A story shared by Madison Jones, an alumna of our Florianópolis, Brazil program.
Working with the Olympic Torch Relay has been a dream come true for me. I have been praying and dreaming about this since before high school when I learned about Além International – who are known for their event management expertise, especially their work with the Olympic Games since 1996.
Just a few weeks before the start of the relay, my flight was scheduled for the little, yet growing, cities of Caldas Novas, in the Brazilian state of Goiás, and Uberlândia, in Minas Gerais. On my plane ride over, I heard the English language from someone other than my friends and family back home for the first time in months, and they turned out to be torch bearers! Conversations commenced and friendships were formed right off the bat. One after the other, the faces around us donned smiles as they were to carry the torch too.
My job as a VIP Torch Bearer Assistant in these cities and as a host in Floripa was to meet with our international guests that consisted of executives and celebrities and everyone in-between do what we call a “briefing.” This is where we take out Hot Wheels toy cars and play out exactly what will happen the next day during the relay. We also take them out to dinner and answer any questions they may have. We get the chance to talk with them and their families to ensure they have the best time possible.
On the day of the relay, we start off by gathering everyone to what we call a “collection point” where the torch bearers hear the briefing in Portuguese, get their uniforms and torches, and all come together to take group pictures.
After their meeting, we get on the “drop off shuttle” which is basically a huge party bus that escorts each runner to their spot in the race. This is where they take pictures with the crowd and embrace their five minutes of fame. Then it’s show time when they are met by the previous torch bearer and light their own torch!
Every person who has experienced this has said that 200 meters felt like a lifetime of pure joy, and that’s what this is all about, making sure every single person feels special in their moment. The adrenaline doesn’t die down until we all meet back up at the collection point and they return to their families.
The relay legs between Caldas Novas, Uberlândia, Foz do Iguaçu and here in Florianópolis were a blur of Portuguese, eye-catching green uniforms, moving groups of people to and from different spots, to taking more pictures than I could possibly remember, and a whole lot of running.
But one thing I will never forget is the look on the faces of those men and women from all walks of life lighting up their torch and running the good race.
That tear filled look of incredibly pure joy has kissed my heart all eleven times I was privileged enough to see someone run.
As a wise man once said, the relay is the great equalizer. Some people run their own companies and others only own their smiles, but each person gets their moment in the spotlight. I hope that I will never take for granted the feeling of running alongside these special individuals cheering them on as they soaked in every second.
Life is a beautiful thing.
— Madison Jones, Florianópolis, Brazil Alumna from the University of South Carolina