The Olympic Movement
Role of Former Olympians
Fans & Supporters
Message to Olympians
actively supports the Olympic cause. He served eight years
on the US Olympic Committee, was President Nixon's personal
representative to the Munich Olympic Games, Presidential Advisor
to the Peace Corps, co-founded World Olympians and has represented
the IOC on key humanitarian missions.
winning Olympic medals are about egos and endorsements? Think
again. In this exclusive bill-toomey.com interview, Bill Toomey
speaks frankly about the meaning of the Olympics and getting
involved in the Olympic family.
Q: What is the Olympic Movement?
Toomey: "The Olympic Movement is perhaps one of the most
valuable institutions that have survived several thousand years.
Those of us who participate realize the incredible honor bestowed
on us, but to really understand the true scope and depth of
the movement requires more investigation and concentration.
The Olympics have been with the world since 776 B.C., and have
only been interrupted by war, especially in the modern era.
Many view the Olympic movement as a 'peace' movement.
Olympic movement is divided into two very distinct eras. The
ANCIENT GAMES began in 776 B.C. and ended abruptly in 393
A.D. when emperor Theodosius I abolished them by decree. The
Ancient Games are relatively obscure to most Olympians, but
to understand just what the Games are about, it is really
necessary to investigate the roots and the meaning that has
transformed culture and society for so many years.
Olympic Games of the Modern Era began in 1896 in the city
of Athens. Athens will again be the host of the Games in 2004,
but there are rumors that they might be switched if the Greeks
don't begin to construct the sites faster.
Peace Prize winner, Philip John Noel-Baker (1959) ran in three
Olympic Games (Great Britain) and won a silver medal in the
1500 meters at Antwerp in 1920. His contributions to the League
of Nations and also the United Nations made him one of the
most well known Olympians whose life was dedicated to peace.
He helped draft the UN charter in 1945 and in 1946 was appointed
to membership on the British delegation.
had the immense pleasure to both meet and work with the Right
Honorable Philip John Noel-Baker during the Games of Munich
in 1972. He became the president of the International Council
of Sport and Physical Recreation of UNESCO, and appointed
me to become a member in 1972."
What value does the Olympic Movement have to individuals and
"The ability to compete globally places the Olympic Movement
on a different level than the competitions in regional or
ability to mingle with so many countries and cultures is extremely
valuable for men and women. During the 1992 Opening Ceremonies,
as the nations of the world marched in, suddenly there was
a silence throughout the stadium. Iraq had entered. We had
just finished a war with this country, and I had mixed emotions.
Then in a fraction of a second, I realized that these sportsmen
were not anyone's enemies. The crowd then became inspired
and gave these young men and women a wonderful welcome. For
many athletes, the OPENING CEREMONIES are the highlight of
their Olympic Experience."
What roles can former Olympians play? how can they get started?
"Past Olympians have a continuing role within the Olympic
family. They can convey to the youth of their country those
messages about the Olympics that may stir a youngster to dream
an Olympic dream.
1995, Dr. Elizabeth Ferris (1960 Bronze medal, Diving) and
I pursued the International Olympic Committee to inaugurate
the World Olympian Association. I had been the president of
the US Olympians for two terms, and the chance to develop
our organization on a world level was truly exciting. It is
the hope of the WOA to assist past Olympians to regain a role
in the Olympic Movement. The WOA is an important group for
the International Olympic Committee, and I am proud to have
been a part of the first two executive boards. Currently I
hold the position of Vice-President."
What roles can the fans and supporters of the Olympics play?
How can they get started?
"The fans and supporters are also part of the Olympic
family. People need to know that by donating, coaching, and
just lending support, anyone can become part of the wonderful
global family. Olympians are the product of the Movement,
and to get them to the stadiums, pools and playing fields,
it takes the actions of legions of people who might not be
Olympians. Anyone who is interested can participate in the
Movement; it only takes a degree of desire!"
What motivated you to become so deeply involved in the movement?
Toomey: "My Olympic voyage has continued because it is
can remember coaching in the Peace Corps. It was in Ghana
back in the early 70's. I was coaching and giving seminars
with Dr. Tom Waddell all around the world. During national
championships, I noticed two Ghanaian pole-vaulters. They
were brave, but not well coached. I took off my blue blazer
and introduced myself.
realized that they both had courage, but they did not have
technical expertise. I helped them by rearranging the pole
vault standards. I dug out the landing pit and moved the standards
further back. I then dragged the runway so they would have
a faster approach and instilled into their minds a few principles.
Instead of pulling the pole towards their chest on take-off,
I suggested they 'push' the pole and then invert themselves.
If they did this, I knew the rest would come automatically.
of the vaulters told me that the officials had indicated he
was too old. In fact we were the same age. I identified with
him! While he was going to the back of the runway, I decided
to raise the bar above the national record. Actually, it was
almost a foot above the record. I went to him and went over
the instructions. He then began the trip down the runway and
I watched and waited. He planted perfectly. He pushed, and
then inverted and flew over the crossbar. He rotated at the
top and then I realized that he was going to land on his back.
I went to the pit and he emerged with blood escaping from
the largest smile I had ever seen. When he found out that
he had beaten the record by a foot, the look was my reward.
This is why I continue to be part of the Olympic Movement.
It is the best."
What do you consider your greatest achievements in the movement?
Toomey: "The greatest feeling of accomplishment for me
is the fact that I was an athlete who was somewhat disabled.
At the time, I never shared this with the press and the public.
My family knew, but most of the sporting world did not realize
that my right hand been some 75% paralyzed. It was due to
a childhood accident. A youngster threw a dish under my locker
door and it shattered and then ripped my wrist open. The doctor
did not know that the median nerve had been severed, and to
this day I believe that this was my secret weapon. I made
it work for me!"
"There is nothing wrong with aiming high. If
a person really wants to do something - if for example
to become an Olympian - he or she should be encouraged.
Trying and not making it aren't bad. Not trying because
the odds look high - that is much worse. If everybody
had that attitude where would we be?"