20 Mar 2017

Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney; also in Athens, Beijing and London; they were here, there and everywhere.

It is no different in Rio de Janeiro; there is an army of volunteers giving their best to make sure that everything at the table tennis events in Riocentro Pavilion 3 runs smoothly; when the last ball his hit in anger on the evening of Wednesday 17th August every effort has been made, so that all can leave having enjoyed the experience.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Equally, let us hope that the volunteers have enjoyed the experience and leave the richer for having taken part in the greatest multi-sport occasion on planet earth.

If there are aspects with which we may have comment and I would suggest that within the venue those have been few and far between, we cannot lay our observations at the door of those who have given their time freely and willingly. They are the soldiers on the front line, not the generals in the background.

Sport Competition Management

The duties of the volunteers are organised by Sport Competition Management. It is a team managing all sport specific operations, comprising 11 paid staff and a team of 77 Volunteers.

Notably, the volunteers are designated to seven functions; Field of Play, Athletes Services, Sport Information, International Federation, Technical Officials, Sport Equipment and Administration.

Field of Play:  taking care of the preparation of athletes for presentation, assisting in leading the athletes in the arena, carrying athletes bags, keeping the area clean and tidy, controlling access and finally giving their best smile,  sometimes they could be spotted on cameras during a match!

Athletes Services: taking care of the implementation of the training and warm-up schedule, assisting athletes and coaches if any help is needed, keeping the back of house areas tidy and ensuring all athletes leave Pavilion 3 safely. Finally they must have positive energy, as they are the people around the athletes during their most important moments of preparation for a match.

Sport Information: taking care of training changes requests, delivering video recordings of matches, updating results and finally answering any questions from coaches or athletes. The most welcoming and informative team, they provide table tennis balls to the athletes for training!

Sport Equipment: taking care of all sporting equipment, from the installation of the sport floor, tables and nets to umpires equipment and drinks for athletes. It was tireless work, especially before the Games start but also during the competition for the transition from four tables to less. Much work was done in a limited time, and not always optimal working times.

Technical Officials:  taking care of all functions related to Technical Officials; these people are the “right hand” of Referees and Umpires, making sure that the Technical Officials are in the venue on time, meals are delivered on time and that everything runs smoothly for them during the event.

International Federation: the team assisting the International Federation, as requested; overseeing transport, offices, meetings and other services for the International Federation. Lucky people as they are having the chance to make many international friends!

Administration: taking care of all administrative functions. Work that it’s not visible to the end user but indeed very important and vital for all other functions.  The favourite team of all…as they offer an extra service of providing coffee to keep everyone going!

Many and Varied

 The tasks are many and varied; my heart goes out to those who have to stand on the various entrances, those who stand at the bottom of the stairs.

“I’ve been looking after the photographers, it has been really good to meet and work with different people, it’s been good to make connections.” Chen Huilin from Hong Kong.

Perhaps some had hoped they would lead Usain Bolt into the 100 metres final but instead when on bottom of stairs duty they can only hear the cacophony of noise, they can see nothing, they do not see the joy of victory, the agony of defeat. Thankfully there is a rotation system.


The volunteers are the diplomats. They have to deal with those who think they are more important than they really are; those who are attending their umpteenth Games and were present at the London Olympic Games, that is 1948 not 2012.

Tactfully, they have to explain without causing conflict that the accreditation does not allow entrance when perhaps they would like to use the vernacular and advice the bumptious visitor to go fly a kite.

“We are very strong in table tennis, the Chinese Teams are always in the media; here it has been good to meet people from all over the world.” Chi Ye from Hangzhou in China

It is a thankless task but of those I have met, whilst there are regulations to be followed, very few wear the jobsworth hat.

Common Sense

Common sense has prevailed; at such an events, as the Olympic Games, it is not possible to cover every possible eventuality, sometimes discretion has been needed. In my experience that has been shown.

“All the volunteers have done a great job; at the beginning it was a challenge to find good volunteers. We wanted volunteers with sporting background; I have to congratulate everyone, I am really pleased.” Edimilson Pinheiro, Sport Competition Manager

Now as we move towards the conclusion of proceedings; hugging colleagues with whom you have experienced an occasion of a lifetime is the order of the day.

A multi-cultural and international team, members came not only from Brazil, but also India, Great Britain, China and Colombia; lamguage difficulties were overcome to form a team of friends!


Play nearing conclusion, there is the mandatory group photograph but that is not all.

Leaning on the table where Ma Long blasted his way to victory is a favourite and when matters close and the medallists in the Men’s Team event leave the podium, there is one photo guaranteed.

Standing on the top step of the podium will be the favourite; just as an Olympic champion and why not, they are all gold medallists.

They were “time dos sonhos” (dream team). “Muito obrigado a todos pela realização deste sonho!”


The volunteers were asked a series of questions

The Experience

Describe in three words the experience.

……….incredible, dedication, learning, extraordinary, sensational, happiness, satisfaction, ……….unbelievable, dream, realization, fascinating, fantastic, simply the best, professionalism, ……….wonderful, surprising, multicultural, focus, friendship, blessing, emotional, enthusiasm, ……….unforgettable, way of life, amazing, muito-bom, positive

Favourite Moment

Describe the favourite moment.

……….all the moments were special and unique.

……….meeting different people of different nationalities and culture.

………. with athletes for the preparation and matches.

……….seeing athletes from different countries practicing together.

……….being the “medal hunter”, which meant i had to follow the bronze medal winner from the time her match ended and make sure she is ready on time for the victory ceremony.

……….working with different people, who speak different languages.

……….first day when i saw the venue.

……….being useful!

……….being so close to the olympic medals before they were awarded to athletes!

……….being part of this team, meeting other volunteers and making new friends.

Most Difficult

What was the most difficult role?

……….chasing” the athletes after their matches to take photos with them!

……….staying awake while being in the role of ball boy, after a long and tiring day.

……….controlling some access points, when there was not much happening and also could not watch table tennis!

……….sometimes not being able to communicate 100%, because of so many different languages.

……….translation from English to Portuguese and the opposite!

……….when being without too much work to do.

 Table Tennis Experience

What do you think about Table Tennis after this experience?

……….I fell completely in love again! What a great sport!

……….I did not know the sport so well before but now I like it very much.

……….A sport much more complicated than I imagined, but also very passionate and wonderful sport.

……….I love table tennis! I would like to practise table tennis more, because now I love the sport more than before!

……….Table Tennis was always my favourite sport but now I have a different perspective, with everything that I could see during athletes’ preparation.

……….It was like a re-discovery and new learning process. This different perspective I have now of top-level table tennis, will help me in my work as a coach.

……….I know more about the sport and feel curious about it.

……….Best sport ever! It is a sport that demands high concentration, determination, high physical condition demand and respect between athletes.

Favourite Person

Furthermore, they were asked to name the person they met and admire the most

……….our coordinators, because of their dedication and professionalism but also for teaching us a lot.

……….our coordinators, who despite being occupied with their duties, did not forget to take care of volunteers as well.

……….my family because they supported me when i had to invest my free time in my role as a volunteer.

……….one of the other volunteers i met here and became friends with.

……….The spectators for supporting all athletes and enjoying table tennis.

……….All who made the event happen.

 ……….All volunteers who paid their travel and accommodation fees for being here to help.

……….The Chinese, Japanese and Korea Republic athletes, for their dedication and determination.

……….Sam Walker, Great Britain, in his first Olympic Games, being World ranked no.131 he beat Simon Gauzy, World ranked no.19 (Simon Gauzy).

……….Ni Xia Lian, Xu Xin, Ding Ning, Hugo Calderano

Next Time

Would you volunteer again for a Table Tennis event?

……….I would for sure like to be in table tennis events again.

……….Yes but would prefer being a paid staff! 

……….Yes, it was the best experience.

……….Yes! I would like to be in Tokyo 2020!

Rio 2016 Around Rio Edimilson Pinheiro

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