While their day-to-day tasks might not be so glamorous, a handful of Crees have had the opportunity of a lifetime working in food-and-beverage services or housekeeping for the athletes in the Olympic Village at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympics.
“The mountains are so beautiful – I wish I could bring my mom out here so she could see them,” said Nina Margaret Metabie, who has been working in housekeeping and as a dishwasher in the Olympic Village.
Metabie is one of the 11 young people who were selected to take part in the work-exchange program organized between Mistissini’s Eskan Company and Sodexco Canada that is handling the food-and-beverage service for both of the games.
Some of these workers left several weeks early to undergo intensive training to work in the Olympic Village.
“The employees are telling me that they are amazed with the experience itself, however they also recognize that they are in very demanding roles. Not only are they under the spotlight of the events themselves, they are under the spotlight of the world. Having to carry out this service for the athletes is very significant no matter what the case is. If you had to house these athletes in your own home, you would care what they had and that they were taken care of,” said James Lazore, Eskan’s General Manager.
While the days might be long and the work grueling, dishwashing for the Olympics has its perks: gaining a perspective that comes from working at an international event chock-full of world-class athletes, medal winners and their entourages.
“I am really happy that I came. I have met people from everywhere. There are times when we have had our ups and downs and I wanted to go home and almost quit. It is really hard out here and there are people who don’t get along but it is like that anywhere you work,” said Metabie.
For Metabie, being around all of the athletes has rubbed off on her and she has found herself envying some of them because they get to participate. She is considering taking up sports again when she gets home.
That is not the only thing that has rubbed off on her; living amongst individuals from all over the world has also given her the travel bug and a new curiosity about other cultures.
“I keep finding myself asking questions. The other guys I was working with were from Korea and they would tell me about their country, what they do and even how they celebrate birthdays over there,” said Metabie.
Metabie said many of the Canadian workers in the Olympic Village have bonded over their time together and are planning a big trip to London, England after the games. She is considering going on the trip and if not there, seeing the world as much as she can. As this was Metabie’s first real trip anywhere, having just acquired a passport for the first time, she is anxious to put some mileage on it.
Jeremy Neeposh of Mistissini, who has also been in Whistler working with Metabie, has been bitten by the same travel bug.
“It is great meeting people from countries that I didn’t even know existed; there are a lot of places out there that I have learned about. I now want to go to Europe; I just love everyone’s accents,” said Neeposh.
While their individual experiences have been mind-expanding, Lazore said that having to live up to the level of professionalism that the Olympics demand can also be career-expanding.
“This will always be an interesting topic for them to discuss no matter what career they are in as they move forward with that. This will have a significant impact on their employability, that they can dedicate themselves to hard work in a world-class venue. Whether or not the work is in their field, recognizing that kind of professionalism would make any employer interested in having them on their team,” said Lazore.