15 Minutes: Olympic experience from rink manager
John Bevilaqua is the new manager of the Heavenly Village Ice Rink. He hails from Atlanta and has been involved in organizing four Olympic games. An avid environmentalist, he was once on the board of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Q: What did you do for the Olympics?
A: The real story starts before the Olympics. I was the national sports manager for Coca Cola Co. Then Coke became a big sponsor of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. I became the Olympic project director for Coca Cola.
I got to know Peter Uberoff and a lot of people that work for him and they invited me to come out to L.A. and work for the Olympic Committee. By the time the games ended in August of 1984, I was vice president of communications for the committee.
Q: So this isn’t your first stint in California?
A: I fell in love with Southern California. I still have great friends there. I would have never gone back to Atlanta if it weren’t for my family.
When I returned to Atlanta, I started my own agency. We did big sporting events marketing. The city of Barcelona was my first client, and another client was Ted Turner and the Goodwill Games in Moscow. I was heavily involved in the ’92 Olympics, the ’94 Olympics and the Olympic bid for Atlanta. I’ve been to 10 Olympic Games.
Q: What sparked your interest in the games?
A: I strongly believe in the Olympic ideals: of bringing young men and women together from countries all over the world in a spirit of friendly and peaceful competition. The Greeks stopped wars to have the Olympics. My first sport was track and field. When I was in 5th grade I was in the Junior Olympics. That’s when I think I fell in love with the games. I competed in track until I was 36 years old.
And all my life I’ve had an international influence and I’ve always been an adventuresome free-spirited person that wanted to do everything possible. My grandfather spoke nine languages; he was born in Italy. My grandmother spoke five languages; she was from Hungary. And my father was born in Europe.
Q: What’s something people might not know about you?
A: The only continent I haven’t been to is Africa. I’ve been to 75 countries. I’m a father, SCUBA diver, amatuer photographer and musician. And I’m still a jock.
Q: What has impacted you most from your travels?
A: When I was in Russia in the mid-’80s, on my way there I went through West Berlin and walked through Checkpoint Charlie to East Berlin. It’s gone now. You would step into a country that’s 40 years behind what’s on the other side. In Russia, their Disney World is called the Park of Economic Achievement.
They had it broken down into metallurgy, aerospace and agriculture. I got up on a knoll and sat up on it in this park for three hours and took 300 photographs.
When I got back to the states and developed them, I noticed the only people smiling in the photographs were the kids. It was a very bleak society. When the wall came down I felt like it was a great tribute to the power of communication, TV in particular. The people in the Soviet Union realized what it was like on the other side of the wall and said, “We don’t want this anymore.”
Q: Do you have a guiding principle in life?
A: I have two: always tell the truth. Always be honest with yourself and with others. It might be more painful in the short term, but in the long term it’s a better way to live your life. That’s a lesson I’ve learned later in life. Second: Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Be the best you can be, be first-class in what you can do. If you do things with character, honesty and integrity, life is rich. You will be surrounded by wonderful people.
Q: How’s it going with the rink?
A: It’s going great. We are getting a lot of kids out here, which is great to see. And we are already looking at how to make improvements here for next year.
Q: What happens when it rains?
A: That’s unfortunately the only thing that hurts us. People will skate in the snow, but not in rain.
Q: What are the hours?
A: We are open seven days a week. It’s $15 for adults, $10 for kids, including skates, for 90 minutes of skating. We are open noon until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Lessons are available. We also do private parties.
Q: What’s the best cure for a sore bum?
A: Ah, a good hot tub. But we’ve had surprisingly few injuries here.
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