Backstage training of responsible volunteers

In just over a month, the long-awaited 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship will commence in Minsk. Our ice arenas, hotels, restaurants and cafes are ready for an influx of sports fans, and a host of volunteers have been training to help the event flow smoothly. Maxim Koshkalda, who is heading the volunteer programme for the Ice Hockey World Championship, tells us more…
In just over a month, the long-awaited 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship will commence in Minsk. Our ice arenas, hotels, restaurants and cafes are ready for an influx of sports fans, and a host of volunteers have been training to help the event flow smoothly. Maxim Koshkalda, who is heading the volunteer programme for the Ice Hockey World Championship, tells us more…

Maxim, how many applications did you receive from people wanting to become volunteers for the World Championship-2014 and what criteria did you use to select them?

We received over 3,800 volunteer applications and needed 1,050 people: over 3.5 people per position. Of course, they’ve been training for a while now. Motivation was the key factor in making our selection, as was an ability to speak English. About half of our volunteers can speak another foreign language too. We also looked at whether applicants had volunteered for similar activities in the past.


Naturally, those volunteering for first aid services need to have some existing knowledge, so we gave preference to those already connected with public health services. Another important factor is how people present themselves: they should look smart, be able to gain others’ trust, act calmly and be able to make themselves clearly understood. If you’re volunteering for linguistic services, you need to speak a foreign language confidently, while those applying to be drivers must have over two years of driving experience (and no penalties on their licence). Each area of volunteering has its own criteria but knowledge of foreign languages, a degree of experience and a desire to work are obligatory.


What is the average age for your volunteers?


Three quarters are aged under 25 but we do have some older volunteers: our drivers include those aged 30, 40 and, even, 50-60. The average age for drivers is 35 years old.


Are all the volunteers Belarusian citizens?

In choosing volunteers, we gave preference to local residents, simply because they know the country better, as well as Minsk. Most are Minsk residents, although there are some from other Belarusian cities; about 10 percent are from abroad — from Slovakia, Latvia, Finland and Russia. Taking into account the recent Olympic Games in Sochi, and various other sports competitions, they have experience and a huge desire to be in Minsk for the Ice Hockey World Championship.

Which activities are volunteers most keen on?


Team guides are probably the most interesting role, but also the most difficult, since it’s a 24/7 commitment. You have to stay near the team at all times and resolve all issues, from travel to food, while observing protocol and keeping statistical data.

Those chosen to work directly with the teams began training long ago. They already have experience, having worked at previous World Championships; many worked at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. During the Christmas tournament in Minsk, each team was provided with two volunteers — so that we could observe their work and select the best of them.



Did you use experience from the Olympic Games in Sochi in training volunteers for the coming Ice Hockey World Championship?

Certainly, we looked at experience from the Olympic Games. However, our needs differ slightly, since we are hosting just one kind of sport rather than a great many. It’s easier in this respect. In addition, the Sochi Games have only just ended, while we began our training programme — ‘Volonteer-2014’ — over 18 months ago, starting with interviews. We’ve based our training on past Olympic Games, World Championships and other large competitions, rather than specifically on Sochi.


How would you estimate volunteers’ preparedness and do you think the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk will go smoothly?


We know the ability of each volunteer, having conducted thorough interviews, so we know that we have a good team. You can never achieve an absolute ideal but we’ve done our best to train people to communicate clearly, to know what they should be doing and whom else they can summon for assistance. Our level of preparation is strong already and we still have time for more theoretical training, followed by practice exercises, to help them in predicting situations that may arise during the World Championship. I feel confident that our championship will be held at the highest level and will be known as the best in the history of hockey.

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