Volunteers – the heart and soul of the 18th Mediterranean Games

The organizers of the eighteenth edition of the Mediterranean Games have scheduled every activity and every minute of these 10 days of sporting competitions knowing that volunteers were the key to their success. The people of Tarragon didn’t let them down. Over 8,000 applied for the 3,500 volunteer positions for the Games — these are people who love sports, the city, and are giving their all to ensure all runs smoothly.

“I’ve volunteered for the Games because I think it’s a unique opportunity to join your city in taking part and making history,” explains Toni Carmona, plant operator at Repsol’s facility in Tarragona. Celebrating the Mediterranean games in Tarragona is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city. I think that loads of people are excited that they are being celebrated here, and it’s an opportunity to make ourselves known.”

Toni works with Joan Tornell, who is also volunteering for the Games. “Basketball is my favorite sport, and fortunately, they are going to play three on three for the first time in this edition,” he explains. Both of them mention how thrilled the whole province is. “Tarragona has been turned upside down by the Games,” he states.

The heart of the Games

“To the Games, we volunteers bring, above all, passion and excitement at holding an event that will show the whole world how great of a city Tarragona is,” explains Tornell. Pepe Valls, who led the project, goes even further: “The volunteers play an essential role, it’s priceless. We couldn’t do this on such a scale without such a significant number of volunteers. Their work is fundamental.”

Valls has also been a key part of the celebrations of the Mediterranean Games. It was he that put Tarragona forward as a host, after returning from Barcelona ’92 as a judge. Now, 36 years later, he feels “happy.” However, he assures us that the credit should not go to him, but to those who have supported the bid, and the inhabitants of Tarragona.

By everyone, for everyone

They will be those who benefit most from the project. The money invested has gone towards marked improvements— not just in the sports facilities, but much of the city’s infrastructure. Tornell remembers when he used to play basketball in Campoclaro, and says “it looks nothing like it used to.”

An athletics stadium that meets the requirements to host any competition aside from the Olympics (which have specific regulations), a sports pavilion that is now an architectural point of reference for experts (for having won various awards, and a 50-meter swimming pool have been the first facilities to be added to the city. “The residents of Tarragona are going to be able to use all of this,” says Valls.

“It seems like a different city,” Carmona explains. “It has really changed color. It’s gone from a gray, Roman city (which also has a charm all its own) to a melting pot of many countries, many people, and undoubtedly a party for everyone who lives here.”

The Mediterranean Games were founded after the Second World War “to close war wounds,” Valls tells us. In his opinion, this event symbolizes all sporting values. “Here, we’re going to have athletes from Syria, Lebanon, Kosovo. We need to welcome them with open arms and be supportive, inclusive, and cohesive.”

“If the athletes are a key part of the Mediterranean Games, we volunteers are the heart and soul,” Tornell and Carmona explain. And they are not alone: as the t-shirts and polos that everyone involved in the organization wears tells us,  this whole province is “ready to make history”.

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