Role of chef de mission at the OlympicsWednesday, July 28, 2021
There is quite often uncertainty, confusion, and lack of understanding as to what is the role of the chef de mission at the Olympic Games. This level of uncertainty is not confined to the general public nor to people working in the Olympic environment during the Games, but also transcends to the team at the Olympic Games.
The chef de mission of every national team competing at the Olympic Games has the ultimate responsibility for the welfare of his or her team, the most important arm being the athletes.
As someone who headed Jamaica's team to five consecutive Olympics from Atlanta in 1996 through to and including London in 2012, I defined my role as ensuring that the right environment is created to provide the athletes with the best conditions to give of their best during the Games.
Read in other words, this means doing anything and everything, within the confines of the regulations, to help maximise the performance of the athletes when they compete. The buck stops with the chef de mission.
The duties of the chef at the Games include:
• thorough inspection of the residence, including a detailed inventory check of every single item in every single room
• allocating the accommodation of the team in the most ideal manner in concert with the rest of the team management; who an athlete rooms with is critical to their mental well-being
• ensuring the minimum of difficulty when an athlete arrives in the village for the first time
• ensuring that all respective managers and coaches are familiar with the village and all the venues, meeting times, and places for their sport, especially to get to competition venues
• be available to every athlete who has a concern (which should really come through their team management) but which the chef cannot ignore once it is brought to his or her attention
• managing every challenge the athletes have, irrespective of how trivial it might seem
• be on top of every development as the Games progress and ensure timely communication to the officials and athletes
• select the flag-bearer for the opening and the closing ceremonies — often not the easiest of tasks
• select the officials who can parade at the opening ceremony — it is an athlete's parade and only six officials should march, but nearly every official wants to be part of the opening ceremony
• no chef de mission serious about the team's ultimate success will choose to leave the village for long, even to attend official meetings outside
• be in constant contact with the NOC centre, the central management and communication point for the Games, for any new developments which need to be communicated to the team immediately
• manage the allocation of the sponsors' gear (In Jamaica's case this is PUMA.)
• efficiently manage the limited dedicated transport allocated to the team, which is on the basis of the size of the delegation
• efficiently manage the limited allocation of visitor passes to allow friends and relatives to come into the village
• maintain dialogue and communication with local and international media on a daily basis to ensure Jamaica's best face is put forward at all times
• manage all disturbances if and when they occur (as in the case of the Sydney Games of 2000)
Don Anderson has attended seven consecutive Olympic Games, from Seoul in 1988 to London in 2012, five of these as chef de mission and served as vice president of the Jamaica Olympic Association for 32 years up to 2013.
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