Olympic Spirit South African Style

Aimee-Lee Nash

Aimee-Lee Nash is from Capetown, South Africa. She moved to Japan in 2017 to study Kyokushin Karate and experience Japanese culture, Things that have fascinated her for a long time. During the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she is working in Press Services.

“One thing that really surprised me about living in Japan was that everything here works. If someone says they will be at your home at 5:00, they will be there at 4:55. I love that.”

When she came to Japan, she initally found a job teaching in high school. Now she teaches in a kindergarten. As a Karate practitioner, it is no surprise that she loves teaching and lighting up the lives of those kids.

When she decided to volunteer for the Tokyo Olympics, she considered it an incredible opportunity to be part of an amazing global event. “I grew up in sport, and my parents were part of many sporting events. So I would tag along and help out,” she explained about her previous volunteer experiences.

Her mom organized the start of the Cape Town Cycle Tour, and she grew up helping at the event. The Cape Town Cycle Tour has been run for more than 40 years. It is a 109km event that typically has 40,000 riders, from professionals to weekend strollers. Cyclist gather to compete and raise money for local charities. “It is exciting seeing events like this come together’ Aimee-Lee explains. ‘People singing and excited. It’s really a cool experience to be part of.”

Beyond her participation in the Cape Town Cycle Tour Aimee-Lee has volunteered at triathlons, other cycling events, marathons, and Karate tournaments. Her experience will be beneficial in her role on the Press Operations team at team cycling events. In that role, she will assist international photographers. Her responsibilities include ensuring photographers and their assistants comply with social distancing requirements, direct them to their posts, and confirm that they have what they need to do their work smoothly.

“I am really excited. I think it is going to be an amazing event,” she explained when asked about her expectations. “History will happen, and records will be broken. I have really high hopes. I am nervous (that I will do a good job) but mostly super excited.”

“Karate is debuting this year, so that is really great, and I am looking forward to that as well.

When asked about the volunteer experience, she replied, “It is really exciting to be here despite it being highly controversial at this time. The Olympics is not just about the sport, but it also brings people together. It is an opportunity for people to come together in unity, especially at this time. Spirits need to be lifted. The Olympics will be a great opportunity to lift spirits, change mindsets and celebrate what the athletes are doing.”

“All the volunteers and people coming together to create this event,’ she added, ‘is going to be powerful. Being part of a team and working so hard, putting your heart and soul into something, and seeing what it can be at the end. It is really exciting. It has been a long time since I’ve worked as part of a team. I’m looking forward to it and that’s saying a lot for an introvert like me”

Being part of a team is something that we miss in these work at home and socially distanced times. My hope, like Aimee-Lee’s, is that the Olympics will rekindle a sense of international unity, as we experience the drama and spectacle of the games. I expect that they will provide us, volunteers, a chance to create memories, for ourselves and those we serve, that last a lifetime.

First Published on Medium.com June 18, 2021

My Tokyo 2020 Olympic Journey

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Volunteer

When I moved back to Japan in 2017, one thing that excited me was a chance to volunteer for the Olympics. While that journey was delayed by a year, the opportunity to be part of one of the world’s biggest events is now becoming a reality.

The Olympics brings to mind an ideal of unity, sportsmanship and inclusion like no other event. These ideals are what I signed up for. Being part of such a massive global event, I reasoned, would surely be a beneficial experience.

My goals for participation beyond that are to network with people from across the country and around the world. While that scope has been greatly reduced thanks to COVID, I should still have the opportunity to engage with people outside my normal social circle.

To date I have attended several training sessions. One was about Olympic Spirit and inclusion, another for team building, and the next taught us basic first aid. Last month I had leader’s training, and later in June I will attend training for my role as an Olympic Family Services Team Leader. I’m excited to see what that’s all about.

Yesterday I got my uniform, and while I was expecting a bit more swag, it was still pretty cool. I got convertible sweatpants, polo shirts, athletic shoes, a couple of bags, and a prepaid Visa card to cover train fares. That’s me all decked out above!

My behind the scenes look so far though, has had me scratching my hairless head about some of the decisions being made. So I’ve had to apply a philosophy I used back in corporate: “Those decisions are above my pay-grade.” This was a hard lesson for me to learn. An inability to release what is our of our control may also be the reason that thousands of people have opted out of participation in the Olympics, despite their initial enthusiasm. The show always looks better from the seats.

For my part, what happens in the process of presenting the games does not dissuade me from wanting to take part in this once in a lifetime experience. Despite all the nonsense surrounding the 2020 games here in Tokyo. I don’t want to document those situations, instead I’m focusing on keeping it positive and focusing on the volunteer spirit. If you’re curious, it is easy enough to find countless stories of poor decisions and scandal surrounding the games using your favorite search engine.

So here we go, just a few more weeks until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. One year late, but hopefully with the same spirit and enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

Expressing My Gratitude

Carlos Hernandez Tokyo 2020 Olympic volunteer

Carlos Andres Hernandez is from Mexico City. He has been living in Japan for three years and is working with the press corps during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Carlos came to Japan to get his MBA and has really enjoyed his experiences in Japan.

He hopes to contribute to the Olympics by helping photographers to have a good experience in their interactions with locals. Carlos was once a very good soccer player with aspirations of going pro. His connection to sport is one that continually draws him to the Olympics. He traded his dream of playing professional soccer for a business career as a project manager. But being part of the Olympic Field Cast will allow him the opportunity to participate in the games and be near the action.

Carlos originally moved from Mexico to Kyoto and enjoyed his time there. He found the Japanese people he encountered very diligent and hard-working. They were also friendly and made his work enjoyable. Last year, he moved to Tokyo.

“I had hoped to be closer to the athletes,’’ Carlos said about the role he was anticipating. However, “Working with a lot of different kinds of people and using my language skills, I speak English, Spanish, some Japanese and understand Portuguese, will be enjoyable too.” This skill will make him a good fit for the job he will be doing, assisting photographers.

“The Olympics bring opportunities and also the ability to grow as people.”, Carlos said, and he expects to meet a handful of people from around the world, growing his network in the process. “I think that the experience will make me feel happy that I have helped to make the events successful.”

“One of my positive experiences in Japan was when I was starting my MBA and looking for a part-time job. I met a lot of Japanese people and was immersed in the culture. Seeing and understanding Japanese daily life was very insightful. For example, if you have a part-time job in Mexico, if there is not much to do. People joke and just hang out. But in Japan people find ways to keep busy and focus on how to do work. That is valuable.’

“Many friends dropped out of volunteering, I have not dropped out because I am doing this for the athletes and for Japan. I worry about the risk, but it’s a great chance to give back. When I went to pick up my uniform, the people working at the uniform center universally had the feeling that we should do our best until the end and make the games as good as we can.”

Connect with Carlos on LinkedIn, he is currently looking for his next opportunity.

First Published on Medium.com June 21, 2021