London (ACN).-Where will the basketball teams stay during the Olympics? How will they travel from the hotel or the Olympic Village to the stadium? Who will help the sailing referees if they have any problems? What will the Cultural Olympics programme look like? Four Catalans can answer all these questions. They are part of the enormous team of people working for the London Olympics 2012. The Catalan News Agency has spoken with four of the Catalan "infiltrators" in the Olympics to find out more about their contribution to the world’s biggest sporting event.
Paco Biosca, Laia Gasch, Anna Sebastià and Jordi Jorba are four Catalans working at the heart of the Olympics and Paralympics in London 2012. They are young, talented and are taking charge of issues such as the coordination of accreditation and hotels for various Olympic committees around the world, through to the management of the transportation of athletes playing team sports, programming the Games’ cultural activities and the coordination between London and the International Sailing Federation.
"We are well infiltrated into the UK now and I think we offer a Mediterranean spirit", said Laia Gasch, producer of the Cultural Olympiad London 2012. Gasch has very important decisions to make such as choosing the program and the artists who participate in the parallel cultural activities to the Olympics ranging from firework shows at Stonehenge to a large representation of the Fura dels Baus work 'Prometheus'. Some of these performances have already been a sucess in London.
The cultural festival offers the public "the very best national and international artists". "Obviously there are Catalan companies on the list", she confesses, while going through the list. Among the more prominent names are theatre group La Fura dels Baus, the artist Jaume Plensa, who brings his work back to the UK, and Calixto Bieito, who presents a play in Birmingham.
London is committed to be the cultural city of 2012 with thousands of activities scheduled for 12 weeks across the country. Gasch says that the cultural legacy of the Barcelona Games in 1992 is so strong that all the Olympic venues that came later were inspired by it. “Barcelona has a great influence, and I’m not saying that because I’m Catalan. In some of the festival planning meetings of the Cultural Olympiad, Barcelona was a benchmark," said Laia. And she explains why: "Barcelona ‘92 was so important, it put the city on the international map, and presented itself as a cultural, creative city as well as a quality tourist destination".
Laia came to London "almost 20 years ago" to study theater. Thereafter, she worked at dance and music festivals and also in educational programming. She even contributed to the communicative task of the BBC, where she led "a program of creativity for young people". "After that, people from the Cultural Olympics told me 'we need someone to program and think out the cultural festival’. And I offered", she explains.
Passion for sailing
Anna Sebastià, coordinator of the International Sailing Federation for London 2012, had an offer through the Internet. "I went for an interview to be a volunteer, and suddenly I received an e-mail about a vacancy to work on the sailing test-event, which lasted three weeks last summer," recalls Anna. And she went from there to her current job. "Since I was a child I was involved with sports, thus it is a special feeling to be in the organization of the Games through sailing" confesses this young Catalan who recalls how, at the Barcelona Olympics in '92, she went to Port Olímpic with her father and brother "to watch the boats arrive”. Being among the team that organizes these same boats in London 2012 makes her "very excited".
Anna Sebastià’s job is not easy. She has the responsibility for ensuring that everything goes well in the sailing competition. "What I do is to coordinate the International Sailing Federation and London 2012, and also coordinate all the teams of people around the world who come to the race course to work. That is, jurors, officers who control winning posts and race starts, etc." she explains. Commanding a team of four people, Anna has the responsibility "to be in contact with everyone every day, take care of what people need from the beginning to the end and make contingency plans in case things go wrong". In short, "I must have everything organized and under control".
Paco Biosca has a lot to coordinate as well. This 30 year old Catalan is working for London 2012 from the famous district of Canary Wharf. His position is the coordinator of services of the national Olympic and Paralympic committees. "My job is to talk to all countries and manage everything related to tickets, hotels, accreditation, classification systems, uniforms... We do a little bit of everything. We are the link between all committee departments and the countries", says Paco.
His specialty is Latin American countries, where he worked for the Panamerican Games in Santo Domingo in 2003 and Rio 2007. Since then, he has been jumping from event to event, adapting to different cities around the world including the Chinese capital, Beijing. "The Olympic world is actually a very small family, you get to know people slowly, and then I got a call to start in London in April 2011." Specializing in 'big Olympic events' is Paco’s passion, who confesses that although until now he has had "periods doing other jobs between Games and other Games", he is hoping that London 2012 will enable him to "connect directly to the Rio de Janeiro Games”.
Paco Biosca thinks that working on the Olympics is a good option nowadays that young people don’t have a job. “Actually, getting out of Catalonia is already a good idea. When I was in Lleida, it was so hard to find a job, even though I have studies and I speak five languages” he acknowlegdes. For him, sport events “are another option” but he admits that right now, “if you don’t get out of Spain it is very difficult to find a job”.
The mobility of the Games
Jordi Jorba also had to leave Catalonia to try his luck in London. This young Catalan works in coordinating the transportation of athletes who participate in the Olympics. He must make decisions on the transport of widely known athletes such as Usain Bolt. We asked Jorba if we could find Usain Bolt on the subway. He said: "Well, they have the freedom to go where they want but our job is to provide different types of buses for each team or individual sports. Depending on where the venue is, the distance, or the time it takes to go from the Olympic Village to the court, we offer one transport or another".
He isn’t responsible for transporting the general public to the Games, which is one of the biggest visitor worries. ‘Will the subway and the public buses be enough to cater for so many people?’ Londoners ask themselves. Jordi admits that it will be a huge challenge, but he mentions that at least for the athletes “it will be very easy to get to the Stadiums to compete or to train” thanks to his work.
Jordi agrees with Paco on the professional opportunities you can find in the elite sports world. “Luckily, for us there will always be world championships, European championships, international competitions, Olympic Games... There are obviously some budgetary adjustments, but they always need people to work”, remarks this young man licensed in Business. "We are lucky to experience something like this. It is not easy, as you can imagine, to be on the inside of the organizing committee" admits Jordi. "We are enjoying this very much," he adds with eyes as excited as Laia’s, Anna’s and Paco’s, who are all proud to be part of a huge special international project, that can make history. Catalonia will have a team in London. They will not compete, but they will try their best from backstage to make everything work as planned. Ready ... steady ... go!