Going Behind-the-Scenes at the Rio Olympics
By Whitney Stewart, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 2015-16 National Youth of the Year
"And Shawn Johnson takes home the gold for USA Gymnastics!" Those were the words my heart clung to as I, then an 11-year-old girl, watched from my family’s living room as my favorite gymnast stood tall atop the podium in Beijing in the summer of 2008. I have always reserved a special reverence and excitement for the Olympics. After all, it is during the Olympics that the world pauses briefly, setting feuds and tensions aside, to celebrate the pinnacle of human athletic achievement.
It is for that reason, and so many more, that I am excited to have the chance to witness the production of the 2016 Olympic Games from behind the scenes in Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to Comcast and NBC Sports Champions, the pro-social initiative of NBC Sports Group, I will in the next few days get a tour of the production compound at the Olympic swimming venue, tour the set of TODAY in Rio, visit Olympic Park as well as conduct interviews in the International Broadcast Center.
In June, it was announced at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Great Futures Gala in New York City that I would be blessed with the opportunity to witness the Games first-hand, as part of Comcast’s decade-plus support of Boys & Girls Clubs. At that moment, I thought back to when I sat in my living room with my family, mesmerized by the seemingly effortless perfection of Johnson’s balance beam routine. I reflected on the pride I felt as I watched Serena and Venus Williams emerge victorious in the women’s doubles tennis competition, and how I felt I derived strength from witnessing the power of Michael Phelps as he tore through the pool, on the screen before me.
Most importantly, though, I reflected on the stories of athletes of varying flags and creeds who have triumphed in the face of tremendous adversity. As the 2015-16 National Youth of the Year for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, I have the privilege of representing kids who, every day, defy the odds stacked against them to lead, succeed, and inspire. The Olympics is a testament that with concentrated effort, tenacity, and a CHANCE, a child with a dream can grow up to be great.
So, thank you Comcast and NBC Sports for the perfect capstone to a whirlwind year serving as Youth of the Year. A young woman from a humble background, traveling to speak with leaders like President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch has bolstered my commitment to servant leadership and desire to pursue a career with an intersection between business, law, and public service. Experiencing the Games of the XXXI Olympiad first hand will undoubtedly deepen my conviction that in life, like Shawn Johnson in Beijing, we all have the opportunity to stand tall, champions in our own right.
Please follow my journey in Rio using #WhitGoesToRio and tuning into the @myclubmylife Snapchat!