The application period for the UEFA EURO 2012 volunteer programme has closed, with organisers receiving a UEFA European Championship record 23,965 submissions from football fans worldwide.
Between 14 June and 16 October applications were submitted from 142 countries, with the majority from Ukrainian and Polish citizens eager to "join the action" next summer. Significant numbers from Russia, Germany, Italy and Spain have also offered their services, hoping to fill one of the 5,500 vacancies and be a part of the historic final tournament.
Their commitment has been inspiring, with one Polish girl offering to return from where she is living in Australia for the 30-minute interview if it gave her more chance than doing it over Skype. Another suggested in their interview that UEFA EURO 2012 represents the most important event in Poland since 1410 and the Battle of Grunwald – not perhaps historically accurate, but certainly reflective of real enthusiasm.
Table tennis player Natalia Partyka, one of two athletes to compete at both Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2008, underlined how important volunteers are to these grand sporting occasions. "Often volunteers are the first people the athletes meet," she said. "They help us get used to the new environment and make you feel at home. Without their passion, enthusiasm and commitment these sporting events would not be possible."
Boxer Vitali Klitschko, Ukrainian volunteer programme ambassador, added: "I know many people expect a miracle at EURO 2012, but it will not happen unless each one of us contributes. The volunteers have to remember it's not all about new acquaintances, positive impressions and priceless experience: it's also hard work, carrying real responsibility."
The interview process began on the first weekend of September when 628 applicants, hailing from as far afield as Venezuela and Nigeria, were interviewed in Kyiv and Warsaw. Since then the likes of Klitschko, Ukrainian X Factor judge Igor Kondratyuk and Polish rock star Krzysztof Skiba have helped put potential volunteers through their paces.
Other shortlisted applicants, whose ages range from 17 to 80, will be invited for interviews in all eight host cities over the coming six weeks. Some 270 have been invited to the final tournament draw in Kyiv on 2 December; others will be notified as to whether or not they have been successful by the end of December.
Around 5,500 volunteers will support UEFA's full-time staff in 20 areas of operation and will work at official UEFA EURO 2012 sites such as stadiums, airports and hotels. They will undergo training from February to May 2012, encompassing a general programme and job-specific instructions.
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