Trading Tuesday: Austria 2017

unnamedThis pin is the perfect choice for this week’s Trading Tuesday because I just made it today! Currently, I’m volunteering at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. This pin is awesome because I ❤ Special Olympics, and it’s really cool to have my picture on a pin!

I have been having a wonderful time meeting athletes, fans, and volunteers from around the world. People are completely open with friendship, and they are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. So many people have helped me since I’ve come here and gone out of their way to do so. I think everyone recognizes that we are here for the athletes. This is their time, and by making sure the focus is on them, the athletes’ happiness, kindness, and openness is able inspire everyone else. I know I belong within the Special Olympics community because it is one huge, international family, and these Games have confirmed that. Even if people have different abilities, languages, races, or religions, Special Olympics proves that everyone can come together and find similarities.

Saturday night was the Opening Ceremony in Schladming, and I’m so happy I was able to go. It was so beautiful. The entire ceremony focused on the athletes as the stars. Even though it was pouring and bitterly cold the entire time, the stands were completely filled, and it didn’t stop people from cheering for each country as it paraded out into the stadium.

In Messe Graz, the place where Floor Hockey and Floor Ball are located and where I’m volunteering, there is a Coca Cola station where you can take a picture holding a Special Olympics pillow, and then have it made into a pin. Coca Cola is one of the sponsors of the Games, and they had such a cool idea with these pins.

My last day volunteering is on Thursday. So far, I’ve been working in the cafeteria where athletes, coaches, staff, and volunteers eat, but tomorrow and Thursday, I’m volunteering for the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP).

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Go Team USA! Go Special Olympics!

Trading Tuesday: Moscow 1980

When I was at the Rio 2016 Olympics and the LA 2015 Special Olympics World Games, I traded a lot of pins with people from around the world. I’ve noticed that some people are very serious pin collectors, and there were even some at both Games who were probably only there for the pin trading! I do it because it’s a great way to start a conversation with people from other countries and because it’s fun!

Since pin trading is such an important and fun part of the Olympic Movement, I’ll showcase one of my pins on my blog every Tuesday for Trading Tuesday.

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Here’s the pin.

To start Trading Tuesday, here is an Olympic pin that my sister gave me for my birthday. She got it last summer when she went to Russia, and it is so cool because it’s from the Moscow 1980 Olympics. The bear, Misha, was the mascot of the Games. I love how his belt has the Olympic rings on it! Team USA boycotted those Games, so I doubt there are very many Moscow 1980 Olympic pins in the U.S. It was such a surprise and so awesome! Thank you, Liz! I was so excited about it.

Two cities, Moscow and Los Angeles, bid for the 1980 Olympics. Moscow won, and it was the first Olympics to be held in Eastern Europe. The United States led a boycott after President Jimmy Carter gave Russia an ultimatum: either the Soviet Union would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan or the U.S. would boycott the Olympics. The Soviet Union didn’t withdraw, and as a result, over 65 countries and regions including the U.S. boycotted the Games. The map below shows all the countries that didn’t compete.

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As a result of the United States’ boycott of the Moscow 1980 Olympics, the Soviet Union and 13 other countries boycotted the LA 1984 Olympics.

Above images from left to right: Misha the mascot with the Games’ logo, a Misha balloon at the Closing Ceremony, and Misha on a commemorative stamp. He’s a really cute mascot! 😀

An Interview with Team USA’s Unified Floor Hockey Coach

The Special Olympics World Winter Games start a week from today, so to start getting everyone excited to cheer on Team USA, I interviewed David Durandisse, the coach of the Unified Floor Hockey team from New York City that will compete in the Games.

The Olympics of Blogs: What are you most excited for about Austria?

David: I’m excited to be visiting Europe and being a part of this huge event. I remember our first practice and now that we are this close to departure, I’m excited to see all the work come together and pay off.

The Olympics of Blogs: How were you chosen to coach the team?

David: I was offered the opportunity to join the team and I accepted.

The Olympics of Blogs: How long has your team been training for the World Games?

David: We have been practicing since September, so about 6 months.

The Olympics of Blogs: How has your team been practicing to prepare for the World Games?

David: We have been conditioning to get their stamina up; live scrimmages to get a feel for the game against opponents. We have done a bunch of drills and live game scenarios to map out what we want to do in games.

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The Olympics of Blogs: Will you and your team walk in the Opening Ceremony for Team USA?

David: We will be walking in Opening Ceremonies.

The Olympics of Blogs: Do you think they’ll win gold?

David: I believe we have the players to win gold. We have a combination of size and speed that should work to our advantage to create scoring opportunities. I believe if we can put that together we will surely win gold.

The Olympics of Blogs: After coaching a Unified team, what do you think about Unified sports?

David: Unified sports is a great concept. I have seen two sides come together as one. Individuals who may have not had a chance to come together, now have that opportunity through unified sports. They have created friendships that will last a lifetime.

The Olympics of Blogs: What has been your favorite moment as a coach for Unified Floor Hockey?

David: Hanging out with the team and bonding with the coaches. We all started this journey months ago, and along the way we have shared many laughs on and off the court.

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You can watch Team USA’s Unified Floor Hockey team walk in the Opening Ceremony on ABC on March 18 from 2-5 pm ET!

The Austria 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games

2017WorldGamesAustrialogoStarting with the Opening Ceremony on March 18, the Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held in Graz, Austria! The Flame of Hope has already been lit and has started traveling on its way to Austria. The sports of these Games will be Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Floor Hockey, Floorball, Snowshoeing, Alpine Skiing, Nordic Skiing, Snowboarding, and Stick Shooting. Special Olympics New York City’s Unified Floor Hockey team and two of Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s speed skaters will be competing!

ESPN will be airing live coverage of the Games. Here is the schedule. I’ll be volunteering at the Games and will be at the Opening Ceremony, so make sure to look for me!

Saturday, March 18, 2-5 pm EST, ABC – Live: Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 Opening Ceremony

Sunday, March 19, 2-3 pm EST, ABC – Coverage of the Games

Monday, March 20, 6-6:30 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Tuesday, March 21, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Wednesday, March 22, 6-7 pm ESt, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Thursday, March 23, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Friday, March 24, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Sunday, March 26, 2-3 pm EST, ABC – Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 – Best of the Games

Only 2 Left in the Race for the 2024 Olympics

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-1-54-30-pmOn February 22, the Budapest 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Committee withdrew its bid to host the 2024 Games due to increased opposition. The bid was withdrawn after all three potential host cities had already completed and submitted their three candidature files. Now, only LA and Paris are competing to hold the Games.

The opposition to the Budapest bid centered around Momentum Mozgalom’s “NOlimpia” campaign to push the government to hold a referendum about the Games. In total, 266,151 signatures were gathered, and as a result, the government decided to pull the bid. A survey conducted by Median claimed that 50 percent of Hungarians opposed the bid, and only 33 percent supported it.

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In 2017, Hungary will host the FINA World Championships, the Judo World Championships, the Finn Gold Cup, and the European Youth Olympic Festival. Even though it withdrew its bid, it is still progressing toward becoming a global country known for sport, and Balázs Fürjes, Budapest 2024’s chairman, believes that Budapest will win the Olympics eventually: “Our 120-year-old dream of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games remains alive… We continue to believe in the model and we hope to have the chance one day to prove the case.”

Since 2015, many cities have dropped out of the race to win the 2o24 Games. Last October, Rome 2024’s bid was suspended after of a change in Rome’s leadership, and in November 2015, Hamburg withdrew its bid after a referendum showed that 51.6 percent of Hamburg’s residents opposed it. In July 2015, Boston ended its bid for the 2024 Games, and LA became the United States’ candidate city.

The International Olympic Committee will vote for the host of the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics on September 13!

For more information about Budapest’s withdrawal of its bid, go to: http://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1047423/budapest-2024-chairman-confirms-bid-is-closing

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Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

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Happy New Year, everyone! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already over. 2016 was a big year for me, the Olympic Movement, and this blog.

Over the year, I celebrated one year of volunteering at Special Olympics; attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN; interviewed Jesse Owens’ daughter, Marlene Rankins Owen, and Matt Stutzman, a Paralympic archer; interned at Special Olympics NYC, Special Olympics Southern California, and LA 2024; volunteered at the Rio 2016 Olympics; presented my senior Honors thesis on introducing Special Olympics’ Unified Sports into the Olympics; and graduated from Pace University! I’m so thankful to have had such a great year, and I’m excited to see where 2017 will take me!

Here are some things I’m excited for in 2017:

  • Starting in January, I’m going to be an Assistant Swim Coach for Special Olympics Pennsylvania!
  • The three grand marshals of the Rose Bowl Parade (which is happening tomorrow) will be Greg Louganis, Janet Evans, and Allyson Felix.
  • I’m presenting my thesis at a conference in Pittsburgh in April!
  • In May, I’ll walk at my graduation!
  • My sister and my best friend are getting married this summer!
  • In September, we’ll finally learn which city will host the 2024 Olympics!
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These three Olympians will be welcoming 2017 at the Rose Bowl Parade tomorrow!

Here’s to a great 2017!

 

Who Will Host the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics?

Less than a year left to find out!

Now that the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics are over, there’s only three more Games until the 2024 Games. On September 13, 2017, in Lima, Peru, the International Olympic Committee will select the host of the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.

Currently, the competing cities are Los Angeles, Paris, and Budapest. Rome recently dropped out of the race. Here is a little information about each one.

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Los Angeles

Boasting 97 percent of their venues as world class and already in existence and a history of two very successful and profitable Games in 1932 and 1984, Los Angeles is running to host its third Olympic Games. Its arguments about sustainability are important, especially after so many recent Games have cost enormous amounts of money. Additionally, Los Angeles is focusing its efforts on making its Games the most athlete-centered experience, and it has actually been organizing and running Athlete Town Halls across the country.

Website: https://la24.org

Here’s a picture of me standing at the LA 2024 Athlete Wall in the LA 2024 office. Olympic and Paralympic athletes came to sign the wall in support of the bid!

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Paris

Similar to LA’s bid, Paris is promising sustainability with 95 percent of its proposed stadiums being temporary or existing stadiums. It aims “to minimize investment costs while optimising benefits for our communities.” Paris hosted the Games in 1900 and 1924, and hosting the 2024 Olympics would be the 100th anniversary of when it hosted in 1924.

Website: https://www.paris2024.org/en

Screen Shot 2016-09-18 at 1.54.30 PM.pngBudapest

Budapest 2024’s bid is a self-described “genuinely national” Games because it will bring Olympic competition to 90 percent of Hungary’s population in less than 90 minutes. Hungary has never hosted the Games. However, it will be the host city of the 17th FINA World Aquatics Championships in 2017, the Judo World Championships in 2017, the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2017, the Table Tennis World Championships in 2019,  and the European Maccabi Games in 2019.

Website: https://budapest2024.org/en/

 

I can’t wait to see what city wins the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics!

 

Happy Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day 2016!

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

– Special Olympics Athlete Oath

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver wrote this down on the morning of July 20, 1968, the day of the first Special Olympics International Games. She spoke the oath at the Opening Ceremony, and ever since, Special Olympic athletes have been pledging it at every Special Olympic competition.

Today is the seventh annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day! We celebrate this every year to honor Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. She changed the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities by providing them with a way to train and compete in sports, and she changed the lives of everyone in the world by creating a way for inclusion.

She was a hero in changing the world, and every day, Special Olympics continues on her heroic legacy. By reciting the Athlete Oath 48 years ago, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a movement toward inclusion, and all of the 4.7 million current Special Olympics athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers have continued her effort to create a world that celebrates people’s abilities instead of disabilities. Thank you, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for giving the world Special Olympics. ❤

Click on the images below to make them bigger and celebrate EKS Day and Special Olympics with me! 🙂

My Olympic Summer

Hi everyone!

I’m sorry for not posting for such a long time. After Rio, I was really exhausted, and then I had to get ready for my last semester of college! Now, I’m back in school, and I’m going to try to keep a regular posting schedule again.

Coming back to school again after Rio and my summer has been difficult, but I’m slowly adjusting. Because it’s almost the end of summer (it ends on September 21), I thought I would look back on my very Olympic summer for this post. Here is a recap video.

 

This summer, I was lucky enough to intern for Special Olympics Southern California at the Summer Games, volunteer for LA24 and LA84’s Olympic Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, organize a day for Rio 2016 volunteers in Southern California to visit LA 2024’s office to learn more about the bid, meet Kerri Walsh Jennings, attend the Road to Rio event at Venice Beach, meet Dustin Plunkett, attend NBC’s Social Media Opening Ceremony, intern for the LA 2024 Olympic Bid Committee, and volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Mostly though, I was really lucky to be able to spend a whole summer doing what I love. I’m so grateful to have had the summer I had and to have met the people I met.

What’s next for me?

I am currently writing my senior Honors thesis about incorporating a Special Olympics’ Unified Sports experience into the Olympics. It’s due in December! In the meantime, I’ll also be going to Olympic, Paralympic, and Special Olympic events in the city and volunteering! Keep an eye on my blog to read more about what I’m up to!

After that, I’m graduating from Pace University, and then, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. 🙂

Last Day in Rio

Unfortunately, my Rio adventure ends today. Tonight, I leave for the U.S., and although I’m excited to come back and see everyone I’ve missed, it’s still really hard to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made here and to this beautiful city. Obrigada, Rio.

When I started this adventure two years ago when I applied to volunteer, I could guess that it would be amazing, but I really had no idea that this would be the best thing I have ever done. Thank you to Rio, thank you to all the people I met and became friends with, and thank you to everyone who supported me from home. For the past few weeks, everyone has been filled with the Olympic spirit, and I’ve seen a side of humanity that you don’t usually get to see. Through sport, people united. This experience was incredible, and my favorite part was all the people.

Sunday night, the Olympic flame went out, but the spirit of the Olympics will live on until Tokyo, and I’ll see it there!

Volunteering at the Olympics has taught me so much, provided me with a new perspective of the world and my place in it,  and given me a lot of new goals. Experiencing the Olympics firsthand as a volunteer and a spectator has confirmed that I want to work for this incredible Movement.

See you later, Brazil, and see you in four years, Tokyo!

Here’s a recap video of my last few days in Brazil! ❤️