Much has changed since the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Sporting events have been added to the Olympic program, the Paralympic program was introduced in 1960, there has been evolution of equipment and uniforms. but the ideals remain the same. On June 23, each year, we celebrate those ideals – Fair Play, Perseverance, Respect and Sportsmanship – and promote fitness and well-being.
Each year, over 160 countries participate in more than 1,500 events around the world. In the U.S., the following are only a few of the 700 registered events that have or will take place in the month of June to celebrate Olympic Day. Events range from small gatherings to large, city-wide events.
This year, USABA celebrated Olympic Day throughout the month of June with multiple events across the nation.
We started off the month by rowing on the Charles River with Community Rowing Inc., in current U.S. bid city, Boston, Mass. Olympic Rowers Ellen Minzner (’92 and ’96) and Andrea Thies (’92 and ’96) conducted an Adaptive Rowing Camp for 13 participants from around the country to improve fitness levels and refine technique. The daily program also consisted of educational workshops during recovery time, on Sports Psychology and Nutrition. USABA rowers learned about the importance of positive self-talk and eating the right foods before and after workouts from local experts. At the end of the camp, the group competed in a time trial race to practice learned techniques in a race environment.
The following week, Link will open in a new windowNorthwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA) in Vancouver, Wash. Partnered with Washington State School for the Blind to compete in a two-day Olympic Experience. Over 30 people who are visually impaired participated in a sprint triathlon June 11-12. Paralympic Swimmer, Jen Butcher (’00 and ’04), attended the celebration and encouraged athletes to follow their passion for sport. “It was wonderful working with these students to help them understand the determination and effort it takes to be an elite athlete,” said Stacey Gibbins, Director of Programs at NWABA.
“NWABA wanted the students to feel success and joy throughout the day, in hopes to start a fire in them to reach further for their wildest dreams. Our mission is to provide life-changing opportunities through sports and physical activity for people who are blind and visually impaired. This event helped us further our mission to this community of students,” said Gibbins.
In Boulder, Colorado, USABA Sports Club partner, Link will open in a new windowLending Sight, hosted a Track and Field meet on June 18. More than 15 Olympic athletes participated in the celebration and supported the event as volunteers. Deb Conley, Founder of Lending Sight, said her goal in hosting the meet was to create “an inviting atmosphere for people of all ages to meet Olympians and converse about persevering in life and sport.”
The meet was held at Potts Field on the campus of the University of Colorado. It was an “all comers” meet meaning anyone, of any age, could enter to compete. “I have always been struck by the age range of entrants, literally from 2 to 95 years old,” said Road Runners Volunteer Coordinator, John Bridges.
“The volunteers we have are extremely dedicated and loyal to the sport,” Bridges said, speaking of the many Road Runners who help the meet succeed. “Not everyone can make an Olympic team, but we can all be a part of this.” For more photos from the Lending Sight Olympic Day event, Link will open in a new windowclick here.
This past weekend, Olympic Day was incorporated into the 2015 USABA Goalball National Championship tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. Between games and during meals, athletes and spectators had the opportunity to meet Jen Demby (Team Handball ’96), Lisa Eager (Team Handball ‘96), and Vincent Martin (Track & Field ’96 and ’04). Additionally, 13 Paralympians were in attendance, playing in the tournament or coaching their respective club teams. “We are very lucky to have so many Paralympians still involved in the sport of goalball,” said John Potts, High Performance Director for USABA.
Today, June 23, the Link will open in a new windowCenter for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta, Georgia will celebrate Olympic Day with swimming relays today during their summer camp programming. Seventeen campers, 6 volunteers and 5 staff will participate in the relays, watch Olympic videos and interview Paralympic athletes. This is the second year CVI has celebrated Olympic Day with their summer camp.
As celebrations continue, we reflect on the Olympic ideals which Pierre de Coubertin and his first International Olympic Committee established 121 years ago. Since the first modern Olympic Games were staged in Athens, Greece, the Olympics have become the premier symbol of fair play, perseverance, respect and sportsmanship. At USABA, we share in the vision to uphold and promote these principles by bringing out the champion in every athlete who is blind and visually impaired.
For more information on Olympic Day celebrations in the U.S. or to find an event, visit TeamUSA.org/OlympicDay, email OlympicDay@usoc.org, or follow and join the social conversation using the #OlympicDay hashtag. Additional Olympic Day resources can be found on the International Olympic Committee’s website, Olympic.org/OlympicDay.