Canadian expat couple get chance to be volunteers at Rio Olympics

Published:  5 Aug at 6 PM
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The dream of a lifetime has come true for Abu Dhabi resident expats Norman Labbe and Susan Ward.

Thanks to their multicultural experience of living in Abu Dhabi, Norman and Susan were two of only 10,000 foreign volunteers to be accepted for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The election process was, they admit, arduous, and took a full two years of endless form filling, language tests, background checks, a group Skype interview and online courses. Finally, they were interviewed together with five other international applicants in order to test their ability to work within diverse groups.

Susan, who moved from Ottawa to Abu Dhabi with her husband 15 years ago, believes their success was due to their cultural sensitivity and is thrilled to be representing both the UAE and Canada at the Games. Her experience in heathcare including helping set up Abu Dhabi’s Cleveland Clinic and the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City as well as Norman’s work with the emirate’s Environmental, Health and Safety Centre and the Abu Dhabi police were also part of the reason why the couple were chosen.

However, their most relevant quality is their involvement in and love of sport, including Norman’s assistance at golf events in the emirate including 2006’s innovative first Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Although the majority of their time during the Games will be taken up with their duties as international volunteers, the couple have planed their agenda to include cheering on both UAE and Canadian athletes.

They’ve bought tickets for track and field, athletic and volleyball events, and are thrilled with their distinctive green and yellow uniforms. Apart from a few vouchers, volunteers are expected to fund their entire trip themselves, with Norman and Susan more than happy to comply.

Now set up in an apartment owned by a Brazilian teacher friend in Abu Dhabi, the lucky couple's only hassle was booking their flights at such as busy time. They’re not worried about the threat of the Zika virus, having travelled extensively during their time together without becoming ill, and the political unrest isn’t a cause for concern. However, Susan is alert to possible security issues and won't be wearing jewellery or carrying a handbag.
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