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An Adventure of Olympic Proportions: Shinobu Nagashima Volunteers at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Upper Division Japanese teacher Shinobu Nagashima recently spent 3 days volunteering at the surfing site of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Shinobu was one of 70,000 volunteers at the games. While the experience was not exactly what she envisioned when she initially volunteered for the role, it was a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable adventure.

Shinobu first decided she wanted to volunteer for the 2020 Olympic Games in September 2013, when the Tokyo location was announced. She went through a long application and screening process starting in 2018, and eventually enrolled as an official Olympic volunteer in March of 2019. She was assigned to work at the surfing site, which coincidentally was close to her family’s home in the Chiba Prefecture. She welcomed the assignment, she explains, because it gave her the opportunity to learn more about surfing—a sport that many in the Stevenson community care about deeply.

Shinobu had many complicated logistics to manage before she could even begin her work: she arranged a flight, set up accommodations, rented a car, quarantined for 2 weeks, took a COVID test, and eventually procured her Olympic uniform (including socks, shoes, and bag).

Shinobu was one of 20 people on the surfing technology team, and her job was to maintain and troubleshoot the site’s printers. Thanks to the organization of her co-volunteers and team, the systems were working flawlessly when she arrived—so she had the opportunity to watch the surfing competition finals in action—a unique privilege thanks to this year’s COVID-related “No-Spectator” rule. Shinobu also helped disassemble the technology at the site once the games were over.

Shinobu’s stint at the Olympics wasn’t without its challenges—she had to leave at 2:45 a.m. to start her 5:00 a.m. shift daily, and her work stint was shortened from 7 to 3 days. 
She explains, “Even with just the three-day experience I had, I was also able to discover how a big event like the Olympics is organized, and how so many people, together, make it turn flawlessly. The surfing competition involved just 40 surfers from all over the world, yet many Olympic game preparers had been working to organize the venue and competitions for at least three years. Had I not been there, I would not have gotten the amazing opportunity to interact with such incredible people with such interesting backgrounds—and to witness history in action.“
She adds, “Since my return, I feel excited to take my students back to Japan as soon as it is safe, to places where they might not otherwise have a chance to go and to help them make more personal connections with Japanese people and culture.” She also added, “I'm so very glad that I went through with volunteering. And I'm truly thankful that my husband and son supported my leaving home for a month to go on this unique trip.”