By Sterling Randle
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah residents had the opportunity to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime event when Salt Lake City hosted the XIX Olympic Winter Games and the VIII Paralympics Winter Games in 2002. One such resident is Kathy Campbell.
Campbell, from Orem, said she was prompted to volunteer but didn’t know why. “I kept thinking it would be fun (to volunteer), but I thought there would be no way I could go to Salt Lake everyday. But it was a strong spiritual prompting that would not go away.”
One Sunday night, about a year before the games, Campbell said she sat down at her computer and filled out the volunteer application. When the questionnaire asked what area she’d like to work in she said she remembers praying, “Heavenly Father, put me wherever you want. I have no idea, but I know I’m supposed to volunteer.”
An option that came up was Olympic Family services. Campbell said she thought maybe it had to deal with the families of athletes that needed to be entertained or watched. “I can fit in with that,” was her thought.
She got an interview with Olympic Family Services and said it was then she found out what they really do: “(It) consists of the International Olympic Committee, every national Olympic committee, every sponsor, every donor and doctor. So these are the bigwigs of the Olympics.”
The application asked about language experience, and Campbell said of the question, “I had put down I had a little bit of Spanish because I had taken it in the seventh grade. It got put on my record that I spoke Spanish! I could never get that off.”
Olympic Family Services ended up asking her to be a supervisor and a trainer. At the end of the interview she said she told them, “’I really don’t know if you want me in this department.’ They told me that they really wanted me.”
After the application process for volunteering was finalized in early 2001, she started working right away.
After completing training, Campbell said they went to work to find translators for all the assistants to members of the Olympic Family Services.
“Utah is such a perfect place to host the Olympics. We have all these returned missionaries that speak any language you want,” Campbell said.
She shared an experience of losing a full-time Ukrainian translator and needing to find another one as soon as possible.
Under enormous stress and pressure she said she walked into the main meeting room and said, “Does anyone speak Ukrainian?” The person closest to her had served a mission in Ukraine and was able to fill in for the rest of the time needed. “There were a lot of little miracles that happened all the way throughout the games,” Campbell said.
“It was a huge sacrifice, but what I want to share is that it wasn’t. It was probably a lot like serving a mission. Not (comparable) in scale, but the experience brought blessings (that) were so tremendous that it outweighed the amount of sacrifice you did give. It was just phenomenal.”
Salt Lake City, along with Denver and Reno/Tahoe, will compete for the 2026 Winter Olympics bid.