The opening ceremony of the Olympics elicits all the oohs and aahs. From the parade featuring every nation to the spectacle of the host country’s cultural presentation to the lighting of the torch, the proceedings deliver a slew of historic moments before the games even begin.

These made-for-television moments can overshadow just how much coordination will go into the actual competitions at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo – especially with the pandemic still very much a concern.

Matthew Robinson, a professor of sport management who specializes in International Sport Management at the University of Delaware, can provide a behind-the-scenes look at the Summer Games' inner workings.

He has a unique perspective as he is currently the Director of the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (ICECP) and theInternational Coaching Apprenticeship in Basketball (ICAB).  

“Think of this: There are world championship level events in 28 sports held in one location fit into a two-week period. Coordination is required between sport governing organizations from National Olympic Committees to National Federations, to International Federations as well as the athletes themselves. Then you must factor in the cultural differences of the various individuals,” Robinson said. “It is truly an amazing undertaking of cooperation and communication.”

Robinson can also discuss:

  • How the U.S. model for preparing athletes differs from the rest of the world. “In most individual sports athletes train to secure a qualifying time for Olympic trials and, if they win a first or second place finish, they’re headed to the games,” Robinson said. “In another country some athletes may have been identified at age 12 as being a potential elite athlete like a swimmer and would be funded and coached within the governance of the swim federation and Olympic team for over a decade and then represent the country to the games.”

  • Athletes outside the spotlight of high-profile sports like basketball and gymnastics (such as fencing, water polo and Taekwondo).

  • The great work that is done with the funds generated by the Olympic movement. The Olympic Solidarity program are funds used from the broadcast contracts that are used to develop athletes, coaches and administrators. Sports have grown around the world as evidenced by the continued increase in the number of countries winning medals at the games.

  • The role of the sport performance teams – those behind the scenes who work with athletes to attain Olympic goals.