APPEARED IN ADVERTISER TRIBUNE SUNDAY JULY 16, 2016
Pictured: Bags that will be stuffed with care package items for underprivileged youth in the Host City of Rio de Janeiro
Despite the political, economic, health, and security concerns, amazing awaits those who dare to travel to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games. August 1 marks the beginning of the Olympic Academic Experience for six sports management professors, alumni, and students from Tiffin University and nine other brave souls (15 total) from universities in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California, Florida, and Georgia.
Event tickets have been plentiful as suspected attendance and sales are down amid fear of health and security risks plaguing travel to Brazil during the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. Rio de Janeiro has an abundance of natural beauty, unspoiled beaches, and tropical rain forests, but concerns for the Zika virus, contaminated water, terrorism, urban crime,and potential riots seem to be winning out in discouraging attendance.
Just ask Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth or any of the other top golfers in the world who, despite their sport showcasing for the first time in over a hundred years, decided to skip the summer Olympics due to a public health emergency declared over the Zika virus. At least Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, and Rickie Fowler will be around to represent their country in spite of the absence of the usual purse missing from Olympic competition.
Zika virus or no prize money? Which is the true reason behind the mass exodus of Rory and company?
In 1988 (Seoul, South Korea), John McEnroe was among 8 of the top 10 tennis players in the world [at the time] who chose to skip the Olympics when their sport returned after a 64-year hiatus. Martina Navratilova even skipped the ‘88 Games citing it “wasn’t important enough.”
Truth be told, the 2016 Brazil Olympics is also shroud in political controversy reminiscent of the boycott years (1980 – Moscow and 1984 – Los Angeles). Russian track athletes have been banned by the International Track and Field Association due to the widespread government corruption in covering-up doping violations. The Court of Arbitration in Sport unanimously supported the ban and now, the IOC will refuse to grant accreditation to any official of the Russian Ministry of Sport. Adding to the turmoil is a country that recently impeached its President and is facing the worst economic crisis in over 30 years.
On a positive note, NBC’s broadcasting platform will ensure almost 7000 hours of Olympic action will be available for the world to catch a glimpse of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, Simone Biles, Serena Williams, and a host of hopeful athletes – over 10,000 in all - from over 200 countries – including the first ever “refugee” team - all competing for one of 306 elusive gold medals and the pride of their nation or their family.
Tiffin University’s delegation will join an expected half million tourists in the safety of over 85,000 security personnel which is more than double the number at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Their accommodations are one block from the German consulate’s Olympic Hospitality House on Leblon Beach and about two miles from the road cycling venue on Copacabana Beach. One mile north is the Ernst & Young Olympic Reunion Center (ORC) where the delegation is scheduled to volunteer over 400 hours of service.
According to the World Olympians Association website, the ORC offers “Olympic alumni the opportunity to gather, socialize, take part in official meetings, or simply soak up the Rio atmosphere or watch the Games in comfort and style.”
The ORC also serves as the location for the Day with Olympians, a humanitarian program for underprivileged youth in the host city jointly administered by the World Olympians Association and the participants of the Tiffin University Olympic Academic Experience. Thirty-one youth representing the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will engage in a day filled with games, Olympic style competitions, inspirational message from former Olympic gold medalists, a Gala, and a medal ceremony. The Tiffin delegation is assembling 31 care packages to distribute to the Brazilian youth and will serve as pseudo coaches.
As part of the academic experience, Tiffin University’s delegation will interview local Brazilians and spectators to assess perceptions of safety and health issues discouraging attendance at the 2016 Games. Results of over 700 responses to surveys distributed in the USA and China will be presented at the 8th annual International Sport Business Symposium featuring scholars and executives from the IOC, FIBA, and Rio’s local organizing committee. Part of the delegation has also been invited to tour the Olympic Media Center for sailing and the temporary headquarters for CCTV, China’s largest television network.
The seventeen-day excursion is packed with plenty of research, sightseeing, volunteer service, and Olympic sport action. It’s no wonder the motto for the Olympic Academic Experience has simply been – AMAZING AWAITS. Amazing awaits only those who pay the price and dare to overcome fear and apprehension to grasp the golden opportunity of a once in a lifetime experience in South America during the 2016 Olympics.
Stay tuned next month for Reports from Rio including a personal account of what it is like to attend the Opening Ceremonies August 5th at Maracana Stadium in Brazil. Indeed, Amazing Awaits.