Featured Speech: Olympians' Role Subsequent to Competition  

By Bill Toomey, vice president of the World Olympians Association
At Olympians Summit, Lausanne, Switzerland
8 December 1999

It is with great pleasure that I start another four years in the service of the World Olympians Association , and I would like to thank Mr. Peter Montgomery for his friendship and leadership. I look forward to working with Mr. Pál Schmitt, and should also like to thank Mr. Gilbert Felli and his staff for their cooperation.

The heart and soul of a country are measured by the courageous acts of its citizens. So, when history defines an era, when it measures the pulse of a decade, it gauges the behaviour of those individuals whose influence made a difference in the history of the modern Olympic Games.

I vividly remember, as a 25-year-old schoolteacher in 1964, traveling to Japan to watch the Tokyo Summer Games. I was just a spectator then, not a competitor. I missed a spot on America's finest team by one person. Yet, somehow I knew in my heart that it was meant for me to bear witness to the grand spectacle of the Olympiad. When all the teams of every country marched proudly into the Olympic stadium and the torch finally arrived, it was a bittersweet feeling that swept over me. I was both sad and elated, I wanted so much to experience the glory I saw before me. At that very moment, I made a promise to myself to hopefully be on the next Olympic team.

In every athlete's life there is that moment when the dedication to his or her sport becomes clear. In that moment is kindled the vision that all athletes must dream if they are to ever begin the great journey we know as the Olympic experience.

The athletes in this room all share a mystical relationship that takes us back to antiquity. When I finally received my award, after the burden of years of toil, the angst and injuries, there was a burden that was lifted off my shoulders. That single vision that swept over me in the audience, in the stadium in Tokyo in 1964, became reality - a dream became true.

Congratulations fellow Olympians - to reach your dreams, you literally swam an ocean, ran the world, jumped over the moon and lifted a mountain of iron, on behalf of your family, your friends and your country. We are blessed with your company, we are inspired by your acts.

Can you remember when you were first aware of the Olympic Games? Do you remember who passed you the Olympic Dream baton? Surely, after a decade of dedication and a lifestyle of discipline, you will recall that person, event or catalyst that inspired you to drive yourself. When did toil become pleasure? When did disappointment incite fervor?

When one contemplates the rhythmic pulse that signals an Olympic heartbeat, one realizes that is more than the physical plane - it is truly spiritual. We who are seated here can smile at those memories of disappointment; now we can, then it was a barrier - one of many - that had to be overcome.

The mountain that we all had climbed had an overwhelming altitude. Yet we saw footprints before us and we knew the journey was possible. And then, when nearing the top, when we were near exhilaration, it still seemed out of reach. It is precisely at this moment that a champion is born. Now, we are not a mimic, we are alone and somehow because of honour and commitment, we sense the top.

Surely, we have all sensed the immense proportion of our Olympic odyssey and the harder each step became, the more valuable the prize.

We have all been touched by spirituality, we have been profoundly changed and all because we received the baton.

It is my purpose to continue the relay. Not only will the DNA of my soul transcribe the message, but my waking moments will hopefully articulate the map to each and every athlete who cares enough to brave the adventure and be part of Olympism, and discover the wealth found in the "unexplored territory of our being."


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