This week sees the launch of the Rio 2016 Olympic games. As with any Olympic games there has been the usual frenzy of activity in the lead up to the event with the organisers rushing to be ready on time as protesters argue that the money would have been better spent elsewhere. Of course, none of this is new and unique just for Rio – I saw similar complaints just before every Olympic games I can remember.
One thing I have noticed about the Rio games though is that the role of the volunteers has been taken more seriously than ever before. In London the volunteer “games makers” were such a success and transformed the experience of being at the events, or even just using public transport, in London when the 2012 games were taking place.
It seems the Rio organisers have taken that message on board. They have recruited over 50,000 volunteers to flood Rio with helpful smiling faces during the competition, which initially runs from August 5th to 21st and will then be followed by the Paralympics.
I think it’s a smart move. The London Olympics showed that by flooding the city with knowledgeable and skilled volunteers for the duration of the games many problems can be resolved. Fans are directed to the right place, questions about events are answered, and the wheels of the games are oiled entirely by volunteers.
One potential problem in Rio could be the Portuguese language – it’s not commonly learned by foreigners and, according to the British Council, fewer than 5% of Brazilians can use English. The Rio Olympic organisers have taken this on board though by ensuring that over 20% of the volunteers will be from outside Brazil and all volunteers (even the locals) need to be able to use English so fans from all over the world should be able to get help from the Rio volunteers even if they cannot communicate with many other Brazilians.
I saw some analysis by Skift recently that warned Olympic tourists to ensure they have translation apps loaded on their phone because of these language issues in Brazil. However, it seemed to me to be a little too alarmist. All the Olympic posters and information I have seen posted online are in English and Portuguese – I’m sure the tourist hotels will have no trouble managing foreigners.
Even more than the London games, the power of social media, smart mobile devices and apps will be central to customer experience at this event. It will be fascinating to monitor the social media buzz this year and I very much look forward to poring over the social media analytics in real time. Perhaps the only trouble will come when ordering dinner, but then it’s always an adventure trying to order from a menu you can’t read!
The Rio 2016 organisers appear to have taken a long time thinking about the skills their 50,000 volunteers will need. Forgive me for getting excited about the benefits of selecting and recruiting the right people with the right skills and experience at the right time! It’s part of the job, and I’ve no doubt the volunteers in Brazil are going to create a fantastic customer experience for visitors to Rio over the next few weeks. It’s great to see some lessons taken from the London games and applied in Brazil – let’s hope the games are as fantastic as always. Brazilians know how to throw a great party so the launch on Friday night (the football actually starts today) should be spectacular!
Photo by Higor de Padua Vieira Neto licensed under Creative Commons.