Dogged Volunteers Welcome Visitors To the World Cup

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

THE thousands of volunteers for this summer's World Cup soccer tournament often work far from the playing field. Sometimes, however, they manage to bring the ``field'' with them.

Between arriving flights of World Cup visitors in Boston, for example, this writer, a volunteer greeter assigned to direct visiting media and fans to public transportation and answer their questions, kicked the ball around the Logan Airport baggage-claim area with Striker, the World Cup's canine mascot.

Accompanied by a soccer-ball-toting guide, Striker is always ready for such impromptu practice sessions.

Recommended: Default

The volunteers who dress up as Striker are tireless in their pursuit of spreading the spirit of friendly international competition. While putting in an appearance at the airport, Striker was alerted that a child in another terminal was distraught over not meeting him. The mascot was there in minutes, dishing out smiles and hugs along the way.

Upon the conclusion of Striker's visit to the airport, one worker at an information booth was heard to happily exclaim, ``That just made my day!''

In March, World Cup USA '94, the host organization for this year's event, began running advertisements in local papers and on the radio to recruit volunteers. They attracted more than 1,200 to the Boston venue alone, with 10 times that many in the total nine-city volunteer pool.

In May, a general orientation was held near Boston at Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., the site of six tournament games. There, local volunteers were treated to refreshments while watching a videotaped welcoming message on the stadium scoreboard from Alan Rothenberg, the chief executive officer of the organization charged with staging the championship. Volunteers met one another and signed up for dates and times to serve.

One point made in the pep talks was that this event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - something to tell the grandchildren about. Another message organizers drove home was that all volunteers are ambassadors for the United States: ``The eyes of the world will be upon you.'' In fact, some specifically enlisted in the Ambassador Program, which provides hosts and hostesses to assist VIPs, dignitaries, sponsors, and international guests.

All volunteers are required to serve a minimum of 40 hours over the one-month tournament period, and at times the days are long. The reasons for volunteering are as diverse as the volunteer backgrounds.

For Bob Lash, a computer procurement specialist from Canton, Mass., the motivation is simple: ``I have three teenagers who love the game, and I do, too,'' he says. There are no free tickets, though, and he's had to pay $65 to $125 per seat to take his family to games in Foxboro.

Of course there are perks to offset some of the personal sacrifice. One corporate sponsor donated uniforms to the volunteers, which they get to wear and keep.

THE thousands of volunteers for this summer's World Cup soccer tournament often work far from the playing field. Sometimes, however, they manage to bring the ``field'' with them.

Between arriving flights of World Cup visitors in Boston, for example, this writer, a volunteer greeter assigned to direct visiting media and fans to public transportation and answer their questions, kicked the ball around the Logan Airport baggage-claim area with Striker, the World Cup's canine mascot.

Accompanied by a soccer-ball-toting guide, Striker is always ready for such impromptu practice sessions.

The volunteers who dress up as Striker are tireless in their pursuit of spreading the spirit of friendly international competition. While putting in an appearance at the airport, Striker was alerted that a child in another terminal was distraught over not meeting him. The mascot was there in minutes, dishing out smiles and hugs along the way.

Upon the conclusion of Striker's visit to the airport, one worker at an information booth was heard to happily exclaim, ``That just made my day!''

In March, World Cup USA '94, the host organization for this year's event, began running advertisements in local papers and on the radio to recruit volunteers. They attracted more than 1,200 to the Boston venue alone, with 10 times that many in the total nine-city volunteer pool.

In May, a general orientation was held near Boston at Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., the site of six tournament games. There, local volunteers were treated to refreshments while watching a videotaped welcoming message on the stadium scoreboard from Alan Rothenberg, the chief executive officer of the organization charged with staging the championship. Volunteers met one another and signed up for dates and times to serve.

One point made in the pep talks was that this event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - something to tell the grandchildren about. Another message organizers drove home was that all volunteers are ambassadors for the United States: ``The eyes of the world will be upon you.'' In fact, some specifically enlisted in the Ambassador Program, which provides hosts and hostesses to assist VIPs, dignitaries, sponsors, and international guests.

All volunteers are required to serve a minimum of 40 hours over the one-month tournament period, and at times the days are long. The reasons for volunteering are as diverse as the volunteer backgrounds.

For Bob Lash, a computer procurement specialist from Canton, Mass., the motivation is simple: ``I have three teenagers who love the game, and I do, too,'' he says. There are no free tickets, though, and he's had to pay $65 to $125 per seat to take his family to games in Foxboro.

Of course there are perks to offset some of the personal sacrifice. One corporate sponsor donated uniforms to the volunteers, which they get to wear and keep.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...