Brian Lynam from Calgary and skiing out of Panorama, BC is acting as start referee for the Beijing Olympics organizing committee. A dedicated ski racing volunteer with more than 30 years of experience, he’s grateful to be among the last people to send off the athletes en route to the podium.

When you tune in to watch alpine events at the 2022 Olympics, you may catch a glimpse of fellow Canadian Brian Lynam in the start hut. The retired energy industry engineer from Calgary won’t be one of the racers sporting a speed suit about to blaze down the course! Rather, you’ll find him proudly sporting his “Great Wall Grey” volunteer uniform and acting as start referee for the alpine Olympic events – supporting the races as one of only two Canadians part of the race organizing committee (ROC) for the Beijing Games.

Taking part in his second Olympics as a member of the ROC, Lynam, who remains (mostly!) impartial in his referee role, hopes this time around, his lucky toonie will bring gold to Canada.

How did you land this opportunity for the Beijing Games? 

As a FIS TD, I was selected as the Canadian representative on the men’s alpine events Jury for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. I have several years of experience as Chief of Race and Race Chairman at the Lake Louise World Cup and many years supporting other events in many roles. In PyeongChang, I was the Start Referee for all Men’s events. The FIS Race Directors asked me to return for the Beijing test events and for the Olympics. Both test events were canceled due to Covid, so this is my first time in China. Lots to learn.

What will be your role at these Games? 

I am scheduled to be the Start Referee for the speed events for the men’s and women’s events. With Covid lurking, I am happy to assist wherever necessary. I am supporting the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee, so I wear the same gear as their volunteers. My ski suit colour is referred to as Great Wall Grey.

What is your ultimate objective in your role? 

I want to get all athletes down safely. That is my goal at every event.

Beyond Olympics, what are other notable events you’ve been involved with in an official capacity? 

I love my time at the Lake Louise World Cup. It is a great community of like-minded supporters of alpine skiing in Canada. I also like assisting at my grandchildren’s skiing events. It’s an opportunity to provide mentorship those learning to support ski racing and to see the little ones challenge themselves.

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? 

Seeing Canadians on the podium!

What are some of the unknowns or more challenging elements you are preparing for at the Games

The lead up to the Games was stressful. Personally, I contracted Covid in early January and that situation jeopardized my attendance at these games. I followed the Games’ Playbook protocols and recovered in time to travel here. Unfortunately, I had to spend the first four days of my time in Beijing in full isolation. I am still tested twice a day, but I am good to go for all the events.

What do you expect will be different and unlike anything else you’ve been part of in the past? 

Obviously, Covid has affected planning efforts and every element of the operations of the Games. We also have a brand-new venue that has not been able to host test events in a nation not known for alpine ski racing.

It’s been great to see how these Games have brought together support from many nations including Canada to make them a success. In the downhill, the training runs aren’t just for the athletes. It’s for everyone associated with the event. Each day we learn a bit more to ensure a safe and successful race day. It sets the tone for the remainder of the events here as well.

Just between us (!), do you get more excited when Canadian athletes ski down the course? 

In the start gate as start referee, I want to be the last one to give them a fist bump before they race. But I know they are very focused and don’t need any distractions. However, I might hold my breath until they get to the bottom!

Do you have any special superstitions or good luck charm you’ve brought along with you to China? 

There is a toonie buried in the snow at the start gate! I did the same thing in PyeongChang.

What is your word of advice for anyone hoping to one day land such a role at Games? 

To get to this level is a commitment it takes time, and it takes time away from other things like family. Sure, it can be stressful at times but do it because you enjoy it. Support races at many levels, seek out mentors and be a mentor. I started out as a gate judge and that was over 30 years ago.

What is one thing you’d wish people knew about your role? 

As a FIS TD, there is the responsibility to ensure the safe and fair running of every event. As a Start Referee, you direct the flow of the race with the support of the Jury. In many ways, a juvenile race is like a World Cup event. More bells and whistles but the structure is the same.

What’s next after Beijing? 

I head back to Panorama after the Games to help at the World Junior Alpine Ski Championships starting on March 1. It will be a very exciting time for alpine ski racing in Canada.

Your passionate and dedication over all these years are inspiring! What keeps you so engaged in our sport? 

I am fortunate to have the time, supported by my family, to engage as a Senior Official or even as a Hand Timer. I enjoy working with like-minded supporters of our sport. Being able to participate in international events is a bit of the icing on the cake.


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