IOC Member brings unique perspective to Sochi
It took more than 30 years, but International Olympic Committee member Anita DeFrantz is finally getting her chance to enjoy the Olympic spirit in Russia. DeFrantz’s unique perspective on the 2014 Sochi Games begins with a dream denied. After winning a bronze medal in rowing for the United States at the 1976 Montreal Games, she was forced to skip the 1980 Moscow Games when her country boycotted to protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
She couldn’t come to Moscow as a competitor, but DeFrantz is a very enthusiastic spectator in Sochi.
“The mood here is happy”, she said. “These are the best athletes in their sports at this time, and to be here as they test themselves for history is just a great privilege.”
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DeFrantz has remained active in the Olympic Movement throughout her adult life. As a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1986, she has been a strong advocate for gender equality in sport. She was the first woman to become an IOC Vice-President, and currently serves on the IOC Executive Board and as Chair of the IOC’s Women and Sport Commission.
DeFrantz also serves as President of the LA84 Foundation, a legacy of the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The foundation supports youth sport and coaching education throughout Southern California and operates the largest sports research library in North America.
DeFrantz said her list of Sochi highlights so far includes watching the first women’s ski jumping event at the Olympic Winter Games, then placing medals around the necks of the winners from Germany, Austria and France.
“It was wonderful”, she said. “I felt sad for the US team because they worked so hard, for so long, and they were unable to take home a medal, but it’s a competition.”
DeFrantz, who has attended 17 Olympic and Olympic Winter Games, had nothing but praise for the Sochi venues. She said the setting on the shore of Black Sea has some similarities with her home in Los Angeles, which also offers a sunny coastline near snow-capped mountains.
“We’re getting to see several seasons at once,” she said. “It’s been easy to get to the mountains. They’re beautiful.”
Although every Games has a unique personality, DeFrantz said one of her favourite aspects of all Games is being able to meet people from around the world. She fondly recalled reconnecting with a volunteer from the 1988 Calgary Games years later at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
“It’s all about people. It’s the friendships that you make”, she said. “The people have been wonderful. They’ve opened their city, their nation, to the world. I’m not likely to be around another 30 years, but somewhere between now and then, who knows, maybe one of these volunteers or their family members will wind up in LA.”