Thursday, August 16, 2012

London Olympics Take 2

Everyone has been asking if (and assuming) I had an amazing time in London at the Olympics.
The Olympics said thank you, and what would I have done differently (always a dangerous question to ask me)?
And one person mentioned that I have a unique ability to compare, considering I have worked at 2 other Olympics (Athens 2004: beach volleyball) (Salt Lake City 2002: various venues).

So I’m going to try to combine all answers, in an upbeat and concise format, while completing my Olympic journal.

I’ve already said why I love the Olympics (see Olympic Diaries: Part One). Why I do this crazy thing as volunteer to work at the Olympics.

Here’s the quick, most recent answer. Working on Olympic level athletes is beyond inspiring. This time, although I did not massage many athletes at all (yes, very sad about that), I did massage one tennis player in particular. I was working on his legs and noticed an enormous scar. Enormous. I asked what had happened. He said, “Car accident when I was a kid.” Now, I’m telling you, that guy is lucky to be walking, let alone playing top level tennis. This is remarkable. And inspirational. That’s the kind of thing I see that makes me get my butt off the couch and exercise.

If you read my post: Olympic Experience: Week one, you’ll know the first week, I saw no athletes. All in all, I did not work as hard as I’d feared I would, and I did not work as much as I would have liked. I didn’t feel needed at all, which is quite surprising. I was expecting to have been massaging about 8 hours of my 11 hour shift. That is one of the things I would change. All volunteers, especially the foreign ones, have taken time off of their work and away from their loved ones to donate time, and sometimes at great expense to be there, and be used. And that didn’t happen. That’s unusual I think. And was really a lack of communication, or finding the right people to ask ahead.

I also feared I would leave England not making it to any Olympic events. And that’s what happened, except for one exception: rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony. My boss gave the staff tickets, thank goodness. I got to see the Olympic stadium, and the new area, and be at an amazing event, with 80,000 other people. Very moving. Of course, I didn’t get to see the parade of nations, since it was a rehearsal, but it was still extremely cool and I am very grateful for that. Getting tickets was just too challenging. I couldn’t get tickets for the events I wanted, which was a very commonly heard complaint.

One difference between the 3 Olympics: transportation. In London, I was given an Oyster Card, which is a transit card for their subway/trains/busses. I was TOLD that this is ONLY to be used to and from my shifts. In Salt Lake and Athens, we were told that this is part of our thank you gift, and we may use this for all public transportation while the Olympics are happening. I could not believe that they expected us to have come from another country and that they didn’t even want to cover transportation for the length of my stay.

Food: All 3 Olympics made similar choices about food. You get a voucher for lunch during your shift. Very limited choices, very limited quantities, especially for someone with a lot of food allergies. (See my blog post: Things I Don't Like To Talk about: Food Allergies) Very frustrating. But hey, I didn’t gain any weight!

What’s the Olympic day like? Briefly: I was working at the tennis event, held at Wimbledon. I work at the US Open in New York every year, so I knew this would be similar. My job is to massage the players and work with the physiotherapists. The treatment rooms are within the locker rooms. So that’s mainly where I was. It’s a big treatment room with lots of tables, and a few televisions to watch the matches or other Olympics. We hang out and wait for players to come in. Here’s the secret: In the Women’s locker room, it’s very quiet. No players hang out. They come in, they get treated, they leave. In the Men’s locker room: they come in, they stay, they sleep, they chat, they tease each other, they get massage, they eat. It’s almost always crowded and noisy, and I love it there. I mostly was working with the men.

Other than that, I spent a good part of my trip seeing friends and making new ones. I love London (and England). Love it. Great sites, great theater, great food, great people. I spent a ton of time in Borough Market and Covent Garden and walking the Thames. I spent 5 days in Amsterdam, Holland before returning to New York. I have wonderful friends there that I wanted to see, and it’s a very short flight, and much cheaper to fly back to NYC from there! I’ve posted a TON of photos on Facebook if you’re interested.

That’s the scoop! Will I do another Olympics? Probably not. But hey…you never know.
Thank you. Tamar

Massage for Loved Ones

Deviating from the present topic slightly. I was asked to explain the 4 basic massage strokes for people wanting to apply lotion to themselves, or for massaging a loved one. I thought it might be good to share:

The 4 basic massage strokes of traditional Swedish Massage (what we picture when we think of massage) are:

Effluerage: gentle to slightly firm stroking with your full hand or fingertips. Usually done from the direction of the tip of your toes/fingers towards your torso. Good for warm up/starting a massage/applying lotion.
Petrissage: more of a kneading of the muscle. Done with a cupped hand, or fingers grabbing, or one hand "feeding" the muscle into the other hand. This is what you see in movies a lot.
Compression: gentle to firm pressure of simply leaning on a muscle for anywhere from a few seconds to a minute.
Tapotement: beating on the muscle with the side of the hand/fingertips/cupped hand position/soft fist. This can be a final stroke to wake up, or done for over a minute is very relaxing.

Important tips:
1) you should NOT give a massage if someone is sick, especially with a fever. Or drunk. Or on any injuries. This will only make things much worse. Wait.
2) you should gently warm the muscles before going deeper. If you don't, you will bruise them, it will hurt, and they won't like you.
3) simply leaning in, gently, with a palm or elbow can feel very good, and be very effective. You don't have to constantly use your fingers to knead and push and prod. This is extremely tiring for the person giving the massage, and doesn't always help or feel best anyway!
4) Always ask your partner how it feels. it's THEIR massage, not yours.
5) if you need treatment, and not just a few minutes, leave it to the professionals. We're trained, we're licensed, we're legal. (see other blog entry: Massage FAQS)