Skip to content

It's all in the games: lessons learned at the Winter Olympics

Tuesday, May 29 2018 01:00am

Sport Management major Daniel Intrater gains experience on the world stage

By: Tracey Palmer

Lessons learned in the classroom are valuable, but when they’re put to the test in the real world, they tend to stick—especially if they’re tested on the world stage, like at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Just ask Daniel Intrater ’19.

“In class before I left, I was learning about national governing bodies and organizing committees, and how groups make a bid to host the Olympics,” says Daniel, a sport management major. “And then, a week later, I was in PyeongChang meeting all the people we talked about in class.”

Selected from hundreds of applicants, Daniel was one of twelve Team USA Hospitality House volunteers at the 2018 Winter Olympics. During the games, USA House hosted over 5,000 guests ranging from athletes and their families to sponsors and donors. Daniel had the chance to meet many of them, including Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, NBC’s Katie Couric, U.S. snowboarder Shaun White, and Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, the deceased American university student who fell into a coma while incarcerated in North Korea.

“My fourteen days in PyeongChang were the most amazing and unique experience of my life,” Daniel says. “Each day at the Winter Olympics I met someone from a new country.”

PyeongChang is just over 6,000 miles away from Ottawa Hills, Ohio, Daniel’s hometown. Before the trip, he’d never been away from his twin brother (who is also studying in the College of Business) for more than five days. Headed to a completely foreign country on his own, where he didn’t speak the language, Daniel knew he would have to adapt quickly. Fortunately, his College of Business professors stepped in with support, helping him prepare and make the most of his experience. Prior to his departure, Daniel researched the USA team including athletes and staff, and met with an OHIO geography professor to learn more about Korea.

As an educational component of his trip, Daniel wrote a blog called “Dispatches from Daniel” for his local hometown paper, the Village Voice of Ottawa Hills, highlighting life behind the cameras at the games. From the brutally cold weather and heightened security at every event to the delicious Korean pancakes, Daniel, a journalism minor, shared his insider experiences in words and photos.

When he wasn’t working, Daniel had the chance to be a fan at several events, including ski jumping, moguls, luge, men’s and women’s ice hockey, and short track speed skating. His favorite was the mixed team luge relay. “The speed of the race was unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” says Daniel, “and the fact that you were able to get within inches of the racers blew my mind.”

As a big sports fan, Daniel has attended many intense match-ups, but he says he’s never witnessed an environment as frenzied as the one in the Gangneung Ice Arena for the Olympic men’s hockey game—USA vs. Russia.

“Though this match wasn’t for a medal of any form, it was one of the most intense athletic events I’ve ever attended,” he says. “During warm ups and the first thirty minutes of the game, the only thing that could be heard were the chants of ‘U-S-A’ and ‘RU-SS-IA,’ as fans from both countries waved their flags higher and faster.”

Another aspect of the Olympics that can only be experienced in person, Daniel says, is “the game within in the game.” And that game is pin trading. “At the Olympics, pin trading is a way of life. Forget bitcoin,” he says. “Pins are the number one universal currency. There are people who come to the Olympics strictly to trade pins with people from around the world. Pins are more than just souvenirs. Depending on the type of pin, you may be able to trade it for an event ticket, meal receipt, or taxi fare.”

Daniel was reminded daily that the Olympic games have a way of connecting the world in a positive way that all other events are incapable of doing. When the North and South Korean athletes marched together at the opening ceremony, it was a historic moment. “When attending an Olympics, you are not only there for just the games themselves,” he says. “You are there to learn about and experience the host nation’s culture. But I also learned a lot about myself.”

One thing Daniel discovered about himself is that he loves to travel and learn. After his trip to Korea, he couldn’t wait to take advantage of other OHIO study trips. During spring break this year, he went to Manchester, England, to learn about local sports, language and culture.

When he’s on campus, Daniel is involved in Phi Kappa Tau, works as a community ambassador for Ohio University, and is a member in the Schey Sales Centre. As he enters his final year year in the College of Business, he is already considering his full-time employment options after graduation. Combining his certificate in law and professional leadership with his passion for sport management and journalism, Daniel’s future could include law school and a career in sports law or business…and, if he’s lucky, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020!