Volunteers are a critical component for the success of a major football championship such as UEFA EURO 2012, as they will quite often be the first contact that supporters have with the tournament.
For UEFA EURO 2012, organisers received a UEFA European Championship record 23,965 applications from fans worldwide to work as a volunteer. Ultimately more than 5,000 volunteers are supporting UEFA's full-time staff in 20 areas of operation, and are working at official UEFA EURO 2012 sites such as stadiums, airports and hotels.
Volunteers not only support the successful implementation of operations but also lend their enthusiasm and a unique host-country flavour, helping to give visitors and participants an unforgettable experience. A striking example of the coordinated and efficient work of volunteers from around the world is the volunteers' centre in Kyiv.
UEFA's volunteer manager in Ukraine, Andriy Bantser, shared the secrets of the success behind the operation. "Our work has been prepared so it becomes automatic," he told UEFA.com. "Each volunteer knows what, where and how to do his task. It is important that people see professionalism from our side, because their duties carry responsibility."
Kyiv's volunteer centre is the largest in the eight host cities in Poland and Ukraine, employing about 900 enthusiasts who perform various tasks in many areas, from accreditation to VIP services. During their spare time, all volunteers have the opportunity to participate in various workshops. Yoga classes, callanetics, tae bo and dancing are among the classes on offer to them. Furthermore, some volunteers are transferring their skills to new friends on their own initiative, like Maria Cristina Tordoya Rojas, a Ukrainian with Bolivian roots, who leads the public salsa course.
She left her work to participate in this tournament, and has no regrets about her decision. "When I found out that Poland and Ukraine were to host EURO 2012, I immediately wanted to be a part of this festival," she says. "The fact that young people have chosen not to go to the beach somewhere, but to remain in Ukraine and help the tournament organisers, is very important. I spend all my free time here and I really like it."
The vast majority of Kyiv volunteers are youngsters but the older generation also participate with gusto. There is even a reserve general major among the volunteers, although perhaps the most colourful representative at the Kyiv volunteers' centre is 62-year-old Kurt Emil Gschwend from Switzerland.
This man with a young soul covered 2,700 kilometres on his bike to achieve his goal. "I was a volunteer at the previous EURO in Austria and Switzerland, and I liked it," he explained. "The road to Kyiv took me 23 days. I am happy to be here. I've met very friendly people and have the opportunity to work, and at the same time relax with my body and soul."
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