This Mastermind Sports Management is an online international group of professionals. On a monthly basis they will share their opinion on a certain topic. You can look at the background of each mastermind by going here.
June 2012 topic: “Olympic Memories”
In a month the Olymic Games will be organized in the city of London. Our members of the Mastermind Sportmanagemetn all have their experiences with the Olympics.
Well I have quite a few great (and some not so great) Olympic memories..have attended 1988 (Fiji Swimming Section Manager), 1996 (Fiji Chef de Mission), 2000 (Swimming Technical Official), 2004 and 2008 (ONOC Office Coordinator in the Olympic Village).
I remember seeing Vladimir Salnikov take out the 1500m Freestyle in Seoul in 1988 with the whole stadium chanting his name…seeing Keiran Perkins from Australia winning the 1500m Freestyle in 1996 from lane 8, Michael Johnson’s golden spikes winning the 200m in World Record time in 1996, riding on the athletes’ bus from the Village to the stadium, eating in the Olympic Cafeteria and chatting to great athletes, keeping pace with Michael Phelps’ record 8 gold medals in Beijing.
The list can be quite long!
It was at the Barcelona Olympics (1992) where we were guaranteed that everyone working as a volunteer had been thoroughly screened before being accepted to work with the Games.
Our delegation was in the Village, in our apartment when the cleaning crew came to do their daily chores. We quickly moved into the sitting room as they went through the bedrooms and bathrooms. As they left to go to the adjacent apartment where a French contingent was staying, one of our senior athletes went to his bedroom to check on his wallet which he had left in his pillow. To his great surprise it was not there. he screamed, ‘My wallet! It is missing! I had it there in the pillow and now it’s gone!’. We were all very surprised.
Quickly and without necessarily thinking it through we all started looking around. The athlete and I walked into the adjacent apartment completely oblivious to the fact that it was host to another contingent altogether. There we were searching for all that it’s worth. We went there because the door was open and the same volunteers were cleaning there.
Just as one of the French athletes emerged from her room and started speaking in her native tongue which neither the athlete nor myself understood. It was however clear that she wanted to know what we were doing there.
Just when she was getting particularly irate the athlete shouted “Found it!” which he indeed had. He found his wallet in the trash can. It appeared that the volunteer cleaner who had taken it dropped it there for safe keeping as he saw us enter the apartment.
We reported the incident to the Games Village authorities who conducted their investigation only to discover that the individual volunteer did in fact have a police record and should not have been hired. He was immediately dismissed.
My Olympic Memory is based on the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. I was the Event Producer for Olympic Volleyball in The Omni, which has since been replaced by Phillips Arena.
Our Schedule was very intense, Our Production staff arrived at 8:30 AM, as the first Match was at 10:30 AM. That was followed by another match in the morning session. We ended the Morning wave each day at around 2:30. The Arena closed until around 5:30, when the Omni reopened for the Evening Wave, which went from 7:30 until around 10:30. This was our schedule for 16 days, and it was more intense when we got to the Playoff Rounds. Needless to say, our staff was very tired each night!
I had gone home one night and had gone to sleep around 11:30. I woke up the next morning a little early, and clicked on NBC for the Today Show, which was live in Atlanta during the Olympics. I immediately knew something was amiss, as Tom Brokaw was on and there was an arial view of Centennial Olympic Park showing considerable damage. This was, of course the Famous Olympic Bombing.
What most did not know is this was about ½ mile away as a few from the crew went from The Omni to the actual site of the bombing. Several of our staff had gone at the end of the night to wander the Park and had been fairly close to the Bombing.
I did not know at the time what would happen, but that question was answered pretty fast. The overall Olympic Volleyball Manager, Jim Stewart, called me and indicated that “We are a go for the morning wave.” The Games went on!
We had a moment of silence for the 2 victims in that Horrific incident. Our security was amped up since we were so close to where the bombing was.
We went on and were recognized the FIVB – The International Volleyball Federation – as having put on the most successful Volleyball Event in Olympic Games History! And The Games Went On!
My first actual visit to the Olympics was in 2008. Not only did the size of this world event had a big impact on me, but the interaction with the Chinese culture also was totally new for me….and I loved every piece of it!
The memory that is engraved in my soul is that I was sitting right in front (about 20m) of the finish line in the Olympic Stadium, during the 200 meters Track & Field finals. Our athlete Churandy Martina previously didn’t manage to win a medal in the 100m final, so this would be his last chance for a medal. One of our local radio stations called me to comment live, and the tension was enormous!
In less than 20 seconds the world saw Jamaican Usain Bolt destroy the records, but I only focused on Churandy, as he won the silver medal. It just seemed surreal that he truly did it. We had worked on his program during the last year, and there it was, his dream became reality.
I gave him the flag of our country, and then rushed to our coach in the dungeon of the stadium to celebrate and wait on Churandy who had to pass through the ‘mixed zone’ which due to numerous interviews with the international press took him about 40 minutes. During that time we heard a rumor that the USA filed a protest against Churandy, which could result in a disqualification. We just couldn’t believe this !
We agreed that our coach would attend with the officials about the correct information, and that I would accompany Churandy to the dopingcontrol. When we got out, it felt like the stadium was already empty, and I went to our coach who was still waiting on an official for more information. Churandy waited outside the room in the dungeons and was congratulated by other athletes.
The Track & Field official later came in, and told us that external video material showed that Churandy stepped on the line, and they therefore disqualified him. I couldn’t believe it, and threw the bottle of water I was holding on the floor and simply left.
I stuttered to Churandy that indeed he was disqualified, and saw how his eyes filled with water. He asked me how this could be, and why they waited for hours to take this decision. I couldn’t answer his questions.
To make a long story short, Shawn Crawford, the American Athlete who initially finished fourth, but ultimately received the Silver medal, decided to return the medal to Churandy at a competition the following month in Switzerland.
In the following video the athletes tell their side of the story:
“Everyone is a star at the Olympics”
In Sydney 2000 the Danish delegation had the pleasure to host a visit from the Royal Family – his Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik. Crown Prince Frederik is a keen sportsman himself and in 2009 he was actually elected as IOC Member.
During his visit back in 2000 the Crown Prince went out to visit the Danish athletes at the triathlon venue. When standing with the two Danish coaches (Who were of course dressed in the official Danish national team uniform) a Dutch spectator came up to the little Danish party. She addressed the Crown Prince of Denmark – asking him to take a photo of her with the two Danish coaches which he did of course!
Morale must be: Everyone is a star at the Olympics!
Although I have never been at an Olympic event personally my most remarkable Olympic memory was in 1988 (I was a 16 year youngster then) when the Surinamese butterfly swimmer Anthony Nesty won the first and only gold medal for country in a time of 53:00 seconds in Seoul.
The joy I experienced and sensed among the people and the way this achievement could bring people of all stands together showed the spirit and nation building power of sports.
It was a moment of pure pride to see your nations flag at the top amongst others and it was also a turning point in my live that still empowers me as a sports leader.
Do you have any Olympic experiences to share? Leave them in the comment box below.