Trading Tuesday: Team Austria

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About month ago, I volunteered for the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. It’s amazing how fast time has gone! Like every Special Olympics event I’ve ever been to, the best part was the athletes. I arrived in Austria on March 17, and I was feeling a little lonely. Once I got into my Airbnb, I decided to go for a walk, and I chose to walk to the Hauptplatz in Graz because that’s the main square. I was so excited to find that there was a huge dance party for the World Games at the Hauptplatz!

Special Olympic athletes love dancing, and I was able to dance with Team Austria, Team Spain, and Team Chinese Taipai that night. Everyone was dancing to a DJ who was playing a lot of popular music, and it was incredible. Many times throughout the night, all the dancers did the congo line. I felt really caught up in the music and the spirit of the Games. It was the best St. Patrick’s Day I’ve ever had!

After that Friday, I kept seeing many of the athletes, and the Austrian athletes made me feel very welcome. Every time I saw them, they waved, smiled, or gave me hugs even though I couldn’t really understand them since they spoke German, and they couldn’t really understand me since I spoke English.

One of the athletes from Austria gave me this pin (Österreich is Austria in German), and it was one of the first pins I received these Games. The Austrian athletes were wonderful hosts, and they were one of the best parts of my trip to Austria. I took this picture with them on the last day I volunteered. Most of them were stick shooters and had won gold!

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Thanks for reading! Happy Trading Tuesday!

My Experience at the Austria 2017 World Winter Games

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With the mascots!

One week ago today, the Closing Ceremony for the Austria 2017 World Winter Games happened, and although it’s sad that the Games are over, I had such an amazing time that I can only feel grateful. The people who live in Graz welcomed all of the athletes, volunteers, families, and coaches and made the World Games into a special experience.

My last day volunteering was March 23, and it was one of the best days of my life. I volunteered for the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP). I ran the soccer station, and it was really fun to see the athletes get recognized and cheered for by Unified cheerleaders, their caretakers, and their Unified partners. It was awesome to see all of them up on stage receiving medals and smiling so wide! Later that night, I just made it to watch Eloise, a British figure skater whose parents I had become friends with on the bus to the Opening Ceremony, compete in her free skate and win seventh in the world in Level 4 Figure Skating! After watching Figure Skating for a long time, I went to a special party held to thank volunteers and tried a lot of Austrian desserts with people who had also been volunteering at MATP. That day, my heart felt so full of love and happiness. There’s no other place in the world where you are able to meet people from so many different countries and cultures and become friends with them.

At the 1987 World Games, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics, said, “You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.” That definitely happened at this World Games where 2,700 athletes from 107 countries competed. Medals were won, friendships were made, and the world was changed.We, the volunteers, spectators, families, Special Olympics staff, and the people of Graz made these Games special for the athletes. They truly were the stars of the Games.

Some of the best moments of the Games for me were:

  • Meeting athletes from around the world and cheering them on, especially those from Team USA, Team Canada, Team Great Britain, Team Austria, and Team South Africa!
  • Becoming an honorary member of Team South Africa and getting to eat lunch with them and seeing them compete!
  • Becoming friends with fans and volunteers from around the world!
  • Meeting Tim Shriver, the Chairman of Special Olympics and Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s son.
  • Meeting Mary Davis, the CEO of Special Olympics International, again (she gave a presentation at Pace University last year!).
  • Experiencing the culture of Graz.
  • Getting to see some of the people I had met at previous volunteer experiences/internships again.
  • Dancing with Team Austria on the first night I got to Graz and doing the conga line with them!
  • The award ceremony for the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP). The athletes were so happy to get medals, and they loved the applause!

Here’s a video summarizing my trip!

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

http://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1047368/budapest-2024-olympic-and-paralympic-bid-axed

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!