Most volunteers are undeterred by possibility of more violence 'I've got a job to do,' one man tells his son

July 28, 1996|By Ronnie Greene | Ronnie Greene,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- They came to Atlanta, 42,000 strong, not in search of Olympic glory but to lend a hand as volunteers.

Yesterday, just hours after a pipe bomb ripped through a country's spirit, those volunteers were back to work -- checking bags, taking tickets, giving directions.

"My son said, 'Dad you better not go in today,' " said John Greenslit, a Lansing, Mich., CEO who took his vacation time to help run basketball practice sites. "I said, 'Son, I've got a job to do.' "

For sure, some volunteers did not show up to work yesterday, frightened by the prospect of more tragedy at the Atlanta games.

But many did -- as many as 90 percent at some Olympic sites -- said Pressley Harris, spokeswoman for volunteer services for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

"In a crisis, people's strengths come out," Harris said. "The attitude is we're going to make the games work and we're not going to let something like this stop us.

"This just really bolted them into action, knowing they have to get that Olympic spirit back."

Volunteers have descended on Atlanta from across the globe. They are not paid, and their perks come in small doses -- three Coca-Colas and subway passes, plus special Olympic uniforms. They are fed turkey sandwiches, and some get to rub elbows with the world's most accomplished athletes.

Greenslit, a former college baseball coach, took time off from his company, Professional Plants Growers Association, to volunteer at the Atlanta games. By 7 a.m., Greenslit was at his station feeling "depressed and disappointed," but led by a sense of purpose. Along the way to work, a woman recognized his colorful Olympic shirt, rolled down her window and said, "I'm praying for you."

Around the corner, volunteer Tracy Ard of New Orleans was back to work handling crowd control.

"All I can say is we all have faith in praying whoever did it will stop for a moment and think," she said. "A lot of innocent people are here to enjoy themselves."

She asks: "Why would they do something like that?"

Though Ard was back, she admits some of her fellow volunteers did not turn out.

"They were scared," she said. "They are not going to jeopardize their lives because the person who did it could still be here."

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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