Olympic volunteers from Vancouver gearing up for Sochi
25,000 people from around the world are volunteering at this year's Games, including 180 Canadians
Several British Columbians are gearing up for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, where they will be representing Canada as volunteers.
Some 25,000 people from around the world will be volunteering at this year's Olympics, including 180 Canadians. B.C.'s Diana Szpotowicz says she started the volunteer application process nearly two years ago.
"I had to fill in an application. I had to do some tests. I had to prove that I could speak English and a few continental European languages and that I have a basic understanding of Russian," said Szpotowicz.
Months later, she's heading nearly 10,000 kilometres across the Atlantic to work as a media coordinator for Olympic hockey at the Bolshoi Ice Dome. She says it's a dream assignment.
"Probably being a Canadian helped a little bit. Probably a cliché, but I guess it helps when you are working with an international team. I think they think that the token Canadian can probably help," she said.
In the lead up to the Games, there have been ongoing concerns about terrorism in the region. But Szpotowicz says she trusts the venues will be secure.
"No matter where you travel around the world, you do have to be aware and you do have to be cautious in a foreign environment. But I think if I was really concerned then I wouldn't be going."
Olympic volunteers have to pay their own way to the Games, but meals and accommodation are free. It's that latter point that has volunteer Rashpal Ahluwalia concerned. When he left for Sochi, the volunteer accommodations were still not ready.
"Maybe it will be ready by the time I get there. I'll be keenly watching my phone for the email updates."
Even so, Ahluwalia says the uncertainty is worth it. He was one of 18,000 "Blue Jackets" who volunteered at Vancouver's Winter Olympic Games in 2010. He wants to relive that experience in Sochi.
"I'm not an athlete, but still I'm going to have the Canadian patch on my backpack, carry Canadian pins. It's just going to be a lot of fun. A good chance to meet a lot of different people. Carry forward that good reputation Canadians have abroad."
The Olympic Opening Ceremonies will be held on Feb. 7.
With files from CBC's Renee Filippone