An Exemplary Leader
>>Special Olympics USA National Games
Alumni Days 2006
The reigning queen of concrete
If it’s true that “the devil is in the details,” then there’s no doubt that the devil is in Liz Kurt.
Kurt was the coordinator of games logistics for the first-ever Special Olympics USA National Games, and there was no end to the details large and small that went into the planning and execution of the event.
Are there too many people waiting for shuttle buses at Beyer Hall? Kurt calls for additional shuttles. Why have the volunteers’ sack lunches not arrived at Lied Rec Center? Kurt calls catering to check on the delivery status. There’s an unexpected outbreak of stomach flu among the athletes. Kurt wrangles $3,000 worth of hand sanitizer to be delivered to every sport and dining venue. The athletes are using the hand sanitizer as hair gel. Oops, Kurt orders signs to be attached to each bottle. The track venue is out of water. Kurt calls for backup. A VIP needs a driver. Kurt will get somebody on that right away. Something very large and heavy needs to be moved from THERE to HERE. Kurt sends in the Iowa National Guard.
For 10 days in early July, Liz Kurt was commander in chief of the Operations Center for the National Games, headquartered on the second floor of the Memorial Union. It was a job for which she prepared for 13 months since being hired as games logistics coordinator and taking a year’s leave of absence from her “real” job as the director of new student programs in the ISU Office of Admissions.
She says it sometimes got pretty hairy there in the Ops Center, which was open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.
“It ebbed and flowed a lot,” Kurt says. “I got out of there for maybe an hour during the whole week. You’d say, ‘Oh, wow, it’s been quiet for 20 minutes, I think I’ll go out,’ and you’d get two feet down the hallway and it’s like, ‘Liz, you’re being paged.’”
A few days after the Games ended, Kurt pronounced the event “spectacular.” She said the participants – the athletes, visitors, family members – were “blown away” by the hospitality of Ames and the helpfulness of the volunteers.
“We got the most compliments from the coaches and the athletes that our volunteers were wonderful,” she said. “They were the front line. And as we said when we were planning this, we couldn’t do it without the volunteers.”
Kurt said that heads of state delegations who were initially wary of the planning committee’s ability to feed the athletes and efficiently transport them to the venues were “just singing our praises” after a couple of days. Everything ran like clockwork, she said. “They saw how folks in Ames could get the job done.”
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About the Writer | Carole Gieseke is the editor of VISIONS magazine.