Working behind the scenes at the 2006 Winter Olympics

This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on Feb. 11, 2006.

FHS grad has bird’s eye view of Torino

By Ed Odeven
Sports editor

Ex-Flagstaff resident Susan Goldsmith is a busy lady. Not that she’s complaining, though. She is the U.S. Olympic Committee’s director of partnership marketing and she’s in Turin (yes, Torino, is the what the locals say), Italy, for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Even so, Goldsmith (nee Gaylord) took time out of her hectic schedule — she’s responsible for strategic marketing, contact management, relationship marketing (sounds time-consuming, eh?) and something known as overall client servicing — to answer a long list of questions sent by e-mail from the Daily Sun sports desk.

Of course, the first thing I wanted to know was this: What’s it like to be in Turin? She was asked to describe the mood of those working there and living there. (She arrived in Turin on Feb. 2 and will stay until March 1. Her husband and their 11-month-old daughter are in Turin, too.)

In an e-mail sent Saturday afternoon (Italian time) Goldsmith described the buildup to the Opening Ceremonies this way:

“It is busy with last-minute preparations, dressing the town up with banners, signs, painting, finishing construction, planting flowers and completing the last-minute options. For those involved with the Games it is a bit crazy, stressful, lots of excitement, and for those that live here, the Olympic fever has just started to spread with the Torch coming through town and the Opening Ceremonies.”

Goldsmith, a 1986 graduate of Flagstaff High School, has seen her job increase in importance and, you guessed it, her overall number of responsibilities for the 17 days of the 2006 Torino Games.

Or as she put it: “My job during the Games is much more urgent. … Me and my team continue to support our sponsors program, promotions and overall marketing activities. We also focus on conducting business meetings and hospitality as well.”

Goldsmith is no stranger to the Olympics. The Torino Games are the seventh Olympics she’s attended. She went to the 1992 Albertville Winter Games and the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games as a fan, rooting for her brother, Bill, who competed as an alpine skier for Great Britain in both Olympiads, though she was a U.S. Ski Team employee at the time. (Bill and Susan have dual citizenship, American and British; they lived in England when their father, Dr. Bill Gaylord, an orthodontist, was in the military.)

Since 2000, Gaylord has been employed by the USOC. This job has given her the privilege of traveling all over the world — to Sydney for the 2000 Summer Games, to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Games (the elder Bill Gaylord served as an assistant head ski-gate judge for slalom events during the Salt Lake City Games), to Athens for the 2004 Summer Games and, now, to Torino.

These experiences have given her a wealth of unforgettable memories, including:

“(In 1992), watching my brother compete and the friendships I made,” she said.

“(In 1994), outside of the thrill of having my brother compete once again, it was the overall feeling of Lillehammer and sledding and ‘sparks’ down the icy streets (and) the crazy Norwegians.

“(In 2000), … beach volleyball was a magical venue. There was a viral type of excitement as you approached the venue and it was contagious beyond the conclusion of the event. People cheering, dancing and having a great time.

“(In 2002), I was so involved in every aspect that to see it all happen was tremendous.

“(In 2004), Michael Phelps at swimming the first night. I was able to attend the event and what a night it was to see the beginning of his domination in swimming.”

“(In Turin), so far my highlight is having a young man I watched growing up competing in his first Olympics: Anders Johnson, a ski jumper from Park City (Utah), my old home.”

So how does a busy boss actually find time to be an Olympic spectator? Call it a juggling act, like file your taxes and making a wedding cake on the same afternoon.

“I usually try to see a couple of events at each Games,” Goldsmith revealed. “Ski jumping to watch Anders and short track are on my short list. I am a big fan of short track after the SLC Games. … It is my fantastic spectator sport.”

When she’s not working or rooting for her favorite Olympians, Goldsmith is taking in the sights and sounds and smells of Torino.

Here’s, in part, how she described the city to me:

“(It is) a beautiful historic city from the Roman times which is quite elegant: cobblestone streets, long colonnade sidewalks, huge piazzas, cafes, frescoes painted in courtyards. The food is fantastic, wonderful coffee, hot chocolate is a specialty like a dark chocolate pudding. Other than the historic section you are in a big city, bustling with traffic, businesses — pretty typical industrial European city.”