Mills: IOC voters face difficult choice for 2016 Olympic bid


Running legend Billy Mills, a tireless ambassador for the Olympic movement and one of the world’s greatest motivational speakers, took time out of his busy schedule to offer his thoughts on the 2016 Summer Olympics bid.

And now, after months of anticipation, Mills is intrigued by what will happen on Friday, when the IOC will make this monumental decision in Copenhagen.

Tokyo, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid are the finalists. Like many others, he considers it a down-to-the-wire race.

Mills, the gold medalist in the men’s 10,000-meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, feels the fact that a South American nation has never hosted a Summer Olympiad could be a big factor in the IOC’s decision.

“Because of my belief that global unity through the dignity, the character and the beauty of global diversity, not only represents the theme of the Olympic Games, but more important, represents the future of mankind, I feel the Rio de Janeiro presentation will subconsciously be of extra special interest to the IOC’s selection committee,” Mills told The Japan Times.

In addition, the 71-year-old Mills complimented the way Tokyo has prepared its bid.

“The mere fact that the final four candidate cities are still so close at this date, just hours before the decision, magnifies the impression that Tokyo seems to have made a great presentation with excellent planning for its bid,” he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama, a powerful orator, adds an element of prestige as well as a commanding presence to the festivities in Copenhagen. Mills, for one, welcomes the president’s visit to Denmark.

“I personally feel because of President Obama’s decision to be in Copenhagen for the selection process it will have a major impact on the selection committee’s direction, confidence and clarity in choosing the city with the best planning and presentation to host the 2016 Olympic Games.”

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A 1984 inductee into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, Mills resides near Sacramento, Calif. He previously worked as and insurance salesman, but has been retired for the past 15 years from that profession. Since then, he’s been actively involved in Running Strong for American Indian Youth and other charitable causes.

In a story published last week in The Volante, the University of South Dakota’s student newspaper, it was noted that Mills has traveled extensively over the past 13 years, spending “300 or more days a year on the road.”

Mills told the newspaper he doesn’t expect to be traveling this extensively in the future.

Interestingly enough, Mills admitted he has often revisited his riveting victory in the Tokyo Olympics with joy, enjoying watching the race on tape time and time again.

“Every time I have an opportunity to view (the video), I truly felt as if I had wings on my feet,” he was quoted as saying.

This reporter listened to Mills give a speech five summers ago, quickly jotting down a number of motivational words that he said, including this memorable passage:

“The secret is to find that passion, find that dream. To find the dream, you’ve got to look beyond the anger, the hurt, and maybe the hate, maybe racism, maybe self-pity, because all of those emotions destroy.

“You look deeper, and way down deeper is where the dreams lie. It’s the dream and the pursuit of that dream that heals you.”

Mills’ gold medal-winning performance in the 10,000, a remarkable, dramatic race in Tokyo, has been called one of the greatest Olympic achievements ever. And now he, too, can only wonder whether Tokyo will have a chance to host a second Summer Olympics 52 years after its first one.

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Editor’s note: The writer first met Billy Mills in 2004 in Flagstaff, Ariz., when he was working for the Arizona Daily Sun’s sports department. At that time, Mills said he had visited 87 nations.