WWU talk focuses on significance of Olympic games

Published on Wed, Feb 3, 2010
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Ralph Vernacchia, director of the Center for Performance Excellence at Western Washington University and a professor in the Department of Physical Education, Health and Recreation, will speak about the legacy of the Olympic Games at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 9, in Arntzen Hall Room 100 on the WWU campus.

Vernacchia’s lecture will be an overview of the critical issues and upcoming events of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, in addition to a recap of the Olympic movement and a look at the future of the Olympic Games.
Vernacchia believes that two critical issues – sustainability and human performance – could affect the future of the games.

“Have the Olympic Games outgrown their purpose in the world?” Vernacchia asks. “Are they still about highlighting amateur athletes, or are they about professionals? Are they too costly? Have they moved from a model of nationalism to a model of propaganda?”

Vernacchia will speak of the low-tech heyday of human performance in the Olympics and will typify that by telling of the remarkable life and athleticism of Bellingham’s own Franz Gabl, a 1948 silver medalist in the downhill event. Gabl’s story is an inspiration for all those who engage in the healthy pursuit of athletic and personal excellence.

“Franz’s story epitomizes the best of Olympic athletes,” Vernacchia says. “He had to succeed in a truly challenging and adverse situation.”

Conscripted into the German army in World War II, Gabl was injured five times during the war fighting for a cause he detested. But in 1948 – the first Olympic Games held after the war – Gabl would stand on the podium for his native Austria.

For more information, call 360/650-3514 or email ralph.vernacchia@wwu.edu.