Special place for Olympians
By Freida Nicholls | Wed, August 01, 2012 - 12:00 AM
LONDON – Where would you find the Queen’s horses, Her Majesty’s Brigade of Guards, George Washington University graduate students from the United States, 243 members of the University of Florida Gators Marching Band, young people from the Westminster community, and Olympians all in the same place?
At the Wellington Barracks, next to Buckingham Palace, home of the Olympians Reunion Centre (ORC) during the London Olympic Games 2012.
The privilege of using this location was granted to the World Olympians Association (WOA), the organization which represents some 120 000 Olympians worldwide.
Since the Atlanta Games in 1996, the WOA establishes a location at every Games where Olympians can socialize, renew friendships formed while they were active competitors, and host special events.
It is from this location in London that I am filing this column.
The ORC also serves as a facility where organizations partner with the WOA to arrange seminars and workshops such as the outreach programme entitled The Olympic Academic Experience, organized by Professor Dr Bonnie Tiell, dean of the Sports Management programme at Tiffin University, Ohio, and Olympian and lecturer at Tiffin, Dr Francis Dove-Edwin of Sierre Leone.
Through this programme, students from Tiffin University travelled to London to host mentorship sessions, and engage in sports and academic activities with young people from the surrounding Westminster neighbourhood.
As part of the association’s new theme Service to Society, Service to Olympians, the ORC facilitates Olympians as we partner with these programmes and deliver motivational presentations to the young people who attend.
My presentation focussed on my journey to becoming an Olympian, and handling disappointments that will arise both in the quest for sports success and in life.
Grace Jackson, Jamaican silver medallist at the Seoul Games 1988, spoke of setting goals and committing to doing your best in every facet of life.
Dr Dove-Edwin competed at the Olympics in Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992, posting a best time of 9.97 seconds in the 100 metres. His work with young people continues to highlight the sterling contribution that Olympians make to their respective communities.
An added attraction to the ORC at the London Games is the access to viewing the daily Changing Of The Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace from within the confines of the Guard’s parade square at the Wellington Barracks.
The Wellington Barracks is an elegant and sophisticated private club which reflects centuries of British military tradition. Olympians have been warmly welcomed by the infantrymen, and Nigel Turner, a former guardsman who served 26 years with the Grenadier Guards, has been assigned to liaise with the ORC to ensure that military regulations blend smoothly with the Olympians’ objectives for their hospitality programme.
All the guardsmen are infantrymen who are serving in the British army, and some of them have completed tours of duty in Afghanistan.
Interacting with them has been quite extraordinary as they share their experiences of military service, and service as members of the Queen’s honour guard.
The ORC is equipped with several flat screen televisions where Olympians and their guests are able to view the competition at the Games.
Displaying an ornate decor, the facility is furnished with plush leather couches, with elegant drapery and photos of the Queen’s Brigade on parade adorning the walls. A professional chef provides catering service of a high quality, and beverages are in good supply.
Olympians who have moved on from the field of play are feeling rather special in London.
Following the Olympians Gala held at St James Palace, these veterans of the pinnacle of athletic endeavour feel truly honoured to have access to the Wellington Barracks to host their Reunion Centre at London 2012, and are gratified that their role in making the Games a success over the years continues to be recognized.
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