The Olympians are coming… to Tiffin

More than 20 world-class athletes including Olympians, a few Paralympians, and a few coaches from the Olympics will be in Tiffin in October for Elite Sport & Culture Week hosted by Tiffin University, Terra State Community College, Mercy Hospital, and National Machinery. In addition to information at www.tiffin.edu/elite, here is what the community may be interested in learning about the program:

WHY

The Olympics are undeniably the biggest, most watched, and most important sporting event in the world. The purpose of Elite Sport & Culture Week is to inspire and educate a broad-based population about the Olympic Values which include friendship, respect, and excellence. Hearing the word “Olympics” conjures up images of sports, the five rings, national flags, medals, podiums, more flags, the opening ceremonies, crowds, dramatic music, and a ton of fanfare. The Olympics also are a tool that can provide academic lessons on civil rights, geography, history, tourism, security, social tolerance, politics and propaganda, sustainability, fair play, economic impact, and many other topics.

The idea to bring the Olympians to Tiffin was a collaboration between myself and Dr. Liston Bochette III, a five-time Olympian and renowned artist from Puerto Rico who also serves as an executive member of the World Olympians Association and president of the PanAmerican Olympians Association. In a brief visit to Tiffin last August, Bochette realized the potential of bringing a small army of Olympians to the area and thus, the planning began for the once-in-a-lifetime event that will surely leave a legacy in the community.

WHO

Many participants arriving for Elite Sport and Culture Week are Olympians and colleagues of Bochette who serve or served on executive boards and commissions for national, continental, and international committees associated with the Olympic Games. The 86-year-old Jan Boutmy from the Dutch Antilles is just one colleague traveling to Tiffin to participate in Elite Sport & Culture Week.

Through my travel experiences, I have connected with several Olympians such as Gary Morgan, Aliann Pompey and Nomemi Zaharia, who will be participating in Elite Sport & Culture Week. Peggy Ewald, a Paralympic swim coach and director, still lives in Tiffin. She invited a Paralympic swimmer, Amanda Everlove to join the festivities. Other Olympians and coaches such as Katie Smith (coach of the WNBA New York Liberty), Jack Hazen, Mary Wineberg, Anna Goodale, and Khadavis Robinson live proximate to Tiffin and accepted invitations to participate in Elite Week. While many athletes are fairly close to the area, more than a handful will be arriving from South America, Africa, and Central America.

The list ia still growing as athletes and coaches who participated in the Olympics and Paralympics are accepting invitations and anticipating the excitement in joining an all-star line-up that will be engaging the community. Many have earned medals in the Olympics or international competitions. Brief biographies of each participant are available at www.tiffin.edu/elite.

WHAT

Olympians, Paralympians, and coaches are being scheduled to speak in more than 30 educational buildings in Seneca County Oct. 24. Efforts are being made to reach every grade level in every district. The featured event of Elite week is the Tuesday evening Festival of Champions in Tiffin University’s Heminger Center Oct. 23. A full event schedule is available at www.tiffin.edu/elite. Highlighted below is information about the 3-Pillar Challenge taking ending Sept. 15 and the upcoming Youth Games kicking off the official week.

3-Pillar Challenge: Through Sept. 15, youth in grades K-6 can earn a wristband and will receive prizes along with a picture with an Olympian at the Festival of Champions in October by completing three challenges. Youth need to validate finishing 3-pillars for:

SPORT (identify summer fitness activities)

EDUCATION (report on a book about the Olympics or sports to the library), and

CULTURE (draw and label a national flag).

Youth and their parents should visit the library or YMCA or the Elite Sport & Culture Booth at the Downtown Farmers Market or on Madison Street at the Heritage Festival to validate their 3 pillar challenges.

Youth Games: Youth can represent countries and earn medals on Saturday morning, October 20 at the YMCA by running obstacle courses, and participating in soccer accuracy shots, races, a basketball hot shot challenge, a balance beam event, or a limbo contest. All medal winners are invited to stand on the stage with the Olympians at the beginning of the Festival of Champions.

HOW

It takes a village, or a community.The Tiffin community has come together in so many ways to support Elite Sport & Culture Week. Over 50 individuals attended a kick-off meeting on Dec. 6, 2017 and the support has been growing since. The expenses associated with accommodating athletes and managing festivities is being met through several foundational grants and a program allowing businesses and individuals to patron Elite Sport and Culture Week. Those wishing to join as an official patron can still jump on board and donate any amount online on the www.tiffin.edu/elite website. Patrons can even “Match the Mayor” with a $100 donation that will be recognized in over 1000 commemorative programs that will be printed for the week.

Local school districts have applied for a grant through the Department of Jobs and Family Services which will be applied towards Elite Sport & Culture Week. The grants will assist to bring an Olympian, Paralympian or coach to every grade level in a general assembly program or a visit to individual classrooms.

Mercy Health (Mercy Hospital), National Machinery, and Terra State Community College have teamed with Tiffin University to serve as official hosts of Elite Sport and Culture Week. More than 500 volunteers throughout the community are assisting with organizing and managing activities as well as preparing to transport and host athletes and coaches.

STAY TUNED

The resulting outcome of hosting Elite Sport & Culture Week will likely be long lasting in terms of the mass appeal of the Olympics and the number of individuals who will learn or be inspired from participating in one or more activities. The patron program will allow Elite Sport & Culture Week to continue as an annual educational and inspirational program, albeit on a smaller scale.

Tune into WTTF every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. for an update on Elite Sport & Culture Week and stay tuned next month for more interesting sport stories from around the globe, around the nation, and from the local communities in northwest Ohio.

Bonnie Tiell is a professor of sports management at Tiffin University