As a Volunteer You Never feel Alone
In a way, Brian Salmon is part of the legacy of The World Games 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland. There, the Briton worked as a volunteer in the IWGA media office. Since then he has been part of the team that promotes The World Games. In the IWGA interview of the month,Brian Salmon, who has also worked as a volunteer at three Olympic Games, describes what makes The World Games so fascinating and why he wants to be part of TWG 2021 in Birmingham, Alabama.
You worked at The World Games 2017 in Wroclaw. How did you come up with the idea?
I have attended every Olympics (Summer and Winter) since Vancouver. In addition I have had positive experiences at other multi-sport games, such as the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Incheon Asian Games. And here was a festival of sport taking place in Poland, which is one of my favourite countries; it was inevitable I would apply for a volunteer role in media at Wroclaw 2017.
What were your tasks?
A week before the start of Wroclaw 2017 the head of the media volunteers in Poland, who had read about my reporting skills, asked me to work directly with the media team from The World Games. My main task was travelling to the different venues to provide live text, video and pictorial updates to the IWGA social media sites. I also wrote articles for the daily newsletter and reports of the more significant events that had taken place, and attended press conferences.
What were your impressions of working as a volunteer?
In Wroclaw, the city clearly was delighted to be hosting the biggest multi-sport event in Polish history, and it showed. For me personally, Wroclaw 2017 offered a better experience than the Rio Olympics. Venues were fuller in Poland than in Brazil, and the volunteers in Europe showed a far greater dedication and willingness to serve than their South American counterparts. There were stories in Wroclaw of helpers making lengthy day-long train trips so they could be part of The World Games. On the day of the major storm, the volunteers excelled by jumping into a lake to retrieve the strewn wreckage of the boules venue and by working unceasingly to restore the waterlogged roller speed skating track to competition standard, just hours after the cloudburst.
Did you have contact with other volunteers?
Wroclaw accommodated all the non-local volunteers in a university dormitory and provided breakfast and dinner at the same location. So meal times provided an excellent opportunity to meet some of the other helpers and chat about our experiences. By and large, most of the volunteers had positive memories of Wroclaw and The World Games. For most large-scale sports events, there will be a Facebook group set up where volunteers will share information and support. If you decide to volunteer at any event, you will never feel alone.
What was your most beautiful, exciting or lasting experience?
Beautiful was meeting the other amazing people who volunteered in Wroclaw, and helped to make The World Games a huge success. My fellow venue reporter, Javier Marrodan from Spain, also ended up volunteering at the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, so we had a wonderful reunion in South Korea. Exciting was the incredible Field Archery final where Lisa Unruh from Germany triumphed in a single arrow shoot out, despite heavily trailxing half-way through. Also the Floorball final where underdogs Switzerland failed to hold on to a three-goal lead against Sweden. Lasting experience is that despite the Wroclaw edition ending in August 2017, I am still writing articles for The World Games website a year and a half later.
Can you tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when you're not volunteering for a sports event?
My primary career is working for the British government. Though I live in southern England, my daily work takes me regularly to northern France and to Belgium. Consequently I spend a lot of time on trains, so it is just as well that I am a prolific traveller, having recently visited my 100thcountry. Virtually everywhere I go, I will seek out some sporting contest and attend as a spectator. If I was ever asked to compile a travel book, I would from personal experience be able to write about “101 Sporting Arenas You Must Visit in Your Lifetime”.
Where does your interest in sport come from, and is there a special one that particularly fascinates you?
I love everything about sport: the competition, the drama, the eternal quest to excel, the moments of skill, then add in the international element, the anthems, the fans, the atmosphere, the passion; it is the perfect mix. Having visited Vancouver at the time of the Winter Olympics, I decided then to seek out as many different sports events as possible.
Having watched 80+ different sports, there is not time to focus on one particular sport. My sporting preference is for any activity that is fast and physical.
Can you tell us about volunteering at other sports events?
My volunteering journey started with the 2012 Olympics. I was inspired by the smiling enthusiastic volunteers I encountered at the London venues; I wanted to seek out similar experiences. The following year I was selected as a social media reporter for the Rugby League World Cup, a fantastic experience that involved me watching 22 games, travelling almost 5,000 km in the UK, and working at iconic venues like Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, Wembley and Old Trafford.
Shortly afterwards, I saw that the forthcoming Asian Games was seeking reporters for their website. I submitted an article and was fortunate enough to be accepted. I travelled to South Korea and spent a fortnight covering Handball, Judo, Boxing, Cycling, Equestrian, Softball, Hockey and anything else that took my fancy. Stints in Media Centres at major championships in six sports followed. My volunteer highlight was at the Rio Olympics, when I spent a surreal time on the golf course trying to record the position of the balls, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid the more wayward shots of the golfers and the attentions of the South American alligators basking by the adjacent lake!
How would you describe The World Games in comparison?
Very highly; the sports on the roster of The World Games provide for many spectacular moments. I have been to sessions at multi-sport games which were rather flat in terms of atmosphere or skills displayed. However I can guarantee that anyone who comes to Birmingham in 2021 will be amazed at the speed of the climbers or fin swimmers, will wonder at the strength and timing of the powerlifters or Tug of War athletes, and will be charmed by the DanceSport competitors and gymnasts. Though many sports at The World Games may not be familiar to some fans, all have been selected for their strong visual appeal and ability to produce drama.
Also the overall quality of the competitions are at a higher level. Despite having an equal number of sports, Rio 2016 had three times as many athletes competing as at Wroclaw 2017. Thus the competitors that take part in The World Games are much more likely to be drawn from the best participants in that particular sport.
How did you come into contact with The World Games?
The first timeI heard of The World Games was when I saw a TV report from the 2005 edition in Duisburg, Germany. Following the marvellous London Olympics I did consider going to Cali, but was ultimately deterred by the high air fares and the still precarious security situation in Colombia.
Why is it worth working as a volunteer at The World Games?
Which sports fan would not jump at the chance to experience at close hand one of the most prestigious events on the planet? Your fellow volunteers will be enthusiastic helpful people, some of whom will become your friends for life. The athletes are very approachable; some of my best videos in Wroclaw came from just encountering sports people on the street or in the tram. If you are based in one of the venues, you are likely to see some spectacular action. One bonus of working at events is that you keep the uniform. Start to volunteer on a regular basis and you will soon have a new wardrobe! For me, the best part of being involved with The World Games and other sports competitions is the opportunities it subsequently opens up. Taking part in The World Games in Wroclaw has enabled me to fulfil my dream of travelling the globe as a sports reporter.
You will continue to work for The World Games. Why?
I am privileged that I only get to write about the best bits, the exceptional performances by athletes, and the ways that sports federations are making a positive impact in the world. That in itself is immensely satisfying, being able to communicate for example how sports like Muaythai use their influence to discourage gang activity and violence against women. I am a firm believer that access to sport should be available to all, and that media coverage of sport should reflect all parts of society and focus on sporting excellence wherever it is found. By reporting on the 37 sports that are members of the IWGA, I can write unique stories that would not otherwise be covered.
One of the things that make The World Games special is the sheer number of outstanding sportswomen that emerge as champions. I am honoured to write about inspirational talents like Nicol David (Squash), the Averina twins (Rhythmic Gymnastics), Larysa Soloviova (Powerlifting), Petra Senanskzy (Finswimming) and Anna Poliakova (Sumo) and so many more. My intention is to continue to write positive stories about the amazing athletes that compete in The World Games. When the next edition of The World Games takes place in Birmingham, Alabama in 2021, my hope is that the fans who attend will know why each sport is special, and which competitors are most likely to excel.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.