Paris 2024: An Experiential Learning Lab | Sports Destination Management

Paris 2024: An Experiential Learning Lab

Aspiring Hospitality and Sports Tourism Professionals to Get In-Depth Education
Oct 30, 2023 | By: Dr. Bonnie Tiell

The modern Olympics serves as a general educational platform for all ages to learn lessons stemming from the cultural, social, physical, political, economic and technological aspects of the Games. With the 2024 Paris Olympics looming, the global sports festival is a prime vehicle to serve as a learning lab for individuals studying or already employed in the sports tourism and hospitality industries. If you want to see an educational program in operation, you can’t do better than this.

Traveling to France and becoming immersed in an experiential aspect of the Games can be a game changer when job hunting. At the very least, a paid or volunteer role at the Olympics is a conversation starter and should be highlighted on a cover letter and resume.

It is no wonder the 2024 Paris Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games received over 300,000 applications for official volunteers. The Organizing Committee will employ approximately 45,000 volunteers from around the world to staff airports, hotels, stadiums, arenas and the Olympic village, among other venues.

The recruitment stage included applications from individuals 18 or older who were fluent in French or English who would be available for at least 10 days between the opening of the Olympic village in July and the closing of the Paralympic Games on September 8, 2024.

The official Paris 2024 website notes that volunteering “means embodying the sense of hospitality and values that France is renowned for with all stakeholders” and that volunteers are the “face, soul, heart and smiles of the Games.” Additionally, volunteers are described as having an essential role of ensuring “an exceptional experience for everyone involved in the Games.”

Photo © Peter Kováč |
Photo © Peter Kov·č |

These idyllic phrases capture the essence of sports tourism in emphasizing the warm, friendly and welcoming environment that accompanies the primary objective of using sports to drive direct and indirect economic activity. Volunteers are a necessity when considering the influx of massive transients in a concentrated area over a short period of time. The 2024 staging of the Olympics provides the backdrop for attracting visitors from over 200 countries expecting a clean, safe and hospitable environment.

Among the hospitality roles for official Paris 2024 volunteers are welcoming visitors from around the world at metro and train stations, airports, competition venues, training venues, the Athletes’ Village and media center. Generally, all volunteers are expected to provide guidance and support for spectators, direct people to the appropriate contacts for specific information and share pertinent details on various sports and cultural programs.

The table shown in this article profiles the types of official Paris 2024 volunteers along with a brief snapshot of their roles and responsibilities that contribute to the overall experience. Every volunteer position is accompanied by an expectation of providing maximum hospitality.

While there is no compensation in the role of a volunteer, privileges are provided in the form of apparel, transportation, meals and access to some events, as well as other perks. The first use of volunteer labor in conjunction with the Olympics was a group of Boy Scouts assisting with hospitality at the 1912 Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

The number of official volunteers continues to fluctuate. The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles utilized 29,000 volunteers; the Games in 2000 in Sydney supported 40,000; Rio 2016 secured 70,000 volunteers, and the Tokyo 2020 Games delayed by the global pandemic (held in 2021 without spectators) trimmed an original volunteer list from 110,000 to 80,000.

Beyond the modest expectation of 45,000 volunteers serving the Paris Olympic Committee, thousands more will be utilized around the iconic city to staff hospitality houses for individual countries, brand sponsors and the World Olympians Association (WOA), which operates the official Olympic Reunion Center. Additionally, volunteers will be used by tourism agencies operating hospitality experiences and the presenting sponsors (e.g., Coca-Cola) for the official torch relay.

Photo © Jdazuelos |
Photo © Jdazuelos |

The USA House operated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee is on the cusp of announcing it’s successful candidates for inclusion as official hospitality volunteers during the 2024 Games. The hospitality house will be located at Palais Brongniart, the official Parisian stock exchange constructed in the style of a neoclassical Roman temple. Absent from the 2024 Games will be the popular Holland Heineken House since the company ended its Olympic sponsorship deal in 2019, but many other brand sponsors will be in full force, utilizing a host of volunteer labor to welcome visitors.

While there are definite challenges to overcome as a 2024 Paris Olympic volunteer (e.g., time away from work; travel expenses), the benefits for those who do participate can be life changing. While degrees and certifications assist with validating industry knowledge, there is no substitute for experience. Individuals working or aspiring to work in event management, hospitality, sports tourism or a related field will differentiate themselves from typical marketplace competition vying for similar positions.

Even though French politicians are balking at the idea that volunteers for the Olympic Games will not be compensated monetarily for their services, the century -old tradition will continue next summer on the world’s biggest sports stage. After Tokyo’s Olympic bubble, it is time to once again to open the floodgates on unimaginable spectator hospitality at the Paris 2024 Games where a volunteer service crew will be prepared to showcase their talent and reap the rewards. Those who make the journey will be rewarded with valuable experiential learning considered transformative, profound and to some, life altering. SDM

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