I’m writing this from Pyeongchang, South Korea, at the 2013 Special Olympics World Games, the 7th which I’ve had the honor of being involved in over the past 12 years. My life in Special Olympics has led to varying roles; from staff member, volunteer, and here, GMS technical advisor. Never would have imagined my involvement would lead to such far flung locations as Korea, Greece, China, Ireland and Japan. I’m one of a team of 7-10 people who come and assist with GMS (the official competition software for Special Olympics world wide), and within that crew we count citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, Ireland, New Zealand, Bahamas, Poland, plus US representatives from coast to coast.
Standing alongside the hardest working, most dedicated group of people I have ever met, fills me with pride that I play a small role in the successful execution of these games. My place here is behind the scenes, sitting and staring at a computer screen, and ensuring information regarding competition is accurate, complete and error free. It doesn’t compare to the training our athletes partake, the hundreds of hours our coaches and volunteers spend at the local, regional, state and national level. It always inspires me watching competition, seeing the intensity of sport, the joy of the game that these athletes bring each and every time they step on the field.
I am at the alpine venue where three SOMA athletes compete and I always have a warm spot for seeing Team USA in general and Massachusetts in particular when at World Games. The race crew always get nicknames, and due to this being Korea and the race secretary is a doctor, M*A*S*H characters were in vogue, and I got dubbed “Radar”, a name I take with pride (nobody wanted to be Major Burns!) since my job is to anticipate and handle problems as they arise and keep them from becoming major issues.
While I didn’t get to watch much competition on the course, my duties had me in front of the timing and results systems, catching scores as they crossed the finish line and being among the very first to see where our SOMA athletes finished! One of the biggest highlights of the games for me was crossing the awards area on the way to our daily coaches meeting and hearing Michael DeLuca’s name called on the podium! Took a brief detour to watch him receive a bronze medal, congratulate him and snap a photo.
The South Korean volunteers have been incredible, some staying nine to a room (on the floor, no less) and coming from all over the country to be a part of the games. It’s wonderful to see the host country rally behind Special Olympics and hold such inspired competitions. From the moment the plane touched down we have been welcomed and made to feel welcome. The people here are wonderful, friendly and helpful, offering advice, asking for pictures.
It’s been an unforgettable experience and one that everyone involved with remember for the rest of their lives.
In the spirit of Special Olympics,