U students volunteer at Olympics in Athens

Lacey Crisp

Julie Schmitz would like to work for the International Olympic Committee some day, but this summer she settled with volunteering at the games.

Schmitz, a fifth-year student at the University, and her sister Katie, a sophomore, left for Athens on Aug. 7 and stayed for almost three weeks.

Julie studied abroad in Athens three years ago, and decided to come back as an Olympic volunteer. Katie decided she would apply as well.

Athens was the sisters’ second Olympic appearance. They attended the 1996 games in Atlanta with their parents and their younger sister.

The sisters said the application process was easy, but it was difficult to complete the training because they were in the United States.

When they arrived in Athens, they realized volunteering was not as easy as they had thought it would be. Greek officials lost their paperwork.

“They assumed that most foreign volunteers wouldn’t show, so they figured we weren’t coming either,” Julie said.

She said about 10 percent of the volunteers were foreigners, and the rest were Greek.

“There were a lot of American spectators and Americans doing security, but not many American volunteers,” she said.

Their wide array of duties included crowd control, checking tickets and security.

As for their own security, the sisters were not concerned once they were in Athens.

“We had absolutely no problems with security,” Julie Schmitz said, “We worked with the Greek security, so I always felt safe.”

Back at home, their mother was not as assured of her daughters’ security.

“I was concerned about the terrorism aspect, particularly during the opening ceremonies,” Kathy Schmitz said, “I was glad to hear they were OK.”

The two worked outside of the venues, and were not able to attend many events.

However, they did get to go to eight events at the games, including men’s and women’s basketball games, track and field events, field hockey games and gymnastics events.

Julie Schmitz said watching the award ceremony for the men’s gymnastics team was the “coolest” because the team won silver.

The sisters also spent time outside of the Olympic village.

“We got to see the city of Athens, and not just the Olympics,” Katie Schmitz said. “My favorite was the Parthenon and the Acropolis.”

As pay for their help during the three weeks, the sisters walked away with memories of the historic sites and some Olympic clothing.

Despite concerns about her daughters’ safety, Kathy Schmitz said she is glad they went to Athens and volunteered together.

“I think with the shared experience they have a closer bond as sisters,” she said.

She said her family volunteers on a regular basis, and was not surprised when her two daughters asked about going to Athens.

Both of the sisters said they plan to apply to volunteer at the next Olympics, along with their 15-year-old sister.