Woodbury woman to help out at London Olympics
While much of the world will be glued to televisions for the 2012 London Olympic Games later this summer, Linda Hood will be right in the heart of the action.
The Woodbury resident will be traveling to London July 15 to volunteer at this year's Olympic Games.
Hood will be working in the anti-doping department during the aquatic events, which means she will be assisting with the drug testing of the athletes.
This summer's Games will mark Hood's seventh Olympics.
Hood first volunteered at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and has since volunteered in Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
"They've all been really special," she said.
Hood traveled to London last weekend for training.
The life of a volunteer
It was when Hood was living in California that she first heard about the opportunity to volunteer at the Olympic Games.
"I just wanted to be involved because I enjoyed people," she said.
Additionally, Hood, who is an amateur triathlete and swimmer, said she wanted to go for the sports.
"I enjoy sports," she said. "I spend my money and go over there and support the athletes."
Hood said she typically travels for four to six weeks because she does some sightseeing in addition to her volunteer work.
On average, a trip to the Olympics costs about $3,000, which includes her airfare and lodging. The Games only pay for volunteers' meals, uniform and transportation.
"The money is worth it though," she During Hood's first year as a volunteer, she worked as a "greeter," which meant she made sure the athletes were comfortable and had everything they needed.
"After that I just got hooked on it," she said. "I just continued from there."
In order to be accepted as a volunteer for the Olympics, Hood had to first submit an application and then participate in an interview process.
This year's Olympic Games will have about 250,000 volunteers.
"More people apply than get accepted," she said.
Over the years, Hood has been assigned various jobs as a volunteer during the Olympic Games - she chaperoned diplomats, acted as an English consultant, worked security, worked as a hostess and worked in spectator services.
Hood said her favorite events to volunteer with are swimming and track and field.
"I've been fortunate to get those sports because it's very, very hard," she said. "But, they see the length of time I've put in.
"Plus, the longer you're willing work, the more likely they are to give you the sports you want."
Hood said her shift typically is between six and eight hours.
Cultures coming together
Hood said one of her favorite aspects of volunteering with the Olympic Games is the variety of people she gets to meet.
"The other volunteers, the spectators and the families - I like watching their faces seeing their kids do well," she said. "I like sharing it with them."
Even though Hood hopes the United States athletes win the gold, she said she enjoys rooting for all the athletes.
"I want them all to do their best - and then that's the winner," she said. "Of course I want the U.S. to win, but I want them to be at their best.
"I'm just happy and proud that the athletes made it that far and I just hope they enjoy the moment."
Hood said one of her best memories of meeting people came during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
During that year, the aquatic center was in the process of being renovated and the sunroof had not yet been installed so the sun was beating down on all of the spectators.
Hood began moving the elderly spectators from the sun to the shade. During the process, she helped find a shaded seat for an elderly man from the Netherlands and his family of 21 only to find out they were the family of one of the Olympic swimmers.
"He came to me and thanked me for bringing his family in the shade," she said. "And I say to him, 'The thanks I get is you beat us.'"
"It was fun watching him be with them all excited."
After the event, the family invited Hood to attend a party where she met several other Olympic athletes.
"I usually try not to bother the athletes and ask them for photos, but I thought that was pretty cool," she said.
Hood was even able to wear the swimmer's Olympic medal around her neck.
Even though meeting people is Hood's favorite aspect of the Olympic Games, she said it can also be the most challenging.
"You have to make sure you're being culturally sensitive," she said. "But a smile is universal - you just smile and it opens the door."
Hood said she has every intention of continuing to volunteer at the Olympics Games, but don't expect to find her at the Winter Olympics.
"I get cold," she said.
Hood said she is getting excited to make memories in London.
"I love just being there and just watching the world come together," she said. "For 21 days the world is together - everybody is happy and they're together.
"It doesn't matter what language you speak, everyone's just friendly."