UVic Torch -- Spring 2009
Autumn 2009,
Volume 30, Number 2

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Athletes aren’t the only ones living their dreams at the Olympics. In 1994, Gerry De Cicco was a freshly minted UVic grad with a BA in human performance (now kinesiology) when he decided to devote his life to the true spirit of sports. Today, the 37-year-old is second-in-command at the Richmond Olympic Oval — a world class speed skating centre and public recreation centre on the banks of the Fraser River.
Photography by CANDICE ALBACH

A few minutes with Gerry De Cicco, BA ’94, senior manager of the Richmond Olympic Oval.

So how did you wind up in this job?
I played rugby at UVic for three years, and playing at that level inspired me to pursue a career in sport. During my last year at UVic I was working part-time at Oak Bay Rec, and things steamrolled from there. I went to the Torino games with my former employer, and that led to the people at Richmond, who made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

What appealed to you about the Olympics?
The indelible impression the games can leave on a community, and even a country. When the games are held elsewhere, you hear about the gold medal performances, but what may be really inspiring are the stories about the people who finished dead last but sacrificed so much to get there.

So what do you do, exactly?
I’m responsible for programs and operations within the facility and liaise on anything related to high performance. It’s a challenging job, because I can’t go to Chapters and take out a book on managing a speed skating oval. Our model is very different.

How so?
In Torino, and to a certain extent in Salt Lake City, the legacy component for Olympic venues was not well thought out. The facilities built in Athens are already dilapidated. We built a facility that will be used. From the beginning, we said we wanted to build a first-class sport and wellness facility that could also host a speed skating competition.

What was it like at that first major event held at the oval?
The opening ceremony was December 12, 2008. We didn’t move into the building until the 11th. We had 30,000 people come through the facility over two days. Imagine you’ve just bought a house, you move in the day before, and you’ve invited your parents, your in-laws, your friends and the world media. And you have 24 hours to get ready. The crisis of today is always the laugh of tomorrow, right?

This building is green, yes?
There are a lot of green innovations in the facility. For example, storm water is used to flush our toilets and urinals and run some of our mechanical systems. We have a 6.5-acre freestanding wood roof that is made from recovered wood infested by the pine beetle. Imagine the catalyst for the forest industry when three billion people look at this facility and see that this wood can be structurally sound and beautiful.

What needs to be done to prep the facility for the Games?
One of the biggest jobs will be to put in the 6,000 temporary seats. Olympic-specific facilities, like the anti-doping lab, are being operated by VANOC. Things like the media room already exist and just need retrofitting.

What will you do during the games?
VANOC takes operational control of the oval during the course of the Games, but we’ll be involved in other initiatives. We have protocol and hosting obligations, so I’ll be liaising with VANOC and Speed Skating Canada.

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