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Volunteers Help Guide Attendees, Officials at Olympics - 2002-02-09

Between 50,000 and 70,000 visitors are expected to arrive in Salt Lake City each day during the 17 day 2002 Winter Olympics that begin on Friday. For many the first stop is a safe landing at the Salt Lake City Airport.

For many of the thousands of Olympic athletes, sports officials, spectators and law enforcement officers, the Salt Lake City Airport is the welcome mat for the 2002 Winter Games. There's a trained core of blue-vested, multi-lingual volunteers on-hand to get visitors where they are going.

Many of the volunteers hold signs with big block letters nailed to long wooden sticks designed to catch the attention of recent arrivals streaming down the escalators towards the baggage claim area.

Woman: "Ours says, 'Welcome, transit drivers and mechanics.'"
Skirble: "So you are welcoming ..."
Woman: "Drivers and mechanics to drive all of these people who have come to see the games."
Skirble: "You're holding a sign can you tell me what it says?"
Man: "ISB for international sports broadcasting."
Skirble: "Who are you waiting for?"
Man: "Everyone from around the world, different camera operators to get to each venue."
Skirble: "And when they see your sign, what will you do?"
Man: "We have people here to help with luggage and we go around to make sure they get to their shuttle buses and to their venues."
Skirble: "It seems that everybody here has a different sign. What does yours say?"
Man: "Ours says Utah Olympic Public Safety Command."
Skirble: "Who are you looking for?"
Man: "I'm looking for 'LEVOS' - Law enforcement Volunteers."

This man, a policeman from Little Falls, Minnesota is among 10,000 military troops and police officers from 60 federal, state and local agencies stationed at the 2002 Winter Games.

"You know, we just say [to the organizers] tell us where you want us to go and we will do whatever you need. We pay our own way out. We get a uniform, board and room. Other than that we pay for everything else and we're just loving it," he says.

Mike Caldwell coordinates a staff of 140 volunteers at the Salt Lake City airport. Members of his team are the official greeters for the 4,800 Olympic athletes and sports officials, the 3,400 International Olympic Committee members and guests and the 1,200 friends and families of the athletes. Some 70,000 people applied for the 30,000 volunteer jobs at the Winter Olympics. Mike Caldwell says his group is a diverse lot.

"I've got active FBI agents that are on the volunteer pool. They're just local people from the Salt Lake City community that are excited to be a part of this. Students, people in sales. I've got a mixture of all. I've got a least a half-dozen people who are over eighty that spend nine or 10 hours on their feet here and are extremely enthusiastic about being here and meeting everybody."

Two of those 80-year-olds are Mary and Russ Calame a husband and wife team from Salt Lake City.

Mary Calame: "We've met many wonderful people."
Skirble: "What do you like about doing this?
Mary Calame: "I like that I will have done it. I like the fact that I'm here. I like that I am meeting such interesting people."
Skirble: "And you're in this with your husband."
Mary Calame: "My husband has been out here with me. He's at one end of the airport and I'm at the other."
Skirble: "You are married to Mrs. Calame."
Russ Calame: "A lot of years!"
Skirble: "Why did you two sign up?"
Russ Calame: "I think we signed up mainly because I wanted to get the feel of it, be a participant. It's exciting and it isn't going to happen again in my lifetime, I'll guarantee you!"

The security at the Salt Lake Airport is tight and visible with an additional 400 security workers in place during the games - in addition to the airport police, National Guard troops and teams of bomb sniffing dogs posted at the airport. Coordinator Mike Caldwell says he hasn't gotten many complaints about security. He says passengers are more interested in the warm greeting and directions out of the airport.

Mike Caldwell: "We just want to make sure that everybody gets questions answered and they get a smiling face after a long flight. And, we want to make sure that they get directed to where they want to go."
Skirble: "So, you want to get them out of here quickly."
Mike Caldwell: "Quickly. And the quicker we can expedite that the better it is for all of us. So, the quicker we can get them in and out of here and get them downtown where they can see things and be a part of the better off I think that everybody is going to be."

Mike Caldwell says that getting into Salt Lake City will be far easier than leaving - especially on February 25, the day after the last Olympic sporting event. Airport officials say that will be the busiest day in the airport's history.