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The World Olympians Association (WOA)was created in 1994 following theCentennial Olympic Congress, theCongress of Unity, held in Paris. Its aim was topromote Olympism by bringing the Olympians of theworld together and encouraging their involvement inpublic service. From a modest beginning of 25founding members, the WOA now counts a networkof over 80,000 Olympians from around the world. "The WOA is a way for the Olympians of theworld to stay connected to each other," says WOAVice-President, five-time Olympian and Olympic silvermedallist Charmaine Crooks. "It represents a strongcommunity of athletes who have shared a commongoal of striving for excellence and serves as a vehiclefor them to share that experience on a sustainablelong-term basis."The WOA unites Olympians and engages them inthe promotion of values and virtues that form thepillar-stones of the Olympic Movement. Thedissemination of these ideals is undertaken throughthe promotion of fair play, peace through sport,environmental protection, the support of diversity andequality, contributions to sport-related charities andmost importantly, education. "The WOA is a global organisation but itsstrength lies in the opportunities it providesOlympians to connect in their respective countries,"says Crooks. "It allows athletes to continue their work within the Olympic Movement once they haveretired from sport."Olympic athletes are often inspirational to theyounger generations and can act as a positiveinfluence in their countries and communities."An Olympian remains an Olympian and canalways be a role model. Just because he has hungup his equipment does not mean he cannot continueto contribute and inspire," says Crooks. "The memories of an Olympian who representshis or her country at an Olympic Games is a part ofthat country's and society's fabric for generations."The Association also coordinates the OlympiansReunion Centre at each edition of the Games towhich Olympians are invited. It helps the OlympicMuseum create displays, leasing its photographs foralumni to enjoy, it has representation within theInternational Olympic Committee (IOC) in order toconnect with the relevant IOC programmes andservices, and the WOA's executive board travels theworld to ensure presence at different Olympic familymeetings. At the head of the WOA sits Olympic goldmedallist Richard (Dick) Fosbury. Elected in 2007 fora four-year term, he succeeded IOC member anddouble fencing gold medallist Pál Schmitt of Hungary.Fosbury, who won gold in the high jump inMexico City in 1968, revolutionised the event using a back-first technique, now known as the "FosburyFlop". Today it is the most popular technique inmodern high jumping. ?48OLYMPIC REVIEWWORLD OLYMPIANS ASSOCIATIONRight:Olympians Daichi Suzuki(second left) andNoureddineMorcelli(third left)with guests inAthensBelow and below right:The OlympiansReunion Centres in Beijing andVancouverFAMILYREUNIONONCE AN OLYMPIAN, ALWAYS AN OLYMPIAN:THE WORLD OLYMPIANS ASSOCIATIONRECONNECTS ATHLETES AND ENCOURAGESTHEM TO PROMOTE THE MOVEMENT'S IDEALS

WORLD OLYMPIANS ASSOCIATIONOLYMPIC REVIEW49How much of an impact does the work of the WOAhave on the Olympic community?I was fortunate to keep my involvement with the sportbecause of the technique I developed, but not manyathletes did. Today we have an organisation that isbuilding National Associations worldwide to enable allto stay involved, promote benefits and becomeambassadors for goodwill in sport.Has social networking helped the WOA grow and develop?There is a constant demand for Olympians to try andconnect with people they have met through theGames. It's fascinating to watch how different peopleuse these wonderful tools to reconnect and interact.Is there scope for WOA engagement in thedevelopment of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG)?One of the major advantages of the WOA is that it isbased very broadly - it now has a network ofOlympians in more than 130 countries - so I thinkthere is scope for some application towards the YOGgoing forward.How powerful a tool is the imagery used in reunion hospitality centres?Images are a very powerful method of sharing ourlove of sport and for exchanging experiences withathletes of different nationality and ethnicity. We allhave our heroes and this is a fantastic place to meetthem. It almost recreates the atmosphere of anOlympic Village.What are your memories of winning gold at the1968 Games in Mexico City?To be in an Olympic stadium with 80,000 fans andwatch other events was an incredible experience andit really changed my life. Competing with Russiansand East Germans under the threat of nuclear wartaught me that we have so much more in commonthan the things that keep us apart through politics. How much are you looking forward to the 2012 Games?London has a great tradition of sport and the city isalready very multi-cultural. I am excited for peoplefrom all over the world to go there. I think it's going to be a terrific Games and a great experience for all involved.AboveRichard Fosbury wins gold in Mexico Citywith his eponymous style of clearing the barRICHARD FOSBURY Q&A