Let the Games begin! Under the towering cauldron in which the Olympic flame burns for two weeks, the world’s elite athletes are battling it out in Sochi, Russia for a chance at gold and glory.
The superior athleticism may be the draw, but the Olympics could not happen without the dedication of those working behind the scenes. On Bloomberg spoke to colleagues who’ve experienced the Olympic Games firsthand to hear what it takes to make the event a success. From athletes to construction workers, here’s what they had to say about being part of the world’s premier athletic competition and how the skills they honed translate to their work and lives today.
“For once in our lives we were competing in front of the eyes of the world,” says Michael Liebreich of his experience on Great Britain’s Olympic ski team. He competed in the mogul skiing event at the 1992 Olympics in France. Mogul skiers fly down a steep slope covered in a series of bumps (moguls), being scored for speed, technique, and acrobatic jumps. Previous to the Olympics, Liebreich placed in the top five in the Europa Cup and participated in two World Championships during an eight-year run on the British ski team, splitting his time between business and sports worlds. “Eight months a year I was a management consultant with McKinsey & Co. working in a high pressure environment, and four months a year I was a career skier, in an even more competitive environment.”
He’d recently retired from skiing and was pursuing a business degree at Harvard when moguls became an Olympic sport for the 1992 games. That was in 1988. “I quickly unretired myself and got back into training,” says Liebreich. He spent the next four years becoming “a vastly better skier,” remaining on the fringes of the world’s top 30 skiers, but keeping up with the competition, which was especially tough because of the sport’s induction.
“It’s an extraordinary experience when you get 30 seconds on the snow to justify four years of training, as well as putting your career and personal life on hold,” Liebreich says of his Olympic run. “You have to dig deep to stay focused. It’s all over very quickly.” He didn’t place at the Albertville Games, but the experience was once-in-a-lifetime.
Liebreich returned to the business world, eventually founding New Energy Finance in 2004, which Bloomberg acquired five years later. Today BNEF is the world leader in information and research on the clean energy and carbon markets. Liebreich recently transitioned to Chairman of BNEF’s Advisory Board. He still skis, but now just with friends and family.
Damian Satchell describes representing Jamaica in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympic trials as “a dream come true.” After high school, he dropped his plans to join the U.S. Army to pursue his talent as a long jumper. His focus was on the Olympics.
“I didn’t have enough money to attend college and I didn’t get a scholarship for track and field,” he says. So, Satchell enrolled in Erie Community College in New York, where he was able to train. He recalls doing well during his first year on the college’s track team between 1994 and 1995 but not advanced enough to qualify for the Olympic long jump trials.
So in 1996 he stepped up his game, putting in extra practice and increasing the intensity of his jumping exercises. “In a few months, I saw a big improvement in my speed and vertical jump,” remembers Satchell. That year he qualified for the trials. At the time, he was working as a caddy at a local country club, which hurt his performance. “Caddying takes a toll on your body,” he says. “At the trials, I was exhausted.”
He didn’t make the Olympics, but he accomplished another goal in 1997: the University of Arkansas’s track and field team, a leading college in the sport, recruited him with a track scholarship. “I knew I had to perform well at this level because I was going up against top athletes and former Olympic champions,” says Satchell, and perform well he did. That year he and his teammates took home the NCAA championship.
Satchell tried out for the Olympics in 2000, the same year he achieved his long jump personal best — 27 feet 7 inches — and again in 2004, but came up short both times. But in his college career he won the All American Award for track and field twice.
“One thing I learned from all of this is perseverance and dedication. I take this with me in the things I do daily,” he says, which likely translates well to his current role on the Core Sales team in New York.
In 1979, Greg Galperin was gearing up for his summer internship working on a railway construction project when he was reassigned to assist in the building of the Olympic stadium in Moscow. “The college system in the USSR was primarily industry-oriented,” says Galperin. “It was common practice for college students to be assigned some sort of paid work related to their profession during summer break.”
Galperin spent his summer laying bricks and erecting the walls of the stadium, which still stands in the center of Moscow today. The stadium was constructed with capacity for 35,000 people, but the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 dampened the Games’ success. “The world boycotted the Olympics,” says Galperin. “Only a few countries participated, many events were lacking fans, and the streets were unusually empty during the games.”
Despite the controversy, Galperin is grateful for the experience, saying he used the skills he learned to build his own home. The stadium was later converted into a multi-purpose venue for hosting sports and entertainment events. “I was proud to tell my wife when we went to a Billy Joel concert there that I helped build the stadium,” says Galperin.
The experience of his assignment – changing from laying down a railroad to stadium construction – taught him adaptability, a highly valued skill in Bloomberg culture, especially in his field as an Instant Bloomberg programmer, where the ability to think on your feet is critical.
Kiara Liaskoviti was itching to be part of the 2012 Olympics after she missed out on working for the previous Summer Olympics in her home country, Greece. She decided to apply for a job with the London Organizing Committee. “I didn’t know at that point if it was a volunteer role or a paid one, but I really wanted to be part of it,” she says.
After two rounds of interviews, Liaskoviti was appointed as a scheduler (paid) for the transport department. Her main responsibility was overseeing the fleet of vehicles providing transportation for athletes, Olympic Committee members, international federations, and internationally protected attendees. She trained the committee’s 230 volunteer drivers and dispatchers, liaised with clients to identify their transportation needs, and oversaw the daily operations of dispatchers and drivers.
“My favorite memory was seeing the final rehearsal of the opening ceremony in the Olympic stadium a day before the games started,” says Liaskoviti. “It was a magical, sensational experience.”
Her skills for coordinating operations suited her well. Following her job with the Olympics, Liaskoviti joined Bloomberg as a recruitment coordinator for Financial Products in London.
Even after 150 hours of rehearsals, Nicolas Fleury had no regrets about volunteering to be a performer in the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. The extravagant production’s take on Great Britain’s history, heritage, and culture was one for the memory books. Directed by Danny Boyle, the £27 million production included appearances by Queen Elizabeth II and actors Daniel Craig and Kenneth Branagh. After two auditions of showing off his dancing and acting skills, Fleury was cast in the ceremony’s industrial revolution segment.
“My group was composed of so many different people: a nurse, a former professional dancer, a journalist, an architect,” says Fleury. “It was a representation of the diverse groups the UK brought together.”
The rehearsals at the Olympic stadium two weeks before the ceremony, the pouring rain that ensued throughout them, and the moment he looked out at a sea of 100,000 spectators are Fleury’s most memorable moments. “It was all about the journey,” he says. Fleury’s career at Bloomberg has also been a journey. Beginning at the company in Global Data in 2009, he went on to become a fixed income specialist in Analytics in 2011 and then an AIM trade desk representative in 2012. Today he’s an account manager for AIM in London.
Contributed by On Bloomberg, Bloomberg LP’s internal newswire.