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Chair of Ohio University’s Sports Administration Department returns to Athens from the 2016 Paralympics

Wednesday, October 12 2016 12:00am

Dr. Norm O’Reilly shares his experience at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

By Magda Stepien

Dr. Norm O’Reilly, chair of the Department of Sports Administration and the Richard P. and Joan S. Fox professor of management in the College of Business, had the privilege of attending the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this past September. O’Reilly had been a part of the Paralympic movement for nearly 20 years – working with a number of Paralympic sport federations while a Program Officer at Sport Canada and then volunteering with the Canadian Paralympic Committee – before being awarded the role of Canada’s Assistant Chef de Mission about 18 months ago. In this role, he served alongside Canada’s five-time wheelchair racing Paralympian and Chef de Mission Chantal Petitclerc.

“It was an honor to be chosen as the Assistant Chef de Mission and be able to represent my home country of Canada in such a significant role,” O’Reilly said. 

Becoming Assistant Chef de Mission came with many new roles and a greater level of influence. O’Reilly previously worked on the Paralympic and Olympic Games mission staff and has attended Games as a researcher. This year, O’Reilly experienced the Games as the face of Team Canada. Leading up to the games, O’Reilly and Petitclerc dealt with pre-Games preparation and athlete support, while also appearing as the team’s spokespersons. Once in Rio, they were able to experience the games as VIPs.

“It was extraordinary to see the games up close and be a part of all of the ceremonies,” said O’Reilly. “I was able to take in the whole experience and see how these games are more than just sport and actually have significant power to change people’s lives.”

O’Reilly enjoyed seeing and hearing the stories behind the Paralympians; each athlete has a story to tell and there is purpose for them to participate that goes beyond the actual sport. For many of these athletes, the games are a chance for them to have a regular life and move past their difficulties. 

Since O’Reilly had previous experience within the Paralympic realm, he knew the commitment these athletes have to their sport. Many people find their first Paralympic games shocking, but he wants people to realize that the games are a chance for these athletes to showcase their talents just like any other Olympian.

Dr. O’Reilly has now returned to Athens with an unparalleled experience. He wants the sports administration students to see that gaining experience in all aspects of sports is extremely important. Two major takeaways for O’Reilly were the growth in sponsorships for the Paralympics and the increase in social media use.

O’Reilly is extremely passionate about the Paralympic games and the power sports. He plans to stay engaged with the Paralympics and encourages students to go out and volunteer to be a part of the games.

“The more you are engaged, the more credible you are and can only add to your ability to provide value and opportunities to our students!” said O’Reilly.