Good help is not hard to find; Volunteers from Texas happy to pitch in to assist Olympics

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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SALT LAKE CITY – He’s hard-working. He’s good at his job. So there was really only one way that Mickey Beavan stood out from his fellow Olympic volunteers.

“Everybody makes fun of me because I say ‘y’all,’ ” said Beavan, 28, of Dallas.

Beavan and 71 others here stand out because they came from Texas to help the Olympics run smoothly. Those include 35 from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

They’re only a tiny portion of the nearly 24,000 volunteers driving buses, directing traffic and manning metal detectors. That’s a workforce about the size of Waxahachie.

The vast majority, of course, are from Utah. But for those who made the trip, it’s an experience they wouldn’t trade away.

“The whole Olympic atmosphere is just awesome,” said Heide Starr of Dallas, who works on the Delta reservations desk back home but is a film runner here.

Lee Fay took time away from his job as a Delta pilot to help maintain the slopes for men’s skiing events, including the downhill, the combined and the super giant slalom. “Basically, I sat on top of the mountain and made sure everybody was in position with the tools they need for everything to go smoothly,” he said.

Fay, who lives in Bedford, said he was amazed at how much effort it took to keep slopes in top condition. “We had probably 500 workers, and everybody was used the whole time for very long days,” he said. “We had everybody from college students to corporate vice presidents working.”

Fay and company usually started between 1 and 3 a.m. and stayed as late as 8 p.m. “There were times we were just working on adrenaline,” he said. “It was really a blur.”

Beavan is working as a “sector coordinator for event services,” which he acknowledges “probably doesn’t mean anything to most people.” He’s in charge of a group of volunteers that work with security personnel – “I can’t say much more than that,” he said, because of his dealing with the Secret Service.

Back in Dallas, he works for the SMU athletic department, helping run Gerald J. Ford Stadium. But his workday there generally doesn’t start with a 4:30 a.m. briefing, as it does here. And it’s usually not as cold.

“We were driving once, and in the rear-view mirror it showed the temperature,” he said. “Minus-24 degrees. I asked, ‘Is that Celsius?’ No, Fahrenheit.”

Indeed, the cold seems to be a common theme among Texans working here.

“The day I got here, it was very, very cold, and the next day we got six inches of snow,” said Pete Weathers of Cedar Hill, who is helping maintain a cellular base station at Soldier Hollow, mountain home of biathlon and cross country skiing. “Then my friends would call and tell me it’s 70 degrees back home.”

Olympic organizers received 68,000 applications for the 23,500 volunteer spots, 4,000 of which are for the Paralympic Games that follow the Olympics.

The major benefit: a nifty uniform, complete with color-coded parka. Red, for instance, is reserved for medical personnel, while yellow is for event services. (Technically, the colors aren’t yellow, blue, red and green: they’re “amber,” “mountain shadow,” “wildfire,” and “forest.”)

Starr’s job is to transport film taken by photographers in distant venues to the Main Media Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

“I’m running a lot,” she said.

She’s driving a lot, too, although she said she admits she has been confused by the unusual street-naming system here, in which 300 South is an east-west street and 400 East runs north-south.

But she has enjoyed her experience enough that she’s considering applying for a volunteer slot at the next Winter Games, 2006 in Turin, Italy. “I want to make it a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.

Fay’s volunteer work has already been completed, and he’s back at his Bedford home. Could this be the start of a semi-regular job?

“I’d like to do it again,” he said. “Being part of one Olympics kind of gives you a door into working at future Olympics.”

He said he’s hoping for Vancouver to win its bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

What’s Beavan got planned after the Games? “A side trip to Vegas,” he said. “That city’s going to be packed when this is all over.”