UO employees step into volunteer roles at WCH Oregon22

Reporters interviewing runner

Employees took time off from their University of Oregon jobs to serve as volunteers and get a behind-the-scenes view of World Athletics Championships Oregon22.

Events of this scale rely on a volunteer workforce to operate and manage every detail of an athletics event from completion to fan experience. Thousands of people from around the world volunteered their time and services, many of whom work at the UO.

University Communications invites employees who have volunteered at WCH Oregon22 to provide information about their assignment and upload photographs so they can be shared with the campus community.

Sandee Bybee, human resources employee engagement and communications manager, was among the volunteer workforce as a media assistant and provides an insider’s view of the athletics event in her own words:

I stepped into the media center for my first shift with a healthy mix of nerves and excitement. I quickly had no time to be nervous as hundreds upon hundreds of media representatives from around the world descended on the UO tennis courts, which had been converted to a giant work room and temporary offices for all media operations.

The media operations team included 30 employees and 130 volunteers to manage and support 617 journalists and team liaisons. Here are the highlights from my time at Oregon22:

The coolest people come from around the world to work and volunteer at international sporting events. The media center manager may call Indiana home, but he makes his living working on media operations teams at events within the Unites States and abroad.

He was joined by colleagues from South America, Canada, Australia, England and beyond to work their magic, and then move on to the next event. A delegation of volunteers follow the same circuit.

I volunteered alongside just as many people who traveled overseas for this event as I did with those who live in the United States. Interestingly, most of my fellow U.S. volunteers do not live in Eugene. A few traveled all the way from India just to volunteer at this event. I had no idea you could build a career and a travel portfolio working and volunteering at sporting events across the world.

Amazing women are blazing a path through the sports media industry. I quickly noticed that the demographic of the media covering the games was largely male and middle-aged. It was inspiring to watch the handful of women pursuing their passion and know their work and perseverance will create space for those who will follow in their footsteps. I couldn’t help but think I was watching the gender diversity of this industry slowly transform each time a female photographer geared up and headed back to the track for another session.

The athletes were not the only state-of-the-art display at the event; so was the equipment and the people who manage it. Bob Hammond, the operator of the remote control car that retrieves field event equipment, is a great example. He designs and builds the remote-controlled vehicle for athletics events and travels the world providing this one critical service, bringing efficiency, innovation and entertainment to the event.

While touring the equipment storage space in a place called the vault, which is underneath the seating area of Hayward, I learned that there is a team dedicated to inspecting equipment, referred to as implements by the insiders. For the competition, a house set of equipment is available for each event. Athletes may only use their own equipment if it is a make and model not included in the house set and meets competition standards.

To do so, they must submit a request and their equipment must pass inspection. At Oregon22, there were 104 requests submitted and just under 100 were approved. While we are in the stands cheering for the athletes as they hurl their javelin across the infield, there are officials below weighing, inspecting, cleaning and repairing equipment so it functions at the same elite level as the athletes.

Through this experience I learned so much about the people and operations that run international track and field events, but it was the solidarity and shared excitement among the athletes, media representatives and spectators that moved me the most.

The Jamaican journalists and broadcasters welcomed me into their fold, which gave me the opportunity to see the competition from a broadcast booth. It was truly something special to watch a reporter and cameraman conduct an interview of an athlete from their country while droves of fans wearing their country’s colors and wrapped in flags crowded around in hopes of getting just one selfie.

The enthusiasm and joy were contagious and a perfect display of what the World Athletics Championships are all about: good competition and amazing camaraderie.