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VANOC starting to recruit volunteers

25,000 volunteers needed for February 2010

For Heather Clifford the decision to volunteer for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games was simple.

“If you want to have a finger on the pulse of what is happening you’ve got to be involved,” she said Wednesday as Games officials marked the UN’s International Day of the Volunteer in both Whistler and Vancouver with parties.

“There is a passion behind doing it. You cannot get better connected with the Olympics, other than being an athlete.”

Clifford, who wanted to find out if the Olympics were going to be good for the resort, was the first Games volunteer to sign up in Whistler.

At Games time in February 2010 the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games will need 25,000 volunteers.

“They will be the face of Canada to the rest of the world,” said Maureen Douglas, VANOC’s director of community relations. “The true crews that will make the Games happen are the athletes and the volunteers.”

VANOC announced Wednesday that it would launch its volunteer application process this February. Anyone who is interested will be able to log into or after Feb.12 to sign up.

Volunteers will be needed in a number of areas including event services, medical services, sport, technology, translation, ticketing and athletes village operations. Initially volunteers need to be over 19 year-old, but VANOC is planning on rolling out a youth volunteer program in the future.

“I encourage people to start thinking about it,” said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, adding that volunteering is a cornerstone of the resort’s development from the early days of the volunteer fire department to today’s Village Host program.

VANOC wants people to sign up early so they can be well trained. It is also keen to get as many Vancouver and Sea to Sky corridor-based volunteers as possible so Games officials don’t have to find accommodation for them.

“Volunteering is a valuable way to give back to the community and the opportunity to apply for the biggest event in our community’s history is just around the corner,” said Donna Wilson, VANOC’s executive vice president of workforce and sustainability.

“Now is the time to consider getting involved and to get excited about the possibility.”