Interested in volunteering in the Olympic Games? Let’s walk through the process step-by-step, including some valuable hints, to increase your chances of being selected!

To start, let’s go over your statistical chances of being chosen as an Olympic Volunteer:

300,000 people apply to be volunteers (approximately)

150,000 are chosen to participate in an on-line interview

70,000 of those will be “considered” as volunteers

50,000 will ultimately be chosen as budget restrictions have limited the number of volunteers the Olympic games can actually support (see more details below)

Rio 2016 Olympic Christ the Redeemer

Application Timeline and Process:

The application process starts almost 2 years prior to the Olympics so if you’re planning to volunteer in the 2020 games in Tokyo search “volunteer in Olympics 2020” around September of 2018. The Olympics have different websites for each city therefore you’ll need to wait until Tokyo sets up their site before applying.

2 years before the Olympic Games

The on-line application is lengthy and requires a fair amount of time to answer many detailed questions. It’s important to spend time answering the open-ended questions completely. Be sure to submit the application before the deadline. Remember, only 1/2 of the applicants are chosen for the on-line interview so don’t take any chances on not getting past the first part of the process.

1 year before the Olympic Games

After you’ve submitted your application the only emails you’ll likely receive for a while are the training modules which need to be completed (more on that later).

Approximately 4-6 months after submitting your application you will HOPEFULLY receive an invitation to participate in an on-line interview. This is not something to be nervous about but something you should prepare for in advance.

Interview Preparation Tips:

Get your computer set up 15 minutes early

Be sure both your speakers and microphone are on and working

Follow their directions specifically as it may not be as easy as Skype to log in

Many people on our call had a challenge clicking the “video” link and therefore we couldn’t see them (or hear them if they had their speakers off)

Be sure to verify the time of your on-line interview. It may be set to Tokyo time therefore you’ll need to verify the interview time as it correlates to your time zone.

There are many different options for times and dates that will be offered for an interview. Be sure to verify a time and date that will definitely work for you. Changing the time/date can be a hassle.

On-line interview questions:

My on-line interview consisted of 6 participants and a moderator (another volunteer in Rio).

1. A short, inspirational video may be shown to showcase volunteering in the Rio Olympics.

2. A review a 3 different Olympic athletes were displayed and we were each asked to discuss which athlete we resembled most and why.

3. The task of writing and singing a jingle (just one of us) about volunteering in the Olympics. The words joy, mission, value, and people were suggested to incorporate into the jingle.

4. Lastly, we were asked to name one word which best describes an Olympic volunteer.

Hints and Tips

Hints on successfully getting through the selection process:

*Spend time on your application and read the questions thoroughly.

*Remember to talk about past volunteer and leadership experiences you’ve had to make your application stand out (i.e. computer skills, medical background, past sports experiences, etc.).

*Participate in the on-line interview but don’t overtake the conversation. The main goal of the interview is to find out if you’re a team player and how motivated you are to volunteer.


The volunteer process is run by volunteers just like you. They have full time jobs and offer to help interview and select volunteers during their free time. Expect delays in getting replies and answers to your questions.

Long timeline– You may get an invitation in February or it may arrive until May. If you’re planning to become an Olympic Volunteer be sure you are prepared to attend the Olympics regardless of whether or not you’re chosen. You’ll likely need to book a hotel or AirBnB before finding out if you’re accepted.

Training– Expect to spend a couple of hours each month completing the required training modules. Some of the modules pertain to the Olympic venues and the expectations of the volunteers while others focus on learning the language of the country.

Invitation email-After receiving the email be sure to accept it within 6 days otherwise the position will be offered to someone else. Be diligent about  reading every email that comes your way, even if its in a different language.

Schedule-You may not receive your individual schedule until after you’ve booked your plane ticket. Expect to work at the Olympics for a minimum of 10 days to participate as a volunteer. If you stay until the Sunday following the Games you can take part in the volunteer celebration party.

Budget– Olympic committees sometimes require budget cuts to stay within their allotted budget therefore the number of volunteers may get cut to save on costs.

Only a small percentage of volunteers are chosen from other countries. Non-Brazilian volunteers will only make up 5% of the total volunteers during the 2016 Olympics so be sure to be meticulous about your application if volunteering is something you truly want to be involved in.


When will I find out if I was selected as a volunteer?

Continually check back to the website. My Olympic Volunteer Portal continually stated “Under Review” therefore I ended up emailing the organization to inquire more details. The Volunteer Portal verified in January that I had been selected but didn’t send me an official letter offering me a position until May.

When will I find out my assignment and schedule?

You may find out your assignment and schedule as early as April before the Olympic Games but it may also take some time. I found out my assignment in late June (after I had bought plane tickets and tickets to Olympic events). You will likely only have 6 days to accept or deny your schedule. You may not be able to work all of the shifts you’re assigned due to your flight schedule or other tickets you have purchased. Take my advice and ACCEPT your schedule “as is” versus denying it otherwise your position will go to someone else. Once you arrive for your first shift (you will likely be scheduled for 6 shifts during the two week period) talk to your lead about adjusting it or find a teammate to switch with you.

What expenses are covered?

The word “volunteer” means just that. Transportation within the city on the days you volunteer will be covered as well as the uniform you will wear and meals during your shifts. Flights, lodging, etc. are your own costs therefore volunteering is for those truly wishing to partake in the experience without the financial incentive to do so.

Mo Farah
Usain Bolt

I was accepted as a technology volunteer and was charged with making sure each athlete had the correct transponder (electronic timekeeping chip) underneath his or her bib prior to competition. Following the event my teammates and I were responsible for collecting each of the transponders from each athlete. Mo Farah’s chip is pictured to the left.

The perks of this assignment? Being one of the select few to witness the athletes warming up underneath the stadium prior to the race, talking with them after the race, access to restricted areas like the warm-up track, call room, and ready areas, and getting a completely different perspective on what the athletes go through for each event. As you can see from the video above our team was right in the action before each event, an incredible experience!

Standing on the Olympic track to help with blocks during the events and helping the best athletes in the world before and after their events was an unforgettable experience. I’ll never be an Olympian but my dream to be apart of the Olympics finally came true!