With Team GB geared up for its best away Games ever, Deputy Chef de Mission Mike Hay explains what happens in the four years of a quadrennial, and highlights why working at an Olympics Games is so special.
Part 5: Mike Hay, Deputy Chef de Mission
Could you tell us about how you came to be Chef de Mission at Team GB and what the role entails?
My role for the Rio Games is Deputy Chef de Mission for Sport but at the BOA I am Head of Sport Engagement. This involves looking after the relationship between the BOA and all the national governing bodies. We have a strong relationship with the performance directors, so we have a good feel for the technical aspects of each and every sport and discipline. We can then feed that knowledge back into the BOA and act as a conduit for the flow of information back and forth over the four years of a quadrennial.
Rio has made a lot of headlines as a venue. How has this impacted upon your preparations of the athletes?
Rio is a spectacular venue. Anybody who’s been to Rio before has seen the wonderful landscape. But it comes with a few challenges. The Games has never been to South America and it’s only the third time in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s not a capital city, so the infrastructure is a little bit difficult. The master plan is four competition hubs, so there’s quite a lot of travelling in between them. The venues themselves are fantastic but moving around could be a little bit difficult for us. We set up our own overlay when we get out there because if venues are too far away from the village, then we would have satellite accommodation for some sports, like sailing and rowing. These are very successful sports for us, so we need to give them as much backing as possible and give them a bit of an advantage over the competition. So we’re hoping the overlay that’s in place is going to maximise our potential across all our sports.
Can you please describe why working at an Olympic Games is so special?
The Olympics is a marvelous place to be. I don’t know if there’s any real direct route there. Everyone I speak to within our own organisation has come through various channels to get here. In my previous life I was a performance director of a sport, so got to know the BOA through going to a couple of Winter Olympic Games and graduated from there. Every Games is different. Okay, there’s a blueprint, but the environment, the country, the travel, the language, the food, the experience of the host organising committee are all different. So, for example, we’re going to Pyeongchang next for the Winter Games and then Tokyo, so Asia is a focus for us over the next four to six years with the Winter Games also heading to Beijing in 2022. I have to say, I’m a very lucky guy. If you’d told me all those years ago that this is where I’d be, I’d have bitten your hand off to take the job.
How is the BOA preparing for Tokyo 2020? And, have preparations already begun for Olympic Games beyond that?
Not really. Not much beyond Tokyo, because what you tend to find is that the host organising committee is not really in place. There’s nothing built. But relationships are being formed through our foreign Commonwealth offices and ambassadors. But absolutely for Tokyo, we’re going out there in October, straight after Rio; we’re also going to Pyeongchang. The good thing is we can link both up together. We have strong relationships with both the Korean and the Japanese Olympic Associations. For us to get the plans in place early is key. We need to beat the Australians and the Americans to get the best training and preparation camps. So yes, the plans are well in place already.
What are your expectations for Team GB at Rio 2016?
We take a very talented team with us. It’s one of the most talented teams we’ve taken in the last quarter-of-a-century, with 366 athletes to compete across 23 sports. If we could have our best away Games ever, that would be a fantastic achievement. So that’s winning more than the forty-seven medals we won in Beijing.
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