During the World Cup, the leader of the Media Relations function, Ida Stupina, managed to receive her Bachelor's degree and start her Master's programme at MGIMO. "I left the stadium at 3 a.m after one match, got home, printed out my thesis to read it through one more time, then left an hour later to defend it," she recounts. It may have been a stressful time but there was no way Ida was going to miss her opportunity to volunteer at the World Cup. She was pleased with the outcome.
You certainly have to be able to withstand stress when being a volunteer like Ida. Imagine, five minutes before the final whistle, having to deal with photographers when the roped cordon holding them back from the pitch is removed. Or having to look journalists in the eye and tell them who has and who hasn't been allocated a ticket. Yet another "pleasant" responsibility is to ensure that the non-written press do not break the rules by putting out coverage live, thus violating the rights of the international broadcaster HBS.
"You always have to communicate with others in a civilised manner," says Ida. "Everyone wants a photograph for memory's sake. To be honest, even I don't have one. I just didn't have the time. In the middle of the tournament, I found myself thinking, 'How will it feel after it's all over?' Even though everyone will be going their separate ways, we'll still be able to keep in touch. Planes, trains, phones were invented in order to do just that. If you have the desire, it's easier to achieve your goals. I love what I've accomplished. And despite the heavy workload, I feel happy."
At the awards ceremony following the final, there was a massive downpour. Usually, Ida delegated tasks for her team to carry out. In fact, during the entire month she had never once been on the pitch. But this was different as she grabbed some raincoats and ran to help. "When I reached the photographers, I fell to my knees, unpacked the raincoats and began covering the cameramen and their equipment as fast as I could. I was soaked to the bone. As I raised my eyes to meet the gaze of my colleagues who were responsible for the photographers' access, I saw they were in the same boat in terms of getting drenched. Yet they were smiling. This, you see, is exactly the kind of situation that made being a volunteer so worthwhile."
Clearly, volunteering means different things to different people. You can never predict when you will experience that limitless joy which neuroscientists dryly explain is due to the production of the feelgood hormone oxytocin, when successfully completing a team project. This kind of moment can catch you unawares at any time: like when you are on your knees in the rain; or extending the palm of your hand for a high-five with the dejected Artem Dzyuba; or when you are meeting a bus carrying your favourite team with a sign in your hands. But one thing you know for certain is that you will at some point experience this feeling. And it will recur again and again.