Seeing the Olympics from the inside

Date posted: 23/07/16



Like many millions across the globe, Adam Pengilly can’t wait for Rio 2016. The Olympics are billed as the greatest show on earth and if you are a sports fan it is not hard to see why.

However, while most of us will be glued to our TVs, often in the early hours of the morning, very few will get to see the games from the inside. That is the position Adam occupies as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member.

The 38-year-old competed for Great Britain and Northern Ireland at skeleton bobsleigh in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. He was also a world silver medallist in 2009 and then retired in 2012.

Adam is one of 15 athlete representatives of the 100 or so IOC Members and was elected for an eight-year term at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He is one of four British members - the others being Princess Anne, World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) President Sir Craig Reedie and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven.

As a Christian in sport, Adam is seeking to be real and share the gospel with the people he knows in that environment. It would be great to pray for him and any other Christians you know of involved in the Games.

Seeing the Olympics from the inside

At the Olympics, Adam’s diary will include various meetings such as two Athletes’ Commission meetings and a meeting with the IOC’s Executive Board.
As part of an almost a four-week stay in Brazil, he will also be part of the IOC Session, which is effectively an annual meeting, before attending the opening ceremony.

Adam (pictured) said: “During the Games, we will have different roles such as being available for athletes to talk through issues with us, running focus groups and helping run the election for new athletes joining our Commission.

“Four new members are elected every summer games and two each winter games. The first week of the games is quite hectic. I found this especially during London because I had other roles as well. I will still get to watch a decent amount of sport and will give out a few medals.”

Adam and his colleagues can request which sports they do this for.
He said: “It’s on my list of to-dos. I will apply and see what I get.”

Two of the 15 athletes on Adam’s commission are competing in Rio, though most are retired or take up the role towards the end of their sporting careers.

He said: “I carried on competing for about two years after I was elected. Most people will retire either before or during their office.”

As a follower of Jesus, Adam has a great opportunity to witness about Him among his colleagues and the staff, but he says the political nature of the IOC also throws up many challenges.

“It’s a weird and wonderful mix of people on the IOC, quite eclectic in some ways,” said Adam. “You have got members of royal families, sporting greats and then you have people who don’t really have that much sporting history, but have great experience in other areas.

“Because there are often elections going on, it is hard to make deep friendships and establish trust. But when you are there, in some ways it’s like a family."

Seeing the Olympics from the inside

Adam at the start of a skeleton run

Being an IOC Member has given Adam great insight into what goes on behind the scenes at the Olympics.

He said: “When you are an athlete, you have no idea about the upper echelons of sports administration or politics. When I got involved with London 2012 for the last Summer Olympics, I realised that I knew about 0.5 per cent of what went on.

“As an athlete, I would just get up in the morning, go to the dining room for breakfast, come back, get ready and go out to train, then do the same for lunch and train in the afternoon. The infrastructure that is needed just to make that happen for 10,500 athletes is incredible.”

Seeing the Olympics from the inside

Adam Pengilly competing at the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006

Looking ahead to Rio 2016, Adam said: “I think there will be a really good atmosphere, partly because of the way the Brazilians are and their vibrant personalities. However, they have got some real challenges in their country at the moment, so I think for many locals the Games will be a short break from those challenges.

“Hopefully the Brazilian team will do well, so the people can really get behind them. I am sure it will be a big carnival, which will be great.”

While there have been lots of negative headlines around the Olympics, Adam said the Games are bringing real benefits to Rio as well.

He said: “The sort of infrastructure developments that maybe would have taken 50 years have taken place in six or seven. They have got a metro line, new bus routes and some tunnels have been dug through the mountains. This will be a real legacy. One of the challenges is that they left things a bit late, so costs were higher.”

How would Adam like us to pray for him?

Adam said: “Please pray that I would be ‘salt and light’, that I would take opportunities to share the gospel and that I will be sincere and that people will trust my motives, despite the political environment.”


Ed Mezzetti close crop

Ed Mezzetti, City of York Athletic Club
Ed runs for City of York Athletic Club and is Digital Content Manager for Christians in Sport. He is a member of St Thomas' Church, York