January 28, 2013
Sports unify people of different ethnic, religious, social, and cultural backgrounds and can be a powerful force to make the world a better place.
In the run up to last year’s London Olympic and Paralympic Games I was fortunate to have been able to have participated in a number of activities to promote the Games and it was exciting to see how well everything went in London.
Here in Costa Rica our Embassy has supported the work of several non-governmental organisations that utilise sports to help underprivileged children get a shot at a better life. These projects make a difference in the lives of these children and fill you with a sense that our work is really making a difference in the community.
Last November I received an unexpected invitation from the Costa Rican National Olympic Committee to take a group of young Costa Rican athletes to a winter sports training camp in South Korea called the Dream Program. Luckily the timing of camp worked well with my plans for taking leave and I happily accepted the invitation.
Dream Program is an annual 10 day event that takes place in Pyeongchang South Korea, which will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The program invites young participants from developing nations that have few chances to experience winter sports including disabled athletes.
This January a total of 166 young participants from 40 countries took part. 2013 was the first time that Costa Rica had been invited by the program so our team from from Costa Rica was very excited to see what awaited us when we got there.
The Costa Rican athletes I escorted to South Korea were selected by the Costa Rican National Olympic Committee and consisted of Valeria Mata (champion online speed skater, who trained in short track speed skating), Leonardo Calvo (champion surfer, who received snowboarding classes) and Anthony Callow Monge (an ice hockey player who learned short track speed skating).
Anthony is also my youngest son, so it was with great pride I was able to accompany him on this once in a lifetime experience.
Apart from the excellent training we received the real highlight of the trip was interacting with so many people from different countries and the friendships that were made over the 10 days. The Korean hospitality was amazing and the participants had so much fun at the many side events including the winter festival, the ice hockey experience and the overnight trip to Seoul.
It was hard to leave at the end of the program and more than a few tears were shed at the closing ceremony. I was honoured to have been invited to perform a song at the ceremony with Dream Program volunteer Jo HyunMyung.
During the program the athletes were treated like they already were Olympians and staying at the Olympic Village built to house athletes during the 2018 Winter Games certainly contributed to the magical atmosphere.
I found the whole experience of the Dream Program trip highly uplifting and I look forward to using this positive energy in my role as Communications Officer in the Embassy. We have some interesting sports related activities coming up this year that I plan to write about in a future blog.
I will close by expressing a heartfelt thank you to the Dream Program and the people of South Korea for providing so much hope, inspiration and unforgettable winter sports memories to children from developing countries all over the world. I hope we can meet again someday.