinds of amazing people, be it the athletes or the people working behind the scenes (volunteers, the Olympic committee, coaches, and the press) within that short period of time.


F: In all honesty, I never really followed badminton or watched the entirety of the previous Olympic Games. It is only by the time that I actually did my volunteering duties that I found myself getting immersed in the Olympics. From here, I was not only able to see how the Games work, but I also got to see the athletes as an actual person. As a translator, I had to translate everything that the athletes were saying to the press: from what they were feeling throughout the matches, how they were able to persevere and push through the Games, to opening up about the more personal aspects of their life. I got to not only witness our nation’s badminton history being rewritten, but I also got to see glimpses of these amazing individuals’ lives and rallies of resilience. Our athletes have taught me lessons of perseverance and hard work that I will forever cherish.



Volunteers are an instrumental part of the Olympic Games. They are the unsung heroes and the “lifeblood” of the Games, thus the need for us to shine a light on their hard work in ensuring the success of the Olympics. We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude for all the volunteers who have contributed in bringing the Olympic spirit to life, even during this testing time. お疲れ様でした!


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