Washington native Sara Marquart, daughter of Jeannine and the late Marvin “Hoick” Marquart, is currently in London, England, working inside Olympic Village where the athletes will live during the 2012 summer games, which get under way with the opening ceremony Friday, July 27.
A 1984 graduate of St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, Marquart has a degree in communications from Southwest Missouri State University and a career in the hotel and hospitality industry, which led to her being given this rare opportunity with the Olympics.
Marquart agreed to an email interview with The Missourian about her work with the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Following are the questions we submitted to her followed by her answers, provided on June 27:
What is your career background?
During college I worked as a guest service representative and concierge. After graduation, I knew I could get a job in the industry so I became a front office supervisor of the Holiday Inn Riverfront in St. Louis (it’s now the Crowne Plaza).
I moved up with this hotel, until I became the reservations manager. After this, I moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., where I worked for an independent hotel The Marque as the front office manager for a few years, and then moved to another independent hotel in the same city, The Hawthorn Inn.
In 1997, I was hired by Candlewood Suites as an assistant general manager, and in 1999 I was promoted to a quality assurance consultant where I traveled the entire USA for 2 1/2 years completing quality reviews and training the teams on quality procedures.
In 2001, I became the general manager of the Candlewood Suites in Birmingham, Ala., where I have been ever since.
How did the opportunity arise to work in Olympic Village?
My parent company, Intercontinental Hotels Group, and specifically Holiday Inn & Holiday Inn Express, are one of the sponsors of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
All employees of IHG had the opportunity to apply, and I thought why not? I had to submit my resume and cover letter. After I then had a two-hour phone interview with our company, and then I was flown over to London last June for a series of interviews and role plays that lasted two days, some of which were conducted by members of The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I found out in September 2011 that I got the job.
What was your reaction?
When I received the phone call with the job offer, I was honoured they offered me the position. That offer came in September 2011; and I didn’t actually start until May 2012.
It’s a lot to take in, knowing that you are going to leave for four months to a different country, but more exciting that I was going to work for Olympics and Paralympics. I am honoured to be representing IHG, and specifically The Americas.
Had you ever attended any Olympics events in previous years?
Are you a fan of the Olympics, watch them every time they come around?
I love the Olympics. I truly watch them for the entire two weeks, from opening to closing ceremony.
Do you prefer summer or winter?
I really have no preference, but I like more of the sports which are part of the summer Olympics than I do of the winter, such as swimming, track, tennis, and cycling.
These are mainly my favorite sports because at one time or another I have participated in these sports personally on a recreational basis.
Any favorite past Olympians?
Honestly, no specific favorites, but I am humbled by all the Olympic/Paralympic athletes simply due to their dedication to the sport and their country.
Are you rooting for anyone this year?
I would really like to see Michael Phelps do well, and I’m very interested in seeing what Usain Bolt can do this year too. But since cycling is my favourite sport, I’m most excited to find out who wins the Cycling Road Race. If it’s the local favourite Mark Cavendish, the UK will go nuts.
Was it difficult making arrangements to be out of the country for so long?
It wasn’t very difficult, but there certainly was a lot to do to leave. I own a home in Birmingham, Ala., so I wanted to find someone who possibly could rent my house for the time while I’m away. So when I found a newly married couple who needed a place to stay, I had to pack up many of my belongings, and get the house ready for them.
The other things I needed to do were to arrange the forwarding of my mail, as well as notify my banks that I would be using my ATM card internationally.
As far as my job, I have been training my assistant manager to do my job in my absence since I found out I was going. When I return, I will simply go back to my job as the general manager of the Candlewood Suites.
What are your position and responsibilities?
I am a deputy residential service lead. Which along with two other people we are responsible for making sure the athletes who are staying in our building are happy and ready to go perform their best. So, if they have questions about anything or need anything we are there to assist them.
And before you ask, no, I don’t know which athletes will be staying in my building. This is determined by the allocations department, and since some countries have not qualified all of their athletes yet, we don’t know.
There are 11 plots with in Olympic Park where the athletes will be staying, and each has a Residence Center. These are the areas where we will be working. It’s a place where the athletes can come to relax, check emails from home, iron clothes, watch what other sports are happening or ask about places to go to in London after they are finished competing.
Can you describe the Olympic village for us? What is it like right now, gearing up for the games?
Right now Olympic Village is a bustling place. All departments are putting the final touches on everything right now. Each day something new either goes up, or a temporary building comes down.
Right now, signage is going up and it just brightens up the whole place. It’s also massive in scale, but this is one of the first times that athletes will be able to easily get to their training venues as The Village is also a part of Olympic Park. If they wanted to, they could even walk to their venues, but there is also an internal transportation system which takes the athletes around.
When did you arrive in London and how long will you be there?
I arrived in London on May 30. My assignement is not over until after the Paralympics, so our last day is Sept. 16. I am planning on taking a vacation after traveling to some cities in Europe. I really don’t know which yet, though.
If you are staying after the games are complete, do you know yet what will your responsibilities will be at that time?
I am staying after the games, but only for vacation. I haven’t yet decided where I’ll be going, but I might return to Italy for a few days before I return to my job in the States on Oct. 1, 2012.
Where are you living?
Our entire team, which is 24 of us, are staying in the Holiday Inn Express Hemel Hampstead. We commute in daily to Olympic park, which at times can take two hours. But it’s worth it, just knowing what we are doing, and the impact we will have on each athlete.
I don’t have roommates, but the team I am working with is very diverse. We have people from all over the world. Australia, Egypt, Israel, Singapore, China, Slovakia, Poland just to name a few. It’s been great fun getting to know these people, and understanding their cultures. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I applied.
Is this your first visit to London? Do you have time for sightseeing and getting out around the city? If yes, what places have you been to see?
On our days off, we are able to do whatever we want. I’ve spent my time getting out and seeing as much as the city I can especially since many of the athletes will want to get out into the city as well.
We were very lucky to be here during The queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration Weekend, so I went to the Flotilla Pageant as well as the Concert at Buckingham Palace. Although I had to watch it from a big screen TV in Hyde Park. I’ve also been to Windsor Castle, and since Wimbledon started this week, I was lucky enough to get a grounds ticket for opening day.
When I have time, I’ve been blogging about my experiences, so if anyone wishes to follow, they can at senseandsarability.wordpress.com.