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BLOG: Rio 2016 - 1000 Days to Go

8 November 2013

Rio 2016: One thousand days to go, that’s a long time. Even written as 1,000 days to go, still seems a long way away. In that 1,000 days there will be the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and several iterations of World Championships in all sports.

However if you look at 1,000 days in terms of weeks – it equates to 142.8 weeks. 142 more Saturdays. Starts to get real when you look at that number. Can’t afford to waste even just one of those weeks or Saturdays – whether you are an aspiring athlete, coach, official or administrator.

I was appointed as Chef de Mission just under two months ago. It’s been a hectic seven weeks and we have achieved a lot. While focus rightly remains on the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, there has been a lot of work done behind the scenes on preparation and planning for Rio.

AOC President John Coates and Australian Sports Commission Chair John Wylie, along with Minister for Health and Sport Peter Dutton recently launched Campaign Rio. This initiative, whereby the sports science, medicine and performance skills and expertise at the AIS will be integrated into our Olympic Team, will ensure that our focus for Rio remains absolutely on performance. The AIS is the leader in this field and, along with our member sports, will provide the collaborative approach and framework needed to help Australia regain its place in the top five on the medal tally – a tough but realistic goal that neither the AOC nor the AIS will shy away from.

The Campaign Rio launch was part of a two day High Performance Forum, attended by the majority of our Olympic sports – high performance managers and coaches. It was a very successful meeting where we briefed sports on our recent planning trip to Rio, and most importantly, asked sports what would help their performance in 2016.

I announced the full Team Executive at the Forum, and I am excited with the team I now have to help drive our Campaign Rio theme: Best Planned. Best Prepared. Best Performed.

There will be four Deputy Chefs de Mission and their roles and responsibilities are in line with the management philosophy of the five areas of work required to achieve success: Leadership (Chef de Mission), Performance Excellence (Deputy Matt Favier), Location Specific (Deputy Chris Fydler), Culture and Values (Deputy Julien Prosser), and Planning and Execution (Deputy Craig Phillips).

The team has a wealth of experience and expertise not only in their specific fields but across the broader requirements for an Olympic preparation cycle. I especially welcome Matt and Julien in their first management roles in an Olympic Team.

This month, we will bed down our strategic vision and mission as well as discuss what success looks like for all of us in our roles. I am intent that every member of our team in Rio, from coach to team leader to administrator be able to articulate how they are contributing to performance success. With an expected team size of around 450 athletes and a full team of over 750, we need to ensure that every single person contributes to a collaborative, performance focussed environment.

The performance focussed environment is the primary reason behind another initiative I announced at the Forum – the alcohol policy which will apply in the Village, other Australian team designated areas and the charter flight home. Despite what some commentators have written, we are not banning alcohol or the ability of teams and athletes to celebrate and relax after competition outside these designated areas. The policy is designed to ensure that the environment of the Village and all areas where Australian team members reside or operate remains conducive to high performance. That is what we are there for. To perform. I expect all Team members, athletes and officials, to respect that. The policy is designed to ensure that an athlete competing on day 16 has optimal conditions in which to prepare.

The week prior to the High Performance Forum, I travelled to Rio for a planning visit, along with AOC and AIS staff and nine sports. We inspected potential hotel and services sites, the competition venues and the Village and also spent a day at the Organising Committee receiving briefings on their preparations and plans.

I had never been to South America before and didn’t really know what to expect. I found Rio a fantastic city that felt very comfortable. The Copacabana and Ipanema areas, where we expect around 150 of our team members will reside, had an ‘Australian’ feel to it – the beautiful beaches, surrounding mountains and relaxed lifestyle will be very familiar to our sports competing in that zone.

The Games will be divided into four geographic zones and there is some distance between them. Transport will be one of the major challenges for Games organisers. We visited most of the existing venues and you could really visualise what they will be like at Games time. However many of the new venues have not even been started yet and we were looking at empty fields or allotments. There is a lot of work still to do and I, along with many others around the world, will be watching next year’s World Cup with much interest to see how the city, its transport and its venues perform under pressure.

As well as inspecting venues and talking to the Organising Committee one of the best things about this planning visit was being able to spend time with the sports. We had representatives from swimming, athletics, triathlon, diving, equestrian, rugby sevens, hockey, golf and boxing. It was an excellent opportunity for me to get to know the personnel involved in these sports and talk to them about their plans.

I want to be able to get to know all our 28 Olympic sports, including of course our two ‘new’ sports in rugby sevens and golf, over the next few years. In order to make informed decisions with the Team Executive about creating that performance focussed environment, I need and want to know what will make a difference to our podium potential sports in particular.

In recent weeks I have attended awards nights for sailing and canoe/kayak, I’ve met with Athletics Australia and Swimming Australia officials and just last night I went to Equitana with the Equestrian Federation. I have also met with our NSW Fundraising Appeal Committee members at their first meeting and I’m very much looking forward to taking up an invitation from our ‘medal maker’ sailing coach Victor Kovalenko to go sailing over summer!

1,000 days to go. 142 Saturdays. Can’t wait.

Kitty Chiller
Chef de Mission – 2016 Australian Olympic Team