Team GB Chef de Mission gets new perspective at Sochi Games
Mike Hay has seen the Olympic Winter Games from several different perspectives, including as an athlete when curling was a demonstration sport, but never with the wide-angle view he is getting in his new role as Chef de Mission for Team GB.
From the Team GB office in Sochi, Hay serves as the lead advocate for British Olympians and the chief liaison between the British Olympic Association and all the other key Games organisations, including the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations and the Organising Committee. The position requires attention to detail, diplomacy and a high degree of energy.
He said the spectrum of issues that a chef de mission deals with is “wide and varied”, but the primary mission is to help Olympic athletes achieve their dreams.
“You’re responsible for seeing that all the athletes have all the resources available to them to perform at their personal best,” he said, during a brief break at Team GB headquarters.
Hay has served British athletes in a variety of capacities over the years. He coached the women’s curling team that won a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, and oversaw the Team GB preparation camps for Vancouver 2010 and London 2012. He joined the British Olympic Association as a winter sports specialist in 2007.
Before his career in sports administration, Hay won gold medals in curling at five European Championships, and silver medals at two World Championships. He competed in curling as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Calgary Games, before it was added to the Olympic programme at the 1998 Nagano Games.
In Sochi, Hay supports 56 athletes as well as their coaches and other Olympic officials from Great Britain. About 60 per cent are housed in the two Olympic Villages for the mountain venues; the rest are in the Olympic Village for indoor events near the shore of the Black Sea.
Hay, a veteran of five previous Games, praised the work of the Sochi organisers.
“We’ve found it absolutely amazing. They haven’t let us down,” he said “The venues are absolutely fantastic, first class. The transport is working well. You probably get the impression that I’m pretty pleased.”
He is also pleased with the performance of Team GB. Although Great Britain is not known as a winter sports powerhouse, British competitors are on track to win more medals in Sochi than at any previous Olympic Winter Games since the inaugural Games in 1924. Team GB medallists include Lizzy Yarnold, who won gold in skeleton; Jenny Jones, who captured bronze in snowboard slopestyle; and the women’s curling team, which also won a bronze medal. The men’s curling team ensured at least a silver medal by earning a place in the finals.
“When you have a delegation of 56 athletes and support staff, you’re dealing with good days and bad days,” Hay said. “We have done what we hoped to do in terms of our expectations, and maybe we can exceed that in the next couple of days.”