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Singleton’s second Olympic career

Behind the scenes: Singleton, centre, at the opening ceremony with Malav Shroff, left, Asian Sailing Association president, and Daichi Suzuki, the head of the Japan Swimming Association

Patrick Singleton has been fortunate to witness first-hand the power sport has to change lives during his second Olympic career as the treasurer of the World Olympians Association.

Singleton is more well-known to Bermudians for his exploits in the luge and skeleton as a three-times Winter Olympian, but during the past few years he has played a rewarding role behind the scenes for the WOA.

The 41-year-old is involved in a whole host of programmes and events in Rio, including last Thursday’s opening of the Olympians Reunion Centre at the iconic Club de Regatas do Flamengo in Lagoa.

The lavish event had several notable attendees such as Prince Albert II of Monaco, a WOA patron, Joël Bouzou, the WOA president and former modern pentathlon world champion, as well Frankie Fredericks, the former Namibian sprinter and four-times Olympic silver-medal winner.

Singleton, who was re-elected onto the executive board at the WOA General Assembly in Moscow in October last year, will also have the distinction of the being integrated into the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission while in Rio.

It is a far cry from his days hurtling head first down an icy track at speeds of 85 miles per hour on a piece of metal half the length of his body, but it is a challenge Singleton is enjoying almost as much as competing.

“We took an organisation that was in trouble and built it from the ground up,” said Singleton, who admits he was plucked from relative obscurity when invited to run for office in 2011.

“We rebuilt the finance department and moved all of our accounts, which were all over the world, and centralised them in Switzerland [where the IOC is based].

“We hired the same auditors the IOC uses and the same accountants that the IOC had used, who were adept in sports administration, and put our administrators inside the sports department at the IOC.

“There’s complete transparency as we decided the foundation we would be built on was good governance. We’ve also been integrated into the IOC, so while we’re an independent organisation we work closely with them.”

The WOA’s mission is to help spread the spirit of the Olympics in the countries of the 142 National Olympians Associations and create a range of benefits for Olympians, helping them transition to a life beyond competitive sport after retirement.

It also taps into the special capacity of Olympians to use the power of sport for the good of society, with Singleton integral in launching the WOA’s Target Ebola campaign in 2014.

“During the Ebola crisis in West Africa we could see that countries such as Uganda, Sierra Leone and Guinea couldn’t handle the crisis,” said Singleton, who was appointed as the chief operations officer at the Bermuda Broadcasting Company in December last year and also serves as the sports director at Coral Beach & Tennis Club.

“People were too scared to go out and the custom officers weren’t there to sign for the containers coming to the ports. You had all this aid sitting on the docks that couldn’t get to the hospitals.

“Who can you call on in times of severe crisis when the government can’t handle itself?

“Olympians are respected and well-known in their communities and sometimes they can cut across government bureaucracy.

“We went to these guys, particularly in Sierra Leone, and said ‘we will fund you and bring in the aid if you can get it into the hospitals and to the people who need it.

“It was an amazing response and we flew stuff on US military jets, shipped aid in, and raised funds with the help of Olympians like Usain Bolt.”

Singleton expects to spend much of his time in Rio at the Olympians Reunion Centre, which will act as a communal hub for Olympians to reunite with old colleagues, make new friends and come together for business meetings and networking.

“Olympians, both active and retired athletes, can come to the centre which is like a haven outside of the Athletes’ Village,” said Singleton, who competed in the luge at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and in 2002 in Utah, before switching to the skeleton for the Torino Games in 2006.

“They can come with their families, chill out and decompress away from their coaches, agents and the pressures of their sport.”

A struggling economy, government corruption and the Zika virus have generated unwanted publicity before the Olympics, but Singleton is confident the Rio Games will be a success and leave a positive legacy for Brazil’s second city.

“Obviously Brazil has huge financial problems and economic instability, and there will be challenges,” Singleton said. “However, I believe the infrastructure they are building is going to benefit the city.

“Yes, there will be challenges, but I think they will overcome them and people will soon forget about a lot of the stuff that has been talked about.”