Some nice folks from the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee came by the classroom today, to pitch first-year students on the idea of volunteering to work with press centre when the Winter Olympics are held here in 2010.

The response from the students to the pitch — a chance to cover Olympic events and offer press support — was largely enthusiastic: some were signing up online as soon as the presentation ended.

While I can understand the attraction of playing with the big boys and girls during a high-profile, international event, I find the whole thing a little distasteful. The press folk are recruiting 200 volunteers to keep the press centre running during the games to serve the needs of the international media. For their work, they’ll get a daily meal voucher and a personal letter of recommendation.

Here’s the thing: the same organization that’s recruiting these kids is spending $40 million on the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies alone. Take one-tenth of one per cent of that, and you could hand each of those 200 press centre volunteers an honorarium of $200 at the end of the two weeks. That’s not much money, of course, but it’ll buy a textbook or two, cover the groceries for a week or two, cover the cost of gas for getting to and from the media centre, etc.

It could be that I’m just being a grump about this. I seem to be one of the few people in Vancouver not infected with the Olympic “spirit.” In fact, if the college follows through with its plans to shut down for the two weeks of the Olympics in February 2010, I may take advantage of the time to find some sunshine and a beach somewhere.

I’m not about to dump on my students’ enthusiasm (unless they are among the few who read this blog), but I can’t help thinking there’s something exploitive about this whole thing.

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