Vet­eran vol­un­teer off to S. Korea

Toronto woman lands me­dia role at Win­ter Games

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - News - Gil­bert Ngabo

The last time Olympians de­scended on South Korea, Mona Ye­ganegi was only a few months old.

But next month, when all eyes turn to Pyeongchang, the North York res­i­dent will play a prom­i­nent role — help­ing run me­dia op­er­a­tions at the hockey venue as a mem­ber of the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee.

“It’s a bit ironic,” said Ye­ganegi. “I’ve been in so many places, but it just so hap­pens that it’s my first games in Asia, and it’s the sec­ond time this coun­try is host­ing the games. I’m very ex­cited.”

At 29, Ye­ganegi has al­ready be­come a vet­eran vol­un­teer at the Olympics and other sports events across the world — a path she de­cided to fol­low af­ter re­al­iz­ing sports would be more of a hobby for her than a pro­fes­sion.

Now, for the first time, she’s tak­ing on more re­spon­si­bil­ity in a paid po­si­tion.

Ye­ganegi was born in Iran, but her par­ents im­mi­grated to Canada when she was eight years old. Her love of gym­nas­tics and bal­let pro­pelled her into per­form­ing roles at dozens of in­ter­na­tional sports com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing Van­cou­ver in 2010, Lon­don in 2012, Toronto for the 2015 Pan-am Games and 2016 in Rio.

Ye­ganegi has also been a fea­ture in the closing cer­e­monies, dol­ing out medals to winning ath­letes. She hopes to keep those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in addition to her new po­si­tion.

“I’ve al­ways had more than one role at these events, and that’s most likely not go­ing to change,” she said.

There has been an air of un­cer­tainty over the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion for the Feb. 9-25 Win­ter Olympics. Pyeongchang is only some 80 kilo­me­tres south of the bor­der with North Korea, a coun­try that has tense re­la­tion­ships with other na­tions. Coun­tries like France and Aus­tria have warned they could pull out of the games if se­cu­rity is not as­sured.

Only this Tues­day, North Korea agreed to par­tic­i­pate in the games, promis­ing to send a del­e­ga­tion of ath­letes, fans and a per­for­mance-art troupe. Back in the 1988 Seoul Sum­mer Olympics, the north­ern neigh­bour boy­cotted par­tic­i­pa­tion and was ac­cused of try­ing to sab­o­tage the event.

Ye­ganegi said Olympic anx­i­eties are noth­ing new, re­mem­ber­ing the se­cu­rity con­cerns in Van­cou­ver and Sochi as well as the Zika virus wor­ries in Rio.

“We do live in scary times for sure, but I don’t want to let fear of the un­known stop me from do­ing things I am pas­sion­ate about,” she said. “Olympics are like a big fam­ily, and I have no doubt that these games will be a suc­cess.”

Ed­uardo Lima/metro

Vet­eran Olympic vol­un­teer mona ye­ganegi is look­ing forward to rep­re­sent­ing Toronto in pyeongchang.

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