Remo's Trip to the 2006 Turin Olymplics
Remo Bucci, R.M.T.
When I received the Canadian Sports Massage Therapists Association application for massaging at the Torino Winter Olympics, I could not wait to put my name down. Here was as opportunity to be part of the Canadian Team and travel to my country of family origin. Also, here was an opportunity to create a vacation with my wife, Julie and my daughter Hanna before continuing on to Torino. Julie and I had never traveled abroad together, and our daughter was old enough to join us. It was perfect timing.
I planned a twelve day schedule to visit some cities and relatives before I was scheduled to start working at the Olympics. My wife, daughter and I visited Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, and to my parents hometown, Lanciano, near central Italy. Italy, as everyone knows, is rich in history, culture, and of course food. We were awe struck with everything we visited. We walked where Julius Cesar walked in the Roman Forum, and we visited the Coliseum where the Gladiators fought. We walked through the aimless corridors in Venice, and saw renaissance art in Florence. We walked and walked and walked. Needless to say we were massaging each other's feet half way through our trip.
The vacation went without a hitch. My wife and daughter had a fantastic time but it went too fast with only twelve days of sight seeing. They were very sad to leave on the day when they flew back to Toronto. For me, I flew on to Torino.
The Olympic Village had been open for only two days when I arrived in Torino. It was about 15 degrees celsius and sunny, and I thought "…fantastic weather for the Olympics." The security people and volunteers at the Torino airport were still getting the hang of directing all the athletes, staff and tourists to their proper destinations. Luckily, I had my accreditations with me that showed I was part of the Canadian medical team, and had access to all the venues and villages, which made getting to the Canadian section of the village a lot easier.
The first place I headed to in the village was the clinic. I noticed a very large Canadian flag draped sideways on the side of a building. It was at least five stories tall. I found out later that it was the largest flag in the village. It seemed that Canada was planning on having a good time at these games. However, the mission staff quickly had to turn the flag the other way before the Canadian Minister of Health and Fitness arrived, because flag edict states that the top point of the leaf must face left. It would have been a little embarrassing for our Canadian team if our Minister had seen it, or even worse yet the media could have had a field day with it.
In the clinic, everything was well on the way to being organized. Supplies were on the shelves, the computer and television were up and running and tables were set up in their proper places. It was nice to see that the massage table was one of the two I used at the Paralympic games in Greece, where the table top is the Canadian flag.
The Medical Team was divided into two groups. The Core Team, which I was on, was to be stationed in the village clinics. The Assigned Teams would be stationed only with specific teams. I had met many of these people in Banff last September for the orientation meeting. In that meeting I was informed that my main clinic would be in Sestriere, but I would sometimes be needed in Bardonecchia.
The head therapist asked if I would mind traveling to Torino as well for the figure skaters. In the stroke of an effleurage (like the blink of an eye) I decided to go there too. Traveling between the three villages was the best decision. In Bardonecchia I worked with the snowboarders and free style skiers. In Sestriere I worked within the clinic. In Torino I worked with the figure skaters. .
The volunteers that were assigned to the Canadian team were great. We asked them to do a lot of jobs to help us, and they always accommodated and never complained. The general volunteers were quite another matter, especially with the business of trading pins. You have to realize that pins are big ticket items in sporting events. They are the same as currency when you want something done, and they can be given as gratuity. I don't think the Italian volunteers took an edict course on "how to trade pins" before the athlete's village was opened. Early on, the volunteers were asking politely, then they were asking aggressively, then they decided they wanted the clothing instead. It got to the point where the managers were informing the volunteers not to bother anyone about the pins. This seemed to make it worse, as the security and medical volunteer staff was coming into the administration offices and athlete's lounges to ask for pins. We ended up putting up signs in English, French and Italian stating that we don't have any pins.
Every athlete I worked with was appreciative and considerate with the services the medical and mission staff was providing. The athletes knew they were under pressure to perform more so than any other Olympics. The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), on behalf of the athletes, told the international community that their goal was to place third in the total medal standings, and win twenty five medals. The athletes were ready for the challenge.
The first day we won gold in the moguls, which was a great start, but then we hit an early dry spell for the next few days. We were hearing from back home that it may look like the Canadian winter team was heading in the same direction as the Canadian summer team with the disappointment on the podium in Greece. The tide turned on the day that Canada took a big hit with the elimination of the men's hockey team; Canada took home four medals that same day. After that, the medals kept coming in. The athletes worked hard and met the goal of coming in third place overall, and was one medal shy of twenty five medals. The most frustrating part was that the Canadian athletes achieved fourteen fourth place finishes. Many of those fourth place spots were within a second of the third place finishes. It was truly a fantastic year for the Canadian Winter Olympic teams.
During the course of the games my working schedule was humane compared to other venues I have worked at. My average day was treating five to eight athletes for a half hour to an hour. Parts of some days were slow because the athletes were out watching the other venues. I took my opportunities there to go cheer on the athletes as well. I watched snowboarding half pipe, cross and parallel GS, skeleton, men's hockey, and the women's hockey finals. I unfortunately did not get the chance to see the free style skiing.
After the closing ceremonies were over I went back to my apartment to start packing up my things, and I wondered how the time at these games manages to fly by so fast. One day I am arriving and trying to make my way through the confusion, and another day the media is doubtful that the Canadian team will make its medal goals, the next day we are gleaming with pride at how well we did. Then the final days come and I see the Canadian flag raised in anticipation of the next winter Olympics, and the Mayor of Vancouver is doing fish tails in his wheelchair on stage with the Olympic flag. It was a whirl wind tour, indeed.
I would like to acknowledge that we had an excellent medical team that consisted of over thirty five therapists, doctors, and psychologists. It was an honor to be part of this experienced, well-oiled machine that kept the athletes out of injury and in the podium race. I would like to say a special thanks to the chief therapist, Stephan King, who picked me from a list of fantastic Certified Sports Massage Therapists, and I did my best to do honor to the position. (And yes, his name is truly Stephan King, and no relation to the novelist. I had to look up his name on the COC website after he called me to make sure it wasn't a prank).
Lastly, I want to thank my beautiful, understanding, gracious, patient (sort of), intelligent wife, Julie. She is the reason I could follow this passion for the past 11 years, and in particular the past three years of traveling around the world. She is also my colleague, and I missed having her with me on such an experience. Who else better to understand me than another massage therapist?
I hope to write more about my experiences in the sporting world, but I think for the present time I have a list of things to do at home that has been waiting for me for a few years.
Remo Bucci, RMT, ©SMT, Thai Massage Therapist
Club Physio Plus, Mississauga, ON,
Westpark Pro Active Health Care, Toronto, ON,
and teaches at Elmcrest College, Toronto, ON.