Word that Idaho would host the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games was welcome news to Jim and Pirie Grossman, who spearheaded efforts touting Idaho as the best location for the quadrennial games. But the politically active power couple has also dabbled outside the sporting events and worked to bring the Dalai Lama to Sun Valley last September. So what motivates the duo to bring world events to Idaho? Pirie (pronounced "Perry") answered our questions.
PG: It's amazing just for our state to experience these things. It makes better people out of us. The Special Olympics will have a great economic impact on Idaho, but we're going to get another wonderful surprise in spirit that's going to make us fuller people. Everyone we've talked to that have hosted the games before still talk about how the games affect lives of people in the community since the games left. It's remarkable and I look forward for Idaho to experience that.
You wrote a bid to the Special Olympics global headquarters saying Idaho was a better location to host the games compared to four other potential locations. How intricate and specific did you have to get in writing this proposal?
We were competing against Reno, Nevada; Garmish, Germany and Austria in the bid process, so we had to really showcase Boise. The 300-page document was very, very precise. It's like a regular Olympic bid. So we had to do everything ranging from an analysis of the arenas and hotels in the area to the financial aspects and how we'd raise money for the estimated $25 million total budget. We had to have letters stating contributions of at least 20 percent of the budget. Within three weeks we raised about $8 million in letters promising the money.
How similar is this event to the Winter Olympics?
As far as participants and athletes, they're comparable. We'll get in Idaho about 3,000 athletes from 100 different countries. The summer games are bigger, with 7,000 to 8,000 athletes from 150 countries. But the Special Olympics are established the same as the Olympic Games, rotating every four years, summer and winter games, so you have world games every two years.
You've been working with the Idaho Special Olympics for eight years now with your husband. How did you get started in this effort?
My sister-in-law was born with a mental disability and sports really helped her. She felt confident and accepted, and sports were something she could excel in. What we really don't realize is a person with a disability wants to feel part of society. In the old days we didn't treat people with disabilities very well. They were institutionalized and put outside society and made to feel worthless. Thank goodness, we've come a long way, where we are all being better educated.
That sounds similar to the Dalai Lama's message of acceptance. What message will bringing the Special Olympics to Idaho send?
It's really a lesson in human rights. Looking above and beyond anyone's disabilities and seeing the best in them, as well as looking above your own disability. I think it starts with examples close to home and this is in our own backyard now. It's educating people on how to have the Special Olympians fit into society, how they are so much a part of us. People have relatives, children or friends with disabilities who don't know what to do with them, or look at them as a liability. But really these people are an asset and it's our own liability we don't know how to encourage them and embrace them in society.