Beijing or bust
July 11, 2008
Five Park City women are passing the Olympic torch from Park City to China for the 2008 Summer Games. Christie Dilloway, Heidi Hughes, and three others leave Monday to begin 46-day contracts with the hospitality company Jet Set Sports. They will be in Beijing for the duration of the Games.
Dilloway and Hughes met with Mayor Dana Williams Tuesday to try to arrange a meeting with Park City’s sister school in Beijing and to prepare for their voyage halfway across the world.
Not that the women won’t already have a crowded schedule while in China. Each Park City hospitality manager works for a different sponsor staging buses, entertaining guests and managing the Olympic program for 30 to 40 corporate clients.
One of the perks of the job is getting to travel and attend events. But the task of keeping guests organized and happy, says Dilloway, is a sport in its own right.
"The joy of the job is getting to go to something you couldn’t go to otherwise," she said.
Dilloway, who is the director of special events for the Park City Jazz Foundation, said having a chaperone is more important at these Games than in Salt Lake City and Turin, where she worked as a hospitality program manager.
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"It would be harder to go on your own to Beijing," she explained. "I do think it would be more of a hindrance."
Dilloway had to start the accreditation process early. In addition to a travel visa, Americans need approval from the Chinese to attend events and the opening and closing ceremonies.
Dilloway doesn’t mind jumping through all the hoops, as long as they’re Olympic rings. "I was excited about Beijing because they’ll put on a spectacle," she said. "I expect a lot of fireworks, a lot of dragons. I’m not worried about the nay says who are talking about the pollution and all of that."
The key to having a golden experience at the Games is to be proactive and come prepared with paraphernalia, she said. Dilloway is packing her Fourth of July red and white hat and blue glow stick to cheer American athletes. Never mind it is her first visit to a communist country.
Heidi Hughes shares Dilloway’s enthusiasm for the Games and doesn’t see any problems with the 2008 Olympics being held in China. This will be the fourth Olympic Games Hughes has attended.
She got her first taste of the Olympic experience in 2002 in Salt Lake City managing a hospitality program and added to her repertoire in Athens and Turin. "The Olympics really create a unique and wonderful environment," she said. "There can be all sorts of noise and turmoil, but once you’re there it’s so special. It really does become about the Olympic spirit and people coming together from all over the world."
One of Hughes’ fondest Olympic memories came during a beach volleyball event in Athens. "There were all these half-naked Hungarians cheering, people from the U.S., Argentina, everywhere. It was like a big high school basketball game. It was just a big party with these incredibly skilled athletes." She added, "When you get to the Olympics and see people competing at that level, it’s the pinnacle of their careers; their dreams are coming true."
Hughes is no stranger to the Olympic dream. Two of her step kids are Nordic ski jumpers and Olympic hopefuls who hope to compete in the Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010. Abbey Hughes, 19, is good enough to be on U.S. Ski Team and her brother, Blake, 21, has been competing in world-class events for the past six years.
Nordic jumping is a controversial topic among the International Olympic Committee. It is currently the only Olympic sport in which men compete and women do not.
Hughes hopes to see Abbey and Blake soar to great heights in Vancouver. For now, she’ll have to settle for watching rhythmic gymnastics, swimming and tennis.