The U.S. is having a golden year at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and URI senior business major and pole vaulter Ondrej Honka, is there, taking in all in.
A Czech Republic native, Honka is an Olympic Games volunteer. He was chosen to work with the soccer and track & field athletes in the Olympic stadium and as one the supervisors tasked with tracking the scoring system and results of each of these Olympic events.
The Olympic Games boast one of the greatest melting pots of cultural exchange, something the trilingual Honka—fluent in German, English, and his native Czech—is familiar with. He has competed abroad and was a member of the first youth Olympic Games in Singapore. To become an Olympics volunteer, he participated in a lengthy online selection process and was one of 50,000 volunteers accepted from a pool of 250,000 applicants. He believes his diverse background and international experience aided him in the selection process.
Honka was one of 10,000 volunteers selected to watch a final rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony. His good fortune didn’t end there. “Then they chose 206 people out of 10,000 at the stadium to represent each country at the parade on the stage,” he wrote via email. “I was lucky enough to be one of [the 206] and had the honor to carry a national flag. Now I know what it feels like to be an athlete carrying a national flag at the Olympics.”
It wasn’t just any flag, but the flag of his native Czech Republic, which he called a “once in a lifetime experience.”
Honka’s participation as an Olympics volunteer is just one of his many accomplishments. He is a two-time pole vault champion and one-time heptathlon champion in the Atlantic 10, as well as a two-time New England champion in the pole vault. He maintains a 3.88 grade-point average in Supply Chain Management, earned All-Academic honors from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for the 2015-2016 season, and was selected to the A-10 Academic All-Conference Team during the outdoor season.
“One of the biggest reasons why I applied to be a volunteer was because, as an athlete, everyone dreams of going to the Olympics,” Honka said. “If I can’t compete there as an athlete, then this opportunity as a volunteer will be my way to be a part of the Olympic experience.”