Anita DeFrantz has been to her fair share of Olympic Games, both as an athlete and as an ambassador. Now that she’s in Rio, there’s one thing that stands out above all else:
“There is a lot of security,” the 1976 bronze medalist and long-time IOC member said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It was kind of like it was in ’76. This is after the Games in Munich with the terrible tragedy there of athletes being taken hostage and ultimately meeting their demise, but let’s not talk about that. But we had barbed wire and people in their fatigues and with machine guns and other equipment nearby. We know they’re there to protect the athletes and protect people. There are clearly a good number of people who are there to do just that, and I don’t think it gets in the way of the athletes doing their thing. I think it’s understood that it’s to make sure that they’re safe. And I think that they have a chance to experience the feel of the Olympic movement as well and they’re kind of playing their role in making sure that the Games are successful.”
The problems in Rio – from Zika to violence to pollution to corruption – have been well-documented. DeFrantz, however, doesn’t seem overly concerned.
“I know that the safest place in the world – well, maybe the Vatican and the White House might be safer – is right here in Rio,” she said. “Yes, it’s a big city and probably someone might get mugged, but that’s probably because you’re doing something that’s not thoughtful, you’re not being fair to the city, and if you stay within the Olympic envelope, you’re going to be just fine.”
DeFrantz, the former captain of the U.S. women’s rowing team, has seen the Olympics change a great deal over the last 40 years, especially in terms of gender equality.
“Well, the first and immense change is the number of women competing,” said DeFrantz, 63. “Back in 1976, we were at 1,060 out of 6,070 – so (less than a quarter) of the athletes at the Games. And in fact, the women were housed in one housing block and the men were in the rest of it. That wasn’t completely comfortable. We, of course, all had access to food 24 hours (a day), which was a good thing. They will have that here. But it seemed artificial to me. I’m really proud to say when the games were in Los Angeles (in 1984), I was able to make that nonsense go away. We simply had enough beds for every delegation and it was up to the national olympic committees themselves to decide who slept in what beds. I thought that was a much smarter way to go about things.”