Organising an Olympic Games is a complex undertaking that requires people from all walks of life and with lots of different experiences to make it a reality. TheVancouver 2010 Organising Committee (VANOC) has approximately 1,400 full-time staff with an additional 25,000 volunteers all working hard to put on these Games. One of those full-time staff members is Cathy Priestner Allinger, VANOC’s Executive Vice-President, Sport and Games Operations. She is perhaps better placed than most to speak about organising a Games, as she is a two-time Olympian – silver medallist in speed skating in Innsbruck ’76 – former coach, administrator, volunteer, and television broadcaster, who has also worked for two previous Games organising committees (Salt Lake City 2002 and Turin 2006). Olympic.org caught up with her to ask a few questions about what it’s like to be on the inside of an event like the Games:
Olympic.org: How does it feel to be part of an organisation that’s putting on the Games in your own country?
Cathy Priestner Allinger: There is certainly a great sense of pride to be a part of something that the entire country is embracing. We set out to make the 2010 Games about all of Canada, and we have seen such incredible engagement from all parts of the country – it is truly remarkable. It is also a privilege to a part of something that will leave long-lasting legacies for sport in your country. We are still seeing the great benefits to the Canadian winter sport system as a result of the facilities that were built in Calgary for the 1988 Games, and the 2010 Games have already demonstrated that they will further enhance what we started back in Calgary with more high performance sport facilities, resulting in greater participation and programming in the region.
Olympic.org: As an athlete, did you realise the amount of preparation work that went into putting on the Olympic Games and how has being an Olympian helped you in your work?
Cathy Priestner Allinger: I competed at my first Olympics in Japan when I was 15 years old, and went on to win a silver medal in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1976 at the age of 19 – so I can assure you at that age, I was not giving much thought to the complexity behind the staging of an Olympic Games as it relates to operations and the building of facilities. There is no question though that the work I have done in Calgary, Salt Lake, Turin and Vancouver has been significantly influenced by my experience as a high performance athlete. Being an Olympian gives me the knowledge and understanding of what is critical to an athlete’s overall experience at an Olympic Games, and also gives me the mindset that is required to tackle big challenges that often require a great deal of discipline and determination to see through.
Olympic.org: What do you think the highlight of these Games will be for you?
Cathy Priestner Allinger: We all want to see athletes achieving great performances - coming together through sport before the world for one moment in time in an environment of peace and respect. It is a rare and precious thing – and one that should never be underestimated.