Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Remembering Leroy Walker

Sad to learn today that former U.S. Olympic Committee President Leroy Walker died Monday in North Carolina.

Walker led the USOC following the resignation of Robert Helmick during the early 1990s, in charge during three U.S. Olympic Festivals (San Antonio 1993, St. Louis 1994 and Denver-Boulder-Colorado Springs 1995) where I worked on staff or as a volunteer (we shook hands at least once at each event).

As one of the summer of 1995 U.S. Olympic Training Center interns  (we were a motley crew from coast to coast staying in former military barracks at the USOTC in Colorado Springs), I also saw Walker from time to time on campus. The following year, Walker was a "regular" in the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) offices in the INFORUM building where I worked.

A winner of the IOC's highest honor, the Olympic Order, Walker was a nice man and leader never too proud to stop and visit with a junior employee.

Reading Walker's obituary tonight, I was reminded he led several Olympic athletics teams, notably in 1976 when Bruce Jenner and Edwin Moses competed with success. I did not know, until today, that Walker was born here in Atlanta. After the Atlanta Games drew criticism for multiple, avoidable snafus, and the Salt Lake 2002 organization got caught in a bribery scandal, Walker aptly predicted it may be a long time before the U.S.A. could again host the Games. I'm often afraid it's going to be too long -- the USOC needs some more Coach Walkers at the helm.

It was/is also a surprise that as of 11:15 p.m. ET today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution only posted an Associated Press version of an obituary to AJC.com. It's disappointing that after the AJC led some expansive coverage of the Atlanta Olympic bid, then preparation and finally the Centennial Olympic Games (including many archived reports including Walker) that the AJC did not yet craft its own report or remembrance for Walker. I tried to reach the sports assignment editor via email tonight for comment (no response as of this post).

Hopefully tomorrow the AJC will prove me wrong, or make things right by doing a follow up on Walker's influences in Georgia (Walker is a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, for instance).

Meanwhile, in the Chicago Tribune, veteran Olympic reporter Philip Hersh wrote a personal remembrance today that is a great summary of Walker's achievements.

Photo via this link (I believe this is a USOC handout photo from the 1990s)

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