The Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista is one of only three in the country; the other two are located in Lake Placid, NY and Colorado Springs, CO. Opened in 1995, the facility is triple the size of the other two covering 150-acres, with an additional 5-acres leased from the city for a boat house.
“The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”
About 70 athletes live here year round, including the 6 male and 6 female archers as well as David Wagner, the top wheelchair chair tennis player. Because the Olympic Training Center has more handicap accessibility than the other two facilities, Chula Vista has become a hub for paralympic athletes.
A Brief Bit About The Paralympic Games
The first competition for wheelchair athletes was held in 1948 in England, involving 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in an archery competition. The first official Paralympic Games was held in Rome in 1960 and the Paralympic Games expanded from only wheelchair athletes to include athletes with different disabilities in 1976. The international Paralympic Committee was founded in 1989 to act as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement, which hosts 24 sports.
The U.S. Olympic Committee
In the courtyard by the main building, 38 flag poles represent the entities that exist underneath the umbrella of the U.S. Olympic Committee. While the training facility is run by the U.S. Olympic Committee, the many entities have their own athletes, employees, coaches, sponsors and funding.
The Olympic Committee is not sponsored by federal money, so they themselves rely on private donors. To raise money, they often host teams from around the world. Recently they have hosted a Paralympic Soccer Camp and invited university teams, such as the Stanford rowing team to train here.
Along the 1 mile walking path (always open to the public), the U.S. Olympic Committee also sold the trees to different donors and put up plaques in their honor.
The Courtyard Torch
Free Tours begin at the main Olympic Training Center building every Saturday at 10 a.m. The tours are run by volunteers and here’s an insider’s tip: volunteers tend to be at the training center everyday. If you go to the gift shop, ask and see if a volunteer might be available while you are there.
The complex is so vast that often the tour guides take you on golf carts to visit the many venues.
The courtyard has a torch that burns 100 days prior to each Olympic game and then during the games. Interpretive plaques also give some interesting facts, like this one: “Olympic medals must be at least 60 millimeters in diameter and at least three millimeters thick. Gold and silver medals must be made of 92.5 percent pure silver; the gold medals must be made with at least six grams of gold. The design of the medals is the responsibility of the host city’s organizing committee.”
The tour includes a visit to the soccer field, the field hockey arena and track & field where, at any given time, you’ll watch athletes practice their shot-put, discus, hammer and javelin.
The sand volleyball court cost about $1 million to create and is made of custom-cut sand so that it won’t stick to an athlete’s skin.
AT&T donated two tent buildings which are used as a weight room and a recreation center with TVs, books, pool and Wifi. In exchange, AT&T has some of their cell towers on the property.
The cafeteria gets the highest traffic. It comes replete with a sports nutritionist who interviews the athletes and helps them reach their goals. Close by, there’s also a Mind & Body Center, where athletes can work with physical therapists, psychologists and get biometric feedback.
The reservoir at the back of the Olympic Training Center is shared by the athletes and the community. A few days out of the week, only rowers are allowed.
Easton, the sporting equipment company, donated the money for what in the next few months will become a premier indoor archery facility. Thanks to the perfect weather and nice breeze (it’s crucial that archery competitors train with wind), archery Olympians have established themselves at this training center. The outdoor archery range also has hosted many major competitions.
Old & New Olympic Sports
Baseball and softball were dropped from the Olympics recently while men and women’s rugby was voted in. As a consequence, the Olympic Training Center has re-purposed the softball field into rugby and now the top rugby players train here.
BMX only became an Olympic sport in 2008. The facility now has three tracks, one community track, one that copies the Beijing track, one that copies the London track. Once the specs are out for the Rio de Janiero track (where the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held), the Beijing track will be repurposed to look exactly like the upcoming track in Brazil.
Stay tune for more about BMX, including the Olympic Training Center’s Hall of Fame and interview with Olympian Tyler Brown!
Address: 2800 Olympic Parkway, Chula Vista, CA 91915-6000