Longstanding Olympic Games volunteers Laurie and Barbara Smith have mixed feelings ahead of the Tokyo Games.
The Smiths will share the opening ceremony with friends during a Zoom call and will watch the Games unfold on television from their Port Macquarie home after the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled their plans to volunteer.
They became pioneer volunteers in the four years leading up to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and have volunteered in the Olympic village during the past five Olympics .
Laurie and Barbara have between them assisted in the Olympic village with teams from Australia, Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia and Turkey. The couple worked with the Swedish Paralympic team in the village at Sydney 2000.
But they will be more than 7000 kilometres away when the elite athletes compete on the world stage in Tokyo.
"It is the first time in 53 years I haven't been at an Olympic Games," Laurie said.
"I was 20 years old when I went to my first [as a spectator] and it will be a very strange feeling to be watching the Olympic Games from back here."
Barbara had her first taste of the Olympic spirit as a spectator at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She has not missed an Olympic Games since.
"We are passionate about Olympism and one of the things that drew us to it especially working in the Olympic village, was how the Olympics bring the world's people together in peace and love and friendship, and the village epitomises that," Laurie said.
"When you walk into an Olympic village as a volunteer, you feel a similar vibe to an athlete. This is an honour and a privilege."
Barbara loves the atmosphere and contributing as an Olympic volunteer.
She said: "We always say volunteers live longer."
The Smiths believe the Sydney 2000 volunteer program was a standout.
"Sydney had this passion for volunteering, a passion for helping out," Laurie said.
"Continuing on in each Olympic village, it is special. You are there with the world's greatest athletes."
The couple hopes the Tokyo Olympic Games run smoothly.
"We just want to wish the Australian team all the best, whether it's the athletes or the officials and then all the other people over there," Barbara said.
Barbara and Laurie will be glued to the television coverage.
"A lot of our emotion with watching the games will be reliving and really appreciating the environment we are seeing there," Laurie said.
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