From Philip Barker
A hundred years ago, London was confirmed as an Olympic host city for the first time.
In the intervening century the sporting landscape has changed beyond recognition but there remains great curiosity about everything to do with the Olympic Games.
For the best part of 25 years, the British Olympic Association has run a National Olympic Academy to satisfy that curiosity, spread knowledge about the Olympic movement to athletes, students, coaches, administrators and, yes, even journalists.
Taking its inspiration from the International Olympic Academy a much larger session held annually in Greece, Britain’s own Olympic “Brains Trust” has grown from a one-day session in 1982, to a three-day meeting place of the world of sport with a distinguished roll of attendance over the years , including Olympic champions James Cracknell. David Hemery and Lynn Davies.
This year’s session began with an athletes panel of 2000 cycling gold medallist Jason Queally, and Torino Winter Olympians Adam Pengilly from skeleton and luger Mark Hatton on how they became Olympic competitors .
Paralympian Ade Adepitan’s contributions reflected his exhuberant approach to his sport, wheelchair basketball.
This has become an eagerly awaited part of the event and was chaired by BBC commentator, himself a former Olympic competitor, Paul Dickenson, who rightly observed this was a golden opportunity.
There was chance, too, to question Giselle Davies, the IOC Communications Director, about goings on in Lausanne, and a briefing on the progress towards London 2012 followed.
A trip around the Olympic Park needed some imagination but it was a chance to see those famous pylons and gazing across from above Stratford station, the sheer size of the magnificent undertaking was clear for all to see .
There have been SJA members in the past, former committee member Ian Lamont is a long-time supporter and John Goodbody and Philip Barker have both chaired the athletes’ panel in previous years. Our late President John Bromley also delivered the address at the official dinner in 1999, but with the 2012 drawing ever closer it presents a golden opportunity to learn more about the Games.
The Academy is expertly organised by Jan Paterson, the director of the British Olympic Foundation, the educational arm of the BOA . They’ll supply details on how you can apply but the proof of the pudding as they say. This year’s gathering was sold out in 72 hours. But if you are quick off the mark, you’ll be well rewarded.