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Olympic-sized inspirations

A 20-year resident of Malibu, William Wishard, III, has been involved in many organizational events from working with music groups to the 1984 Olympics to founding a patient rehabilitation group for those recovering from major injuries.

By Barbara Wood/Special to The Malibu Times

On day 41 of the Olympic torch relay across America to the Salt Lake City Olympic Games 2002, William N. Wishard, III revisited the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum after an absence of almost 18 years.

Last time he came to the site was to work as part of the team on the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee.

Wishard is one of those people who made a tremendous difference in the way the 1984 Summer Olympics ran in Los Angeles. The athletes may be the stars of the international sporting competitions during the games, but the people behind the scenes make the whole competition possible. Television viewers almost never catch a glimpse of these unsung heroes-volunteers, young and old, part-time and full-time paid workers who make sure everyone and everything are where they should be. These people spend years preparing each detail carefully.

While at the Coliseum that day, Wishard came across Mark Spitz, the seven-time Olympic gold-medallist swimmer, getting ready with his son to light the Olympic torch from the official fire lantern.

Wishard, a 20-year resident of Malibu, always did have a gift of being in the right place at the right time, as witnessed when he met a then travel agent in 1982 named Peter Ueberroth, who later became the president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC). Mitt Romney, the current Salt Lake Olympic Committee president and CEO, was also on hand at this event.

Wishard’s Olympic tale began in 1982 when he joined the Citizens Advisory Council, with many other volunteers, working toward the preparation of the 1984 Games. The LAOOC chose him to work as a full-time employee in 1983, because of his previous experience organizing tours throughout Europe with a group of performers called “Up With People,” created in 1965 by Wishard while at Williams College, Mass. to represent American culture to Asia through music. The group performed at four Super Bowl halftime events, and for the Bicentennial they put on 8,000 shows in 800 cities to benefit nonprofit organizations.

Wishard is currently the vice president of Williams College Alumni Association of Los Angeles, the oldest Alumni Association in the World.

Born in Indianapolis, Wishard moved to Malibu in 1980 with his wife, Mary, and daughters, Carolyn and Alison, to housesit for some friends in the Malibu West community and to assist his brother-in-law with a plan for a book and a sales training business.

Meanwhile, Wishard held four jobs during his time with the LAOOC-one as acting director of congresses. Each sport and the Sports Federation hold meetings with their leadership, which are called congresses.

Wishard oversaw world government conferences of the International Sports Federations, combined with the International Olympic Committee sessions and Main Press Center conferences, and the development and operations of all simultaneous interpretation services in six languages.

Ueberroth, in a letter of recommendation, acknowledged Wishard’s dedication.

“Bill provided excellent general management and coordination for these important Sport Federation events. In addition to these duties, he played a key role in developing the Youth Legacy Kilometer portion of the Olympic Torch Relay.”

Ueberroth also recognized Wishard, along with other Olympic organization members, for his work in a book entitled, “Made in America.”

In 1983, the LAOOC staff grew from 100 people to 1,500 people in 18 months and it became the only Olympics games in history, said Wishard, not to use government funds. The two major goals of the LAOOC at this time were to avert massive traffic jams and to prevent terrorism. By the time the Olympics started, 66,000 full-time people went through security training and accreditation clearances.

Security and terrorism were certainly a high priority then as it is today, and the head of the security would often call in Wishard and give him confidential briefings on certain countries.

In 1987, Wishard, a certified meeting professional (CMP), founded Wishard & Associates, and still plans events today for nonprofit companies. He has traveled to more than 26 countries and four continents in his 37 years of event planning.

His business thrived until a traumatic 1994 motorcycle accident in which he sustained brain damage, multiple injuries and was in a coma for one month.

He ended up staying in the hospital for four months and then went through rehabilitation at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood. With the assistance of the staff and his family, Wishard recovered miraculously.

Two years later, Wishard organized the first Alumni Rehab Reunion at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital to provide strength and encouragement to the current rehab patients learning from past patients’ experiences.

“Over the years, Bill has been an invaluable resource to connect with patients and to do the things we want to do that need to be done,” said Robyn Ogawa, director of Rehabilitation Services at Freeman.

Wishard is still very active at the hospital and each Thursday he visits the rehabilitation department providing hope and encouragement to the patients.

During the year he also oversees the production of a newsletter that is produced three or four times a year entitled “Inspirations,” for and about the hospital rehab patients. The publication was started by Wishard in 1998 and is written by the brothers of the Psi Upsilon fraternity at Pepperdine University for service projects to the community.

Now, for two years in a row, in 1999 and 2000, the university awarded Wishard the Chapter Advisor of the Year for his contributions, and in November, 1,000 Psi Upsilon and Sigma members attended an alumni reception created by Wishard, reconnecting brotherly bonds and creating new ones.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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