October 24, 2016
Media Club of Ottawa members who attended the meeting of October 24, 2016 were treated to a fascinating double-bill presentation. Sisters Lorraine and Aline Lafrenière, both of whom have worked behind the scenes at numerous Olympic Games, Paralympics and Pan American Games, described what it’s like be in the surreal Olympic bubble.
Lorraine Lafrenière is the Chief Executive Officer of the Coaching Association of Canada. She said that the most important lesson she has learned from the Games is “resiliency – how to balance the planned and unplanned incidents that occur”. You need to expect the unexpected.
Aline Lafrenière was a Press Attaché for CBC and Radio Canada at the Rio 2016 Olympics. She recalled many magical moments, meeting and working with broadcasters whom, until that point, she had seen only on television. She is particularly proud of the role she and her team played in facilitating the production of profiles of Canadian athletes at the Games.
Both women spoke of how the host country has a profound impact on the culture of the Games and the Olympic Village, imbuing them with a distinct personality. They felt it was an amazing gift to see the way in which these various cultures colour the nature of the Games, influencing everything from the security to the lay-out of the venue.
Aline and Lorraine said that their experiences have allowed them to meet many incredible people, including the “super volunteers, from doctors to seamstresses and greeters, who make the Games memorable”. They also spoke of being impressed by the athletes’ courage and their devotion to their sport – athletes like Sue Halloway, who competed in both Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year, and Silken Laumann, who won a bronze medal only 10 weeks after a disastrous rowing accident, and multiple surgeries.
The women pointed out how the Olympic Games have changed since their initial involvement in the 1980’s. Security has become a major consideration. So, too, has the use of performance enhancing drugs. Another change they noted is how traditional journalistic coverage has been overtaken by social media. Since 2012 in particular, Lorraine said, “It has evolved from a tightly controlled situation to a free-for-all.” One very positive element is the growing media and spectator interest in the Paralympics Games.
With their first-hand observations, the women helped those present understand how this ancient sporting tradition has continued to thrive and evolve and why it is important not only for the athletic competitions, but as a means of building bridges among nations.