5 QUESTIONS WITH EDWARD J. LOPEZ: Embracing a passion for sports, healthy living

May 26, 2013 

What will you always remember about working at the 1996 Olympic Games?

The 17 months I worked for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, ACOG, is the most memorable experience of my lifetime. I was hired as the Venue Manager of the Olympic Road Courses. This included the Men’s and Women’s Marathon, Race Walks and Road Cycling Events, 9 gold medal events in all. I also did special projects for the Olympic Village and Track & Field.

A Venue Manager develops an integrated operational plan for all functional areas. This includes: City Government; Security with the CIA, Secret Service, FBI, local Police; course development & procurement with city officials & Governing Bodies of Track & Field and Cycling; Public Relations; Medical; logistics; TV; Language Services; Food & Beverage; and Volunteers, just to name a few functional areas.

Meeting people from all over the world and different cultures was awesome. If they didn’t speak English I spoke Spanish to them. It worked amazingly with the Italians, Brazilians, Portuguese and others. It was not so good with the eastern European and Asian countries.

Working on the Olympics you have to be 100 percent committed. That means all your thoughts, time, energy, focus and every breath revolve around the Olympics. Working with a group of people that have the same determination, focus and grit as you is a privilege. I worked over 100 hours a week during my entire Olympic tenure. I made friends from all sports and events from around the world.

I will never forget calling my mom telling her I was OK after the Olympic bombing and then going to the Olympic Stadium to help make sure it was secure.

Some of the perks included: meeting Mark Spitz (Swimming Legend) and escorting him to President (Bill) Clinton; meeting Carl Lewis and seeing his gold medal winning long jump; seeing Michael Johnson break the world record in the 200 meter dash with a time of 19.32; escorting Senator Bob Dole around the Olympic Stadium; Shaking hands with Muhammad Ali before the Opening Ceremonies; giving a ride to Dolph Lundgren, Drago from Rocky IV & the US Pentathlon Coach; seeing the USA Basketball Dream in the Olympic Village; and, seeing the Queen of England from a short distance.

I did manage to have a picture taken with Mark Spitz, Dolph Lundgren and Carl Lewis. That was cool. These are only a few of the Olympic memories that I will fondly remember the rest of my life.

Barefoot running and minimalist-type running shoes have made recent headlines. Do you recommend these techniques?

Barefoot running is not something I would recommend for training. There are too many rocks, pieces of broken glass, nails, and, other debris on the roads. However, barefoot running drills for track and cross country runners on a well-groomed football field or on an all-weather track can improve your running form and the strength of your intrinsic foot muscles and balance. You should seek a professional coach to assist you with these drills.

Minimalist running shoes have become very popular. The traditional running shoe has an elevated heel, is bulky and can encourage a heavy heel strike. This can lead to some of the most common running injuries.

A minimalist running shoe is light weight, has lower heel height and even a negative heel height that is thought to encourage a more natural running stride. This running stride is a quick shorter stride with a forefoot strike. However, you have to train yourself to run this way.

When fatigued you will naturally go in to your old habits. I have seen runners converting to a minimalist shoe get injured. The most common cause of injury in these runners is not taking enough time to transition to a minimalist shoe and learn the proper running form. There are also different levels of minimalist shoes and getting in to the right type can take time.

Not everyone is designed to run with minimalist shoes and not everyone in a traditional running shoe gets injured. Some runners have structural deformities or limitations that may need a more traditional shoe and some runners benefit from custom molded orthotics.

If you have any medical questions you should see a running sports medical professional to assure you are in the right type of shoe for you.

As a past president of the Columbus Roadrunners, what did you learn from preparing Columbus' application to become a Runner Friendly Community?

I learned that the Columbus Roadrunners are not the only organization in Columbus promoting health and fitness in the Columbus Community. Mayor Tomlinson has proclaimed Columbus a “Live Healthy City”. The City government is looking to expand the RiverWalk and connect it to the Marina in the next 18 months and the Rail to Trails will be expanded to go around the Columbus with bike lanes to allow transportation through town.

Columbus Regional Hospital has a foundation to “Live Healthy Columbus” with a chapter called “Strong4Life” to fight childhood obesity. Strong4Life sponsors the Columbus Roadrunners “Kids Run Columbus Program”. The Lockwood Sports Foundation promotes health and fitness through producing the Soldier Marathon and the Kids Soldier Marathon; supporting the Columbus Roadrunners and other local events.

I also learned that there are people that want to run and exercise but don’t know how to get started. The Columbus Roadrunners' “Couch to 5K” program is our most popular program and nearly 2,000 people have participated in the program in the last 4 years.

We need to reach out to find and educate these people looking to start exercising so they can improve their lives.

You attended your first Super Bowl this year. Did the experience meet your expectations?

My pre-game and post-game Super Bowl Experience was awesome. As a 49er Faithful going to New Orleans for my first Super Bowl was a NFL fan’s dream. The NFL experience, food, music and parties were great. The Super Bowl Game itself was an eye opening experience for me for a totally unexpected reason.

If you are looking for a hardcore passionate game, the Super Bowl is not it. Over half the fans there were corporate guests and had no interest in either team. The playoff games are full of fan passion but the Super Bowl is not. At the NFC Championship game in Atlanta I know I had hearing loss due to the yelling of the Falcon fans when the 49ers had the ball. I bought ear plugs to wear at the Super Bowl but I did not need them.

I had great seats at the 35 yard line 21 rows up from the field. In front me I had the glitz and glamour of the Super Bowl and Beyonce to perform at halftime.

At kick-off the four rows immediately behind me were completely empty. Midway through the first quarter the seats were filling up mostly with little kids. I looked at their shirts and they read “Sandy Hook Elementary”. They had ribbons on their shirts and they were on the field singing with Jennifer Hudson before the kickoff. Seeing the kids that were terrorized by a gunman in December brought tears to my eyes.

They were so small, defenseless, and no longer innocent. These kids became real to me. They were no longer just a sad news story. Randomly, throughout the game I would look back at the kids and I would see kids and parents crying. I don’t know what flashbacks they were having and I would never ask. This gave me a hard dose of reality. When the power went out we were on the dark side of the stadium.

I turned around and spoke to kids, parents and teachers. I could see the pain in their eyes. I even hugged a few parents and kids. It was then that I put everything in my life perspective. I realized that the Super Bowl was just a game. I realized that whether the 49ers win or lose that it would have no impact on life. Life would still be good either way. So when the 49ers lost it was OK.

If you had asked me that before the game I would have never said that. Those kids from Sandy Hook Elementary will never know this but whenever, I start to lose perspective on things in life I will go back to Super Bowl with my moment with them. I know that the kids from Sandy Hook Elementary will always help me keep things in life in perspective and for that I will always be grateful to them.

What's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

The best-kept secret is that Columbus is growing in facets to improve the quality of life of its residents and the surrounding area counties. About three years ago Columbus was named as one of the best places to raise a family. The changes I have seen in Columbus in the 14 years I have been here have been remarkable.

Under the leadership of the community leaders, responsible corporate citizens, and community organizations all facets of Education, health and community living are improving by leaps and bounds. Columbus will be, if its not already, the best city in Georgia to live in. We have a progressive mayor, an outstanding Chamber of Commerce, Fort Benning and Aflac and other outstanding corporate citizens. Columbus has a lot to be proud of and I know the best is yet to come.

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