The 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are creeping right around the corner. There are exactly 41 days up until our very own city will be amplified with spirit, diversity, and patriotism. So, how are the citizens of Vancouver feeling about the Games? I took the time to interview a current employee of the Richmond Oval Olympic venue, named Ajay Brach. The Richmond Oval will be the location where elite athletes compete in speed skating.
Ajay has been working at the Richmond Oval since it first opened in December of 2008. He was recently laid off as VANOC had moved in to make their preparations for the Games. Previously, Ajay’s duties included taking care of people who were renting skates and treating people to first-aid. The size of the venue has attracted many Vancouverites to the Olympic Oval. Consequently, there have been an increased number of first-aid accidents. Even though many people have never skated before, the Richmond Oval has gathered a lot of interest since officially being named an Olympic venue. Ajay has received training for all kinds of accidents including large scale catastrophes, and minor injuries.
When asked how he felt about such a prestigious event coming to his city, he answered: “I feel really privileged to have been born and raised in Vancouver, and to now have Vancouver be the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. I know that there are negative aspects with hosting such an event, one in which includes the many expenses that come along with it. Calgary for example, has just recovered from the financial deficits that they had been forced to deal with after hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics. This debt is going to be mostly passed to us Vancouverites as myself through such things as a higher tax rate; however the new infrastructure and increase in world wide exposure puts our city on a worldwide pedestal that I think is worth the large amount of costs.”
Ajay states that he finds it to be really fun and exciting working at an Olympic venue. He says he thinks about the ice track that he skates on during work being used by Olympic athletes, and being seen by millions around the world. Ajay feels fortunate to meet some of the Olympic athletes that have been training at the Richmond Oval in order to prepare for the upcoming Games. He has had chances to meet them and even converse with some of the world renowned athletes, which he considers to be an incredible honour. Ajay has learned new communication skills that are essential in working with the general public, as he is constantly pressured to withhold a highly regarded image for the City of Vancouver. Ajay has gained plenty of knowledge about the Games that will be held at the venue as well, simply because he must be able to answer the many questions that the public put forth to him. These questions can range from how the venue will look during or after the Olympics to past records in speed skating, and different speed skating events that take place during the Games.
Working at an Olympic venue isn’t always as glamorous as it is portrayed to be. However, Ajay states that there weren’t many problems other than the fact that the standards for the employees have been set really high, due to being constantly told that he has to uphold Olympic standard of service. He would have to go out of his way to please the public and increase their Olympic moral and awareness. Ajay says the employees were given radios for communication and were put to strict radio protocol as they were told that they are put under great pressure by the media for any slip ups that may occur.
I asked Ajay by what means does he believe that Canadian students could get the most out of their Olympic experience, and in what ways could they involve themselves in which he replied: “The first thing I believe they should do is follow the Olympic Games as our countries’ athletes need the support of our nation. For those who live near venues where events are being held, I believe they should perhaps volunteer if not apply for jobs that would involve them in the Games. With such an event occurring in our city, there are a number of jobs that will be created, and with an increased demand for labor this will increase the strength of our city’s economy with decreased unemployment rates.”
Because Ajay works for an Olympic venue, I asked him how he would get the most in his own Olympic experience. Unfortunately for him, recently VANOC has taken over the Olympic Oval so they can prepare for the events that will unfold during the month of February. For that reason, he has been temporarily laid off as the Games are in progress. During the Games he plans on following the men’s ice hockey events with his attention being put mostly upon the Canadian men’s ice hockey team. Along with his job at the Olympic Oval and school, Ajay plays ice hockey on a regular basis. His love for the game translates into his love for Olympic hockey, as he believes that is the ultimate pedestal for anyone that loves the game of hockey.
Alas, even though Ajay is a die-hard hockey fan, he will not be able to attend any of the events. He personally wishes he would be able to watch passionate players play his favourite game. It’s far too hard to obtain tickets because many of them were sold out instantly, and ones being sold privately now are ridiculously expensive. It’ll be okay though, because he always has Students Live digging in the dish for him!