“It’s the volunteers that made the Olympics despite the difficult circumstances. They guided, translated, prevented accidents, and even had to shiver in cold all day.”
Last February was a special month for Korea as the whole world’s spotlight shined bright under anticipation for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Four days before its opening ceremony, President Moon Jae-in specifically called out the volunteers to compliment on their contribution. Among the volunteers that made the Olympics possible, 72.3 percent of them, (13,265 people in total) were in their 20s or younger.
College students left their warm home during their well-earned school break to work at one of the coldest city in the nation country. As the Olympics concluded on Feb. 25, Ewha Voice met Ewha students who contributed behind the curtain of various fields in hopes of achieving a successful event.
Faya, venue assistant in Gangneung Curling Center(GCC)
Born and raised in Uzbekistan until she was 12 years old, Farangiz Davranbekova, decided to register as an international university student in Korea, particularly for Ewha.
As a senior in the Division of Communication and Media major, Davranbekova encountered a great opportunity to work for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics through the Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS) Broadcast Training Program (BTP). Although her nationality is not Korean, Davranbekova expressed that she was a full Korean in heart.
“The main reason I wanted to work for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics was to do the things I usually have fun doing and discovering my dream,” Davranbekova said. “Particularly, being able to participate in the Olympics, an international festival was such an honor for me. As I consider myself to be Korean, I appreciated the fact that I could work for the Olympics hosted in PyeongChang.”
However, Davranbekova was not confident to work as an intern in PyeongChang. She expressed great pressures to conduct her part in allowing the Winter Olympics to be successfully hosted in Korea.
“Honestly, I felt greatly pressured,” Davranbekova revealed. “I was frightened to meet new people and especially pressured to speak fluent Korean as my workplace was in Korea. Having to represent Korea as a foreign student was burdensome.”
As she was assigned to work as the Venue Assistant in the Gangneung Curling Center (GCC), the tasks given required her to speak fluent Korean, have knowledge about winter sports, and display/show/etc. fervent passion for the Olympics.
“Despite such anxieties I had, I was really excited to come,” Davranbekova said. “I believe that foreign students in Ewha should step out of their comfort zone in order to develop their Korean skills, like myself! I actually tried to overcome my fear for Korean by taking classes, doing Korean internships, and particularly participating in the Olympic games.”
By fully immersing herself into the Korean culture by taking risks, Davranbekova also excelled as a BTP intern. Starting her work from Jan. 25, she trained in camera filming, interviewing, and featuring stories.
Designated to the GCC, Davranbekova worked with two broadcast professionals who each were highly skilled in filming and reporting. Davranbekova expressed that working under such individuals allowed her to find her dream.
“Before I came to work for the Olympics, I did have a passion in filming.” Davranbekova said. “However, once I actually came to the GCC and saw my professional crew film and interview, I realized that I too want to jump in the professional filming industry.”
Davranbekova expressed that she could learn many technical facts and tips on how to become a better camera director. “I realized that filming is not only a task,” Davranbekova began, “but also a critical medium for storytelling. The more passionate you are about the footage you want to film, the better the story can be delivered to others through the images you filmed.”
Regardless of the cultural and language barriers Davranbekova faces in the Korean workplace, she expresses her highest gratitude to be able to work for the Olympics. Additionally, she recommended other foreign Ewha students to step out of their comfort zone and “experience the actual Korean culture.”
“To truly enjoy your years in Ewha, and mostly Korea, go out,” Davranbekova suggested. “Make sure to meet as much people as possible, try the local food, and most importantly, do not be able to take risks! As I am participating in the Olympics with other Korean friends from Ewha, the more and more I feel like a Korean in heart wishing for our country to host the best Winter games.”
Ahn Soo-vin, Israeli Olympic Champions assistant
Soo-vin is a junior majoring in Sociology. She assisted Israeli Olympic champions during the game.
Soo-vin, also the captain of the soccer club in College of Social Science, had long loved sports. She not only wished to contribute the international sports event, but also hoped to find a turning point of her 20s.
“Basically, I accompanied the competitors everywhere,” she explained. “We helped them check in to the village, gave them a tour around the area, translated, joined them during the prepping before the games in order to make their accommodation as comfortable as possible.”
Among numerous Olympics occasions that made people cheer and cry, Soo-vin was present at the historical scene when Yun Sung-bin won gold medal in Skeleton for the first time in Korean history. Yet, that game was memorable to her for other reasons as well.
“I was assisting Adam Edelman, an Israeli Skeleton champion, who had the most interesting story to share,” Soo-vin recalled. “He was an MIT graduate working at a prestigious company when he saw Skeleton on TV and found himself saying ‘that’s what I’m meant to do.’ He then practiced sledding based on Youtube. He ended up being third to last this Olympics but he looked happier than ever.”
Although Soo-vin originally hoped to get paired up a nation with a larger scale of Winter Olympics champions, interacting personally close up with the competitors made her realize the precious stories or no-medalists which the media often overlook.
“Israel won no medals at the PyeongChang Olympics but their journey was cherished,” she said. “I was with an Israeli figure skater right and he was one of the lasts to leave the practice rink before the competition. He wasn’t near the top rank but was so excited when he broke his personal record. People would later recall only the medalists but seeing these individuals write down their own story was inspiring.”
During the past February, Soo-vin noted that she indeed found the turning point of her 20s of which she had hoped for.
“The slogan for the volunteers in this Olympics was ‘Passion. Committed,” she added. “It seemed like a cliche at first but I can say now that I’ve experienced what it is to be truly passionate. When you watch the games on TV your greatest attention is directed at the medalists but I’ve seen all champions from the winner to those in last. Seeing people express the greatest happiness after achieving their personal goal will be with forever. I would recommend anyone to participate in the Olympics a thousand times.”
Assisting the Olympic Families
Eun-jin is a senior majoring in German Language and Literature. She worked as an Olympics Family Assistant (OFA) where she assisted Alfons Hormann, the president of German Olympics Committee for a month. Olympic Family is referred to the VIPs in the event and are mainly consisted of IOC members or National Olympics Committee (NOC) presidents and secretary general.
Her interest in joining the Olympics began from her friend who worked as a video staff at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Her friend emphasized that feeling the unprecedented energy and the tension of the Olympics firsthand is truly once in a life time experience. As Eun-jin’s confidence lied in being fluent at German, she hoped to contribute in the Olympics with her talent.
“Simple translation and guidance was not the only thing required out of OFAs,” she explained. “On top of communicating with my client’s designated personal drivers to make sure he can be at the necessary places at the right time to manage his tight schedule, it was my responsibility to make sure they gain a positive image about Korea so that they would remember their PyeongChang Winter Olympics as the best of time.”
Managers often emphasized that the success of an Olympic lies in how the Olympic Families assess it.
“Language was not the only thing that connected us together because they accepted me as part of the German team,” Eun-jin said with a smile. “The most fun I had during the Olympics was during the men’s hockey semi-finals between Germany and Canada. Everyone knew how good Canada was so our whole team was tense but they’d won 4 to 3. As I cheered with them they told me I’m the lucky charm that brought their success. It was the best of fun.”