If you possess the athletic skills to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games, kudos to you. There’s no greater honor than competing on the Olympic stage.
But we can’t all defy gravity like Simone Biles. Actually, no one can!
If you can’t qualify, you can still do more than simply attend the Games in Tokyo (2020), Beijing (2022), and beyond. You can play a crucial role in making the Games a reality by serving as an Olympic volunteer.
Each Olympics, tens of thousands of volunteers work tirelessly to ensure events go as planned. For the 2020 Tokyo Games, there are more than 80,000 volunteers.
Obviously, hosting the Games is no easy task. The help of everyone, from tourism officials and security experts to judges and translators, is needed. Volunteers offer crucial support in all parts of the operation. Your tasks may include checking tickets, welcoming dignitaries, and delivering equipment to athletes.
Sounds exciting, right?
Before you book your ticket to Japan or China for the next Summer or Winter Games, read our guide on Olympic volunteering. We’ll show you how you can volunteer and attend the Games, even if you miss the deadline or don’t get selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Can You Still Apply to Be a 2020 Tokyo Olympics Volunteer?
Updated for 2020!
Unfortunately, you can no longer apply to serve as a 2020 Tokyo Olympics volunteer. The application period ended in late January 2019. A total of 204,680 people applied to be a Tokyo Olympics volunteer.
64% of the applications came from Japanese citizens, while the rest came from people around the globe. They’ll be a diverse mix of Olympic volunteers in Tokyo this summer, and it certainly will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all involved.
Now, if you missed the application deadline, don’t get upset. We know the application process starts early. It’s hard for many to plan that far in advance. If you really want to volunteer and attend the Olympics in Tokyo, you have other options.
For instance, you can volunteer abroad in Japan through an international volunteer organization. Most volunteer abroad organizations operating in Japan have service opportunities for dates around the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Note: Volunteering during the actual Olympics may be difficult (July 24 – August 9). Due to the large number of people arriving in the country during the Games, logistics get tricky for volunteer abroad programs in Japan. Sign up to volunteer before or after the Olympics and add the Olympic Games to your itinerary.
Check out two organizations that offer volunteer opportunities in Japan before or after the Olympics:
Founded in 2006, GoEco has become a leading international volunteer organization. They have more than 160 community, environment, and community initiatives around the world, including volunteer projects in Japan. In 2018, GoAbroad recognized GoEco as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization. Through GoEco, you can have a positive impact as you volunteer and travel to Japan for the Olympics.
Want to learn more? Read our review of GoEco.
GoEco currently has two service opportunities in Japan. Fees start from $890 and that includes lodging and meals.
- Sustainable Village Agriculture in Otaki: Here’s an alternative to being a Tokyo Olympics volunteer! Immerse yourself into Japanese farming culture as you assist with the daily operations of a sustainable farm. You can enjoy cultural immersion activities as well, such as learning origami and how to make sushi.
- English Exchange in Otaki: Help locals improve their English in the beautiful town of Otaki. You’ll volunteer at local schools and community centers. The town aims to attract more tourists, so locals want to learn English for more job opportunities. The program offers Japanese language and cultural lessons too. Since you’ll volunteer around the time of the Olympics, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to converse about sports and culture.
Few experiences bolster your resume like being an Olympic volunteer. If that isn’t a possibility for the 2020 Olympics, your next best option may be an internship in Japan. Intern Abroad HQ, who’s known for their affordable, high-quality international internships, gives you the chance to build skills, expand your network, and do good when you travel to Japan. Focused on experiential learning, Intern Abroad HQ’s programs can truly help you grow professionally, much like being a Tokyo Olympics volunteer would.
Want to learn more? Read our overview of Intern Abroad HQ.
Intern Abroad HQ currently has two programs in Japan. Fees start from only $1,230 for 4 weeks and that includes accommodation.
- Marketing and Communications Internship in Tokyo: Engage in the cross-cultural exchange of ideas as you help a startup build their brand and market in foreign countries. You’ll get to practice Japanese all day and you’ll have all the fun of Tokyo at your fingertips during off-hours. You’ll also be right near many venues for the Olympic Games!
- Youth Development and Education Internship in Tokyo: Before, after, or possibly during the Games, you can kickstart your career in education by working at an after-school center in Tokyo. Learn how to create lesson plans, stimulate creativity, communicate across cultures, and more. You can even play sports with the children and get in the Olympic spirit.
Can You Still Apply to Be a 2022 Beijing Olympics Volunteer?
Updated for 2020!
Yes, you can.
On December 5, 2019, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics volunteer application period opened. Within the first 30 days, 630,000 people applied, according to official sources.
Now, let’s get to the important details: the application timeline for 2022 Beijing Olympics volunteers. Remember the dates below:
- December 5th, 2019 – June 30, 2021: The organizing committee will be accepting applications during these dates. That’s ample time to make plans.
- Note: If you register on the portal before June 30, 2021, you can still submit your application until September 30, 2021 (when recruitment closes). But get it done earlier if you can. You won’t feel as rushed.
- June 2020 – September 2021: Designated organizations will conduct on-site and remote tests and interviews.
- Following your test/interview, you’ll get a decision well in advance of the opening ceremony. You should have at least three months to plan your trip.
If you’re ready to apply, first read the rest of this Olympic volunteering guide. Then, visit the official volunteer site to register an account and get started: https://vol.beijing2022.cn/indexEn.html. Be sure to consult the FAQ page for even more details: https://vol.beijing2022.cn/faqEn.html.
Considering the sheer volume of applications already, not everyone will get chosen. Beijing 2022 aims for nearly 40,000 volunteers, according to the Beijing Organising Committee. They’ll be 29,000+ volunteers for the Olympics and 12,000+ volunteers for the Paralympics.
If you don’t get selected, don’t feel down. You have alternatives to being an official 2022 Beijing Olympics volunteer. Like with the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, you can volunteer in China around the time of the event. It would be the ultimate volunteer travel experience: do good in the Middle Kingdom, then witness the world’s best winter athletes compete for glory.
Interested? Check out three organizations that offer volunteer opportunities in China before or after the Olympics:
Founded in 2007, International Volunteer HQ has become one of the most trusted names in volunteering. To date, 112,000 volunteers have chosen IVHQ for their overseas service adventure. Renowned institutions, such as Microsoft, UCLA, and Northwestern University, have also volunteered abroad through IVHQ.
Want to learn more? Read our overview of IVHQ.
Simply put, if you’re looking for an impactful alternative to serving as an Olympic volunteer in Beijing, look no further than IVHQ’s projects in Xi’an, China. Fees begin at just $310 for one week and include lodging, meals, and 24/7 support.
Through IVHQ, you can:
- Teach English
- Volunteer for Special Needs Care
- Join a Summer Village Outreach Teaching Project
Past volunteers give IVHQ’s projects in China wonderful reviews, such as Alicia from Australia:
“My volunteer experience in China was the best 8 weeks of my life. Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone and I can assure you that it is rewarding beyond words.”
Each project enables you to help those children and students who need it most in Xi’an. During free time, explore Xi’an, one of China’s most historic cities. The Terracotta Army is here. Xi’an is also just a 5-hour high-speed train ride from Beijing, allowing you to easily get to the Winter Olympic Games when the time comes.
Projects Abroad began in 1992 and has built up quite a good reputation over the years. They’re rated as Excellent by third-party review site TrustPilot. Many volunteers praise the organization for their commitment to empowering communities and enabling volunteers to have meaningful trips. Projects Abroad has even been featured in major publications, including the BBC and Time.
Want to learn more? Read our overview of Projects Abroad.
When it comes to the amount of volunteer projects in China, few top Projects Abroad. No matter what your interests are, you can find something suitable. Your options span from a medicine internship or journalism internship in Shanghai to volunteer work with children. You also can:
- Do a business internship in Shanghai: Enhance your business skills, gain knowledge of the vast Chinese market, build your network, and learn Mandarin. Fees start from $4,060 for 4 weeks (includes food and accommodation).
- Teach English in Shanghai: Help students improve their spoken English through games, activities, and even sports. Since you’ll volunteer around the time of the Olympics, feel free to make sports and culture a key part of your lessons! Fees start from $3,100 for 2 weeks.
Live it up in bustling Shanghai and make an impact. After, take a plane or high-speed train to Beijing and cheer on your home country at the Olympics. Sounds like an epic trip, right?
A US-based nonprofit volunteer travel organization, A Broader View offers placements across 25 countries. Their programs include 24/7 local support, cost-effective fees, and safe and reliable accommodations. Their ratings on Volunteer Forever are among the best (4.99 out of 5 stars across 260+ reviews). That’s a testament to the quality of ABV’s programs.
Want to learn more? Read our overview of A Broader View.
If you want to volunteer in China and then attend the 2022 Winter Games, put ABV at the top of your list, especially if you want to learn some Mandarin. ABV’s Mandarin Immersion Program in Yantai teaches you Chinese through immersive daily activities, cultural lessons, and volunteering sessions at healthcare centers, animal adoption parks, and community centers. During free time, get into the Olympic spirit and play sports with locals. Basketball and badminton courts are always packed with action! Fees start at $1,390 for two weeks.
Have a passion for animals? Then protect China’s national treasure at the Giant Panda Rescue Center in Chengdu. Give support to the survival of this wonderful species as you help with research, habitat restoration, and medical care for pandas. Sounds amazing, right? Fees start from $1,659 for one week.
Why Serve as an Olympic volunteer?
First and foremost, volunteers “make the Games,” as the IOC says. Don’t you want to make the Olympics engine run?
If you’re lucky enough, you’ve tuned in live in the past to watch epic moments in Olympic history, like:
- Usain Bolt break breaking the 100-meter dash record at the 2008 Beijing Games (9.58 seconds!)
- Michael Phelps swimming to his 23rd gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games
- Marit Bjørgen becoming the most decorated Winter Olympian of all-time at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.
They’ve wowed you from your seat at home. But this time around, you want to be a part of the action.
That’s one of the big reasons why you serve as an Olympic volunteer. You’ll see sports history made in front of your eyes. You’ll meet athletes. You’ll make new friends. And you’ll get caught up in the emotions of it all. If you love the Games, being a volunteer will be one of the most memorable events of your life.
Your passion for the Olympics probably serves as motivation to help out as well. Volunteers support athletes, officials, visitors, and other staff. For instance, if you know Japanese, you could assist tourists with getting around as a Tokyo Olympics volunteer. Helping fellow fans of the Olympics and Paralympics is a good thing to do!
Moreover, it’s important to remember the vision and mission of the Olympic movement:
Olympic volunteers are essential in advancing the ideals of Olympism. They come from all around the world, from the United States to Spain to Kenya to Korea. Opportunity for cross-cultural exchange and friendships abound. You can bridge people at the Games together, promote mutual understanding, and help rid inequalities in sport and the world.
Such an experience benefits you too. By the time the Games conclude, you’ll have learned a lot. You’ll return home with a broadened perspective, new skills, new friends, and plenty of lifelong memories.
Another reason to be an Olympic volunteer is that you get to see how it all works. Viewership averages between 3-4 billion people and more than 6 million people typically attend. Needless to say, it’s a massive event with a lot of moving parts.
As an Olympic and Paralympic volunteer, you’ll learn how it all comes together on the ground level. And you’ll be an integral piece in making the Games go smoothly.
Finally, you can enjoy a world-class city when you volunteer at the Olympics. For example, if you work as a Tokyo Olympics volunteer, you can ascend the Tokyo Tower, shop in Harajuku, tour Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, and more during free time. How awesome is that?
Who Can Be an Olympic Volunteer?
Here’s the wonderful thing: Anyone can serve as a volunteer at the Olympics and Paralympics—whether you’re in college, working, or retired.
That’s what makes the Olympics so great. No other event brings together people, cultures, and countries the way the Games do.
Generally speaking, the only requirements are that you’re over 18 years old and have enthusiasm (which we know you have). For each Olympics, requirements can vary. And specific roles, such as healthcare volunteering, require certain skills, of course.
If you hope to be a Tokyo Olympics volunteer, visit the official website for details. On the site, you’ll find resident requirements. You must be a Japanese citizen or have a valid visa permitting residence for the duration of the Games. Check here to see if you need a visa to visit Japan. Japan does have exemptions for citizens of many countries, which is convenient.
While many roles have language requirements, some don’t. You usually either must possess proficiency in the local language, English, and/or another foreign language. For instance, to be a 2022 Beijing Olympics volunteer, you must be able to communicate effectively in Mandarin Chinese and/or English.
Understand that, while Olympic volunteering is a ton of fun, there is work to do. Typically, each volunteer must commit 10 eight-hour days before, during, or after the Olympic and Paralympic Games. You get rest and standby times, which are great for watching the competitions.
How Do You Apply to Volunteer at the Olympics?
Before applying to volunteer at the Olympics, write down all important dates. These vary depending on the host and whether it’s Summer or Winter Games. Generally, the Olympic volunteer application period begins roughly two years before the event and is open for quite some time (3-12+ months).
Applications are readily available online and take about one to two hours to complete. You first have to make an account on the official Olympic and Paralympic Games website.
- Beware! Phishing sites do exist. To reach the official site for a specific Winter or Summer Games, go through the International Olympic Committee’s site. Bookmark official web addresses.
- Aspiring 2022 Beijing Games volunteer can find information here: https://vol.beijing2022.cn/indexEn.html
To make the process go more smoothly, have personal documents on hand, such as your passport and resume (which will make detailing your expertise easier). To get a better idea of the application, look at the information you need to provide for the 2020 Tokyo Games volunteer application. It includes:
- Your name, address, and contact details
- Your volunteering experience, education, and work history
- Your language abilities, sports expertise, and driving ability (if you want a transportation role)
- Your volunteering preferences, such as type of job, sport, competition zone, and venue
Once the initial application is complete, you’ll get a notification if you made it to the next round. The next round is an in-person interview if you’re located in-country or a video interview if you’re elsewhere. Decisions are made on a rolling basis during this time. If you’re successfully selected to be an Olympic volunteer, expect notification well in advance (3-12+ months).
Then the real fun begins!
Training for Olympic volunteering generally occurs about 2-8 months before the Games for those in the country. For those based overseas, training is held in the 30 days leading up to the opening ceremony.
Once you complete training, you’ll be ready to volunteer at the Olympics. Hooray!
What Does an Olympic Volunteer Do?
Depending on your skillset, experience, and preferences, as well as the needs of the host, common duties Olympic volunteers take on include:
- Setting up and tearing down venue stages
- Checking tickets and performing security checks
- Entering data and displaying the results of competitions
- Assisting with managing staff and issuing worker IDs
- Acting as a guide for spectators and helping them get around
- Supporting reporters, photographers, and videographers during events, interviews, and press conferences
- Welcoming tourist groups, politicians, and athletes from around the world (good for those with language skills)
As you can see, Olympic volunteers have a wide range of responsibilities. No wonder they’re called ‘the lifeblood of the Games’. They’ve supported every aspect of the operation since 1948!
So you have a better picture of what you can do, look at the list of various jobs for 2022 Beijing Olympic volunteers below:
- International Relations and Liaison
- Technical Support
- Press Operations and Broadcasting
- Venue Operations
- Competition Event Operations
- Human Resources
- Logistics Support
When filling out your application, select your preferred positions. The organizing committee will do their best to accommodate your preferences. But due to the large number of applications, you may not get your first option.
A fun note: Exchanging home country pins is a popular thing with volunteers. Bring plenty of pins to trade, and you’ll come back with tons of different souvenir pins. How cool is that?
How to Get Selected as an Olympic Volunteer
On the application and during the interview, highlight relevant qualifications, such as fluency in a second language, experience playing sports, and work experience in sports, medicine, tourism, and other fields related to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Note specialized expertise as well, like IT expertise. And provide good references that the organizing committee can easily look up, such as a former professor.
Remember: The organizing committee needs a diverse array of volunteer talent to meet the challenges of hosting the Olympic Games. Anything that makes you stand out is an advantage.
For example, if you want to be a Tokyo Olympics volunteer and ran track and field in college, then emphasize your knowledge of the sport. The organizing committee will see you as an asset to their track and field venues, as you’ll naturally know how to help athletes and set up equipment.
At the interview, assessors want to find out why you’ll make a good Olympic volunteer. Stress that you have a passion for sports, love working within a team, and enjoy sharing cultures and meeting people from different backgrounds. Characteristics assessors typically like in a candidate include being:
- Willing to learn
- Able to adapt
- Capable of solving problems
Additionally, know you’ll probably have a group interview too. Organizing committees want to watch how you function within a team.
To prepare, you can always do mock interviews to sharpen your skills. Ask friends or family to help, and focus on communication and interpersonal skills like active listening, conflict resolution, and empathy.
Okay! That establishes what you can do throughout the application process. But did you know you have ways to bolster your Olympic volunteer resume now? One of the best ways is to intern or volunteer abroad on relevant projects. For instance, you could:
- Volunteer abroad to coach sports (find more details in the section below)
- Volunteer abroad in healthcare
- Do a hospitality and tourism internship abroad
- Do a journalism internship abroad
Such programs would enhance your CV with cross-cultural experience in sports or fields that play an important role in making the Olympics happen. That experience will impress the organizing committee.
Sports Coaching Volunteer Opportunities
Sports break down language barriers, bring cultures together, promote healthy lifestyles, and develop important character traits, like teamwork, leadership, and discipline. If you want to volunteer at the Olympics, serving as a sports coach abroad is a great way to prepare.
Around the globe, volunteer organizations run sports initiatives to empower marginalized youth to live healthier, happier lives. By working on such projects, you can make a difference and fulfill the mission of Olympism.
Some great sports volunteer projects include:
Teach soccer, basketball, or your sport of choice to children in Fiji. It’s an absolute blast and you’ll get to enjoy a stay in the tropics. Fees begin from just $370 for one week.
Head to Rio de Janeiro, the host city of the 2016 Olympics. There, you can work to develop sports programs for impoverished youth. Your work won’t only be fun, but you’ll also alleviate health and social issues and improve the future prospects of kids in one of Rio’s shanty towns. Love Volunteers, an organization that’s been around since 2009, has truly a wonderful job with this initiative. Fees begin from $429 for one week.
Touch down in Knysna, a gorgeous town in the Western Cape Province. As a sports coach, you can help local youth in need to build social skills, stay away from negative influences, and live active lifestyles. Fronteering, an organization that specializes in off-the-beaten-path volunteer programs, will ensure you have an amazing journey. Fees start from $1,495 for two weeks.
Make your way to Tanzania and join Naturally Africa Volunteers, an organization that strives to uplift people in Africa through sustainable, community-based projects. In Mwanza, a port city on Lake Victoria’s shores, you’ll coach street kids sports and get them involved in positive physical and social activities.
Future Opportunities to Volunteer at the Olympics
If you can’t serve as a 2020 Tokyo Olympics volunteer or 2022 Beijing Olympics volunteer, the dream isn’t over. Because the Olympics will come around every two years for the rest of your life. The 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris will most likely begin accepting volunteer applications in mid-2022.
Want to improve your Olympic volunteer resume in the meantime? Intern, study French, or volunteer in France. We have a comprehensive guide for that right here!
Beyond Paris in 2024, the 2026 Winter Games will be held in Milan and Cortina, Italy. The 2028 Summer Games will be held in Los Angeles, USA.
So that you stay updated on all the opportunities to volunteer at the Olympics, bookmark this article. We’ll update it regularly as information on Olympic volunteering arrives.
Making Your Olympic Volunteer Trip Happen
In addition to getting an Olympic volunteer role, or joining a nearby volunteer program, you also must think about costs. When you volunteer at the Olympics, you get a number of perks, but expenses can still run high.
For example, 2022 Beijing Olympics volunteers get a variety of benefits, including volunteer accreditation, food and beverages, insurance, access to medical services, and an official uniform. That does lower traveling expenses. However, you do have to pay for your flights, lodging, sightseeing, and more. Factor in such costs when planning your Olympic volunteer adventure.
To save money on your travels, you could:
- Fundraise with family and friends and on social media. Folks in your network will be excited to hear you plan to volunteer at the Olympics!
- Apply for volunteer and travel grants and scholarships. We have a comprehensive list here.
- Learn and utilize strategies to volunteer abroad for free or at minimal cost (see our guide here). For instance, you could stay with a host family to reduce lodging costs and take advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses to get a free plane flight.
You also should prepare yourself mentally for Olympic volunteering. Few people get the chance to volunteer at the Olympics, and you want to make the most of it. Before you go, get plenty of rest, clear your head, and enter your volunteer role with an open mind. Enjoy the moment. You’ll come back with so many stories to tell!
So, why wait any longer? Get started on becoming an Olympic volunteer today.