Monday, September 17

I mentioned in the last post that I was one of 14 US officials chosen to work the World Masters' Championships in Riccione, Italy. There were also about 12 officials from Great Britain, 3 from New Zealand, 2 from Puerto Rico, and 1 from Brazil. I didn't know before I arrived in Italy what I would be doing at the meet. Most of my officiating experience is in the vertical jumps and combined events, so I was anticipating working there. However, I discovered that I would be working in the "call room" or clerking area for this meet. (I'm sure that Tommy Free and his crew will get a kick out of that!) I have done a little bit of that, when forced to, at our home meets. But never at a meet with 9,000 athletes and in languages that I don't speak.

The Call Room is the place where each athlete comes before his or her event - whether track or field. We check credentials, bib numbers, spikes, put them in their heats, give them their hip numbers, and take them to the track or their venue at the appropriate time. It can be crazy at times and, with athletes from around the world speaking different languages and used to different systems (some of who are old enough to get easily confused), it was chaos most of the time. We got through it, though not without some stress and tension. Let's just say that Italian officials don't do things the same ways that officials from the US or Great Britain do them. Add the language barrier to that and some tension arose. Eventually things got better, but the Italians weren't quite as worried about rules or procedures:

1) Throws were measured from a variety of places through the meet - from the front of the mark, the back of the mark, the tail of the javelin, or even when the javelin stopped sliding.

2) Nary a clock could be found during the meet, so no timing was done.

3) Foreign officials were mostly used to retrieve implements or turn the numbers of the performance board, even though most were highly experienced and, among them, had officiated several Olympic Games, Olympic Trials, etc.

4) Officials didn't help with warm-ups in any event, including the throws. Usually, if there was an American or Brit on the crew, they would. Otherwise, the athletes had to retrieve their own implements, etc.

But for all the frustrations, it has been a good experience. I have learned a lot (including many things not to do) and had the chance to develop some good friendships.

Some of the highlights were athletes I met. In the next post, I'll tell you about a few of them. Above is a picture of our Call Room in action.

Thursday, September 13

After a hiatus of a few months, I'm back on the blog again. This is the second year in a row that I have taken a break from writing over the summer. During the school year, I usually preach twice a week, and often teach another time or two, and I guess I just get tired of "talking" so much. But now I'm back.

I'm writing this post from a track in Riccione, Italy. For those of you who don't know, I am one of 14 track and field officials from the US invited to work the World Master's Championships. This is the largest of the world championships, with almost 9,000 athletes from 96 countries ranging in age from 35-97. They compete in 5 year age divisions and 430 are from the US. The meet is actually held at three different stadiums in this area, with Riccione being the major one. The others are at Misano and San Giuvanne. This is my second international meet (the first actually outside the US) and it is a great honor to be here. The meet actually started on Sept. 4, but I have had trouble finding internet connections! But I'll write a little at a time so, if you're interested, you can read a little at a time.

Some of the athletes here have been very accomplished. There are many former Olympians who are still competing. In fact, Willie Banks, a former world record holder, is here. And there are others who were never stars but who love to complete. Since there aren't any entrance standards, whoever wants to enter (and pay their way to Italy) can compete!

The trip here was a long one - about 32 hours of travel on three flights, six trains, a taxi, and about 14 hours in terminals. Which was about two trains and four hours more than I anticipated. Lesson one: not all train stations are open all the time. I discovered that as my train zipped through where I wanted to get off at 1:15 am! The train finally stopped 45 minutes later. It took a while to find my way back.

The hotel we're at is nothing fancy, but the food is great. A big continental breakfast in the mornings and a huge buffet of pasta, seafood, beef, pork, etc. every night - with a half liter of wine per person for the wine drinkers. It sets a pretty high standard for our Arkansas meets!

I'll quit for now, but will try to post more later.