|USOC Chairman Larry Probst visits with triathlete Stephanie Jenks at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games on Aug. 17, 2014.|
Larry Probst was on the ground in Nanjing, China, at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games this week both for his role as an International Olympic Committee member and chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Joining Probst in Nanjing were fellow U.S. IOC members Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero. Probst, who was elected to the IOC on Sept. 10, 2013, spoke to TeamUSA.org about his time in Nanjing.
How has your experience gone in Nanjing thus far?
It’s been great. The Opening Ceremony was phenomenal. It was one of the best opening ceremonies I’ve ever seen. It was an incredible extravaganza, particularly with the rain that was pouring down most of the night. It was just amazing that those performers could do such terrific work.
I was able to spend some time in the athlete village on Sunday (Aug. 17). That is incredibly impressive. It seems that athletes are happy with the accommodations.
Yesterday I was able to attend several competitions. I saw rugby sevens for the first time, which is really fun to watch. I think that’s going to be a great sport to watch during the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. I think Americans will have a blast watching rugby sevens on the NBC broadcast. I also saw beach volleyball. The rain didn’t appear to affect the volleyball players. They were very happy to play in the rain and did a great job. Then in the afternoon we went to see gymnastics, and then weightlifting and swimming at night. I have a good sense of the athletic competitions going on.
The volunteers are amazing. They are everywhere and have great attitudes. They do everything they can to be helpful and supportive.
I think Alexander Popov, who’s the head of the coordination commission, and his team did a great job with the organizing committee here. It’s really, really impressive. It feels like you’re at the Olympic Games.
How would you rate the organizing committee’s performance?
They’ve done a terrific job. I give them high marks. Mr. Popov and his team have done an extraordinary job. The organizing committee, I think, probably learned a lot from the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and probably from hosting the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. They do things on a pretty impressive scale, starting with the Opening Ceremony; that was fabulous. I’m sure the Closing Ceremony is going to be equally impressive. It feels like things are working really well. The village is great and the athletes are having a great time. Transportation seems to be working, so I give them very high marks.
Team USA is off to an impressive start at the Games with three medals on Day 1 and another gold the following day. What are your thoughts on the team and these future Olympic hopefuls?
They seem like a great bunch of young people. I had the opportunity to meet with Stephanie Jenks, the young lady who won the silver medal in triathlon. She’s just terrific. It was her birthday the day she won her medal, so what a great birthday present that is. I think we have a great group of athletes here – a strong team – and I think our pipeline for future Olympic Games is impressive.
What do you see as the importance of the Culture and Education Program at these Games?
I think it’s really, really important. It gives these young people opportunity to get exposure to other cultures and other languages. I think the Culture and Education Program is equally as important as the athletic experience. I know when former IOC president Jacques Rogge created the concept of the Youth Olympic Games, that was one of the things that was most important to him and I think it has become a really valuable part of the overall experience.
What is the one takeaway you wish for all athletes competing at these Games?
I would say that one of the most important takeaways is that we’re all the same. We all live on the same planet. It’s important that we get to know one another better, that we communicate better and more effectively, and that we really can live in peace with friendship, equality and fair play. If the one takeaway is that they have a better understanding of the Olympic values – and that they really focus on living their lives reflecting those values – the world would be a better place.
Looking ahead, what is next for the IOC?
The IOC is in the process of working through the Olympic Agenda 2020. I think there will be some interesting changes and reforms in the Olympic Movement that will all get crystalized at the Olympic Session in Monaco later this year. So I look forward to continuing that process and finalizing that process to improve and better the Olympic Movement.