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Volunteers are unsung heroes of Games

Updated: August 28, 2004, 12:28 AM ET
By Brian Church | Special to ESPN Insider
ATHENS, Greece – Would the volunteers turn up?

That was one of the biggest questions asked before the Athens Games began. It wasn't an unreasonable fear.

Greece lacks a tradition of volunteerism. You could put offering to work for no money right up there with vegetarianism and taxpaying as activities unlikely to catch on in the next 100,000 years in Greece.

But, as with so many aspects of these Games, which we can now safely christen "The Surprise Olympics," the volunteers have been one of the big success stories. A few didn't turn up. Some only for a day or two. But most came.

And stayed.

Put bluntly, you can't move because of the volunteers. Seriously. They're everywhere. And that, combined with the low number of tourists in the city – still no official figures; we'll probably never know – has meant constant attention from the volunteers.

To pervert Churchill's quote about the brave pilots in World War II's Battle of Britain: Never have so few been helped so often by so many.

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