“I gained so much more respect for the Paralympic athletes now that I know more about how the Games actually work and I feel so thankful that I got to be a part of such great event. I would love to do it again.”
It is exactly one month since the Paralympic Flame was lit at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium to herald the start of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
To mark the occasion, the first in the My Games Experience will bring you behind-the-scenes memories of the biggest event in winter Para sport.
Volunteers are the unsung heroes behind the Paralympic Games.
Thousands worked tirelessly before, during and after the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. They would be up in the early mornings at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre to greet spectators, or stay awake late ensuring media received information they needed to cover the Games.
Seonhee Jo and Hyunjee Kim were among the volunteers, also known as the “Passion Crew.” Both worked with the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) media and communications team, and their responsibilities involved clipping competition footage from livestreams to be posted on the IPC's official YouTube channel, Facebook and other digital platforms.
“I experienced something amazing!” Jo said. “I learned how the Main Press Centre operates, which for me was interesting because I majored in communication and journalism. I learned how to work with foreign people, and how we can see clips about from the Paralympic Games on the internet.”
Jo said she wanted to volunteer because “I am Korean, and I have patriotism. And I felt a sense of responsibility.”
Kim applied to volunteer for both the Olympics and Paralympics. But after getting a new job, it was difficult to do both, so she chose just one.
“I made this decision [to volunteer at the Paralympics] because overall I enjoy volunteering and helping others by offering my best set of skills,” she said. “But I also really wanted to expand my views on the Paralympic Games. I've always had a desire to learn more about the Games but have not had such perfect opportunity to do so until this.”
The Paralympic experience went beyond both Jo and Kim’s expectations.
For Kim, she learned a lot about the different Para winter sports.
“A part of my job was to watch every single event and that really helped me learn how the Games work,” Kim said. “There were so many little details that were not always shown on TV.”
For example, she explained that in Para alpine skiing, when the vision impaired skiers were competing, a sign was shown on the display board for spectators at the venue to stay quiet so that the athletes could hear instructions from their guides.
“I gained so much more respect for the Paralympic athletes now that I know more about how the Games actually work and I feel so thankful that I got to be a part of such great event,” Kim said. “I would love to do it again.”
Outside of sports, the Paralympic Games also transformed Jo’s perception on people with an impairment.
“The athletes have many stories which made them great,” Jo said. “There is nothing to compare with.”
Before she volunteered at the Paralympics, Jo said she first saw people with an impairment were as people who need some help.
“In school, we learned that we shouldn’t give the disabled help without their request, because they can feel shyness or they can think they are treated with disrespect. Nevertheless, I thought they need a hand for doing something.
“But now, I think they are the same as us,” she continued. “They can make a big result in their field, can make people touched, and can make a big contribution.”
The working enviornment and team atmosphere also made their Games experience enjoyable.
"Another best thing was meeting Clara, my manager," Kim said. "She is very sweet and I think everyone on the team enjoyed having her as the manager. She always created a friendly environment for all of us. I learned a lot from her."
Volunteers got some days off, and many spent it watching competitions.
Jo watched alpine skiing and wheelchair curling, and her favourite was alpine.
“When I had edited alpine skiing clips, I was often touched as I thought all skiers had made miracles,” Jo said. “No arm, no leg, how do they ski? I couldn’t believe that, so I really wanted to see skiing.”
Kim watched a Para ice hockey match between South Korea and Canada with her sister.
“It was really fun especially because we were kind of cheering for both teams since we were born in Korea but grew up in Canada from a very young age,” Kim said. “Watching the game live was so much better than watching it on TV. I loved the energy of the crowd and the intensity of the match.”
The official website for PyeongChang 2018 can be found here.