Bubka and Phillip Mooney, Coca-Cola’s archivist, examine the torch from Beijing that is now part of the exhibit at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. (ATR)
Olympian Sergey Bubka returned to Atlanta for the first time since destroying an Achilles tendon in the 1996 Olympics, insisting his memories of the Games are positive.
“I have great memories. I had an injury. I was not able to perform and I left the stadium broken,” he said about his inability to finish the pole vault competition. Bubka, still the world record holder in the pole vault, won gold at the Seoul Olympics but was never able to medal again at the Games, retiring after Sydney in 2000.
“But I have fantastic memories, because it is the Olympics. Every Olympics is unique, with memories of being with other athletes who competed."
“It is a great feeling to be back, especially for this special event,” remarked Bubka, referring to the reason for his Atlanta visit, installing a torch from the Beijing Olympic torch relay at the World of Coca-Cola. The downtown Atlanta attraction includes an Olympics collection. The Beijing torch joins six others in the display, all from Olympic torch relays in which Coke was a sponsor.
“The torch is an incredible strong symbol,” he told Around the Rings. “I would go back to 2004 when the torch relay [came] to my home country, Ukraine, a very sportive country.
“It’s unbelievable. Millions and millions of people, kids on the street, they are running together. They want to touch it. To be a part. It’s very difficult to find something that would replace the torch,” Bubka remarked.
He described the same sort of experience
Bubka tries to stretch in Atlanta in 1996 with the aid of his pole vaulting brother Vassily. Bubka never made a single try in Atlanta due to rupturing his Achilles tendon. (Getty Images)
for his run with the Olympic torch in Beijing on the eve of the Games.
“You could see the incredible enthusiasm and inspiration of the people,” he recalled.
Bubka also remembers Atlanta as the place where he was elected as a member of the IOC Athletes Commission, the first Games where athletes voted for members of the group. Four years later, the IOC changed its rules to include Bubka and other members of the Athletes Commission as IOC members for the length of their class=caption>
Bubka calls being an IOC member “an unbelievable dream."
on the commission.
Bubka became the first athlete to chair the commission and served as a member of the IOC Executive Board until this year. He was re-elected to the IOC this year in his role as president of the Ukraine Olympic Committee. He is head of the IOC commission supervising the inaugural Youth Olympic Games set for Singapore in 2010 and has also served as a member of disciplinary commissions involving athletes accused of doping violations in the Olympic Games.
He’ll turn 48 in December, young enough to be one of the names to be considered as a prospective candidate to become IOC president one day. Even more is said of his chances to become IAAF president in 2011, where he is currently serving as senior vice president. But Bubka says his ambitions for now are modest.
“I dreamed to be involved with sport after my career. Today I am IOC member, which is unbelievable dream. I am doing my job, and I love sport, this is my life. I am happy where I am today."
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