Ari Grossman has done it before, but serving as chef de mission for a Canadian delegation at an international sporting event never gets old.
Wearing Canada’s colours, marching into a packed stadium in the company of hundreds of Canadian athletes, rubbing shoulders with competitors from around the world is a memory that stays with you for a long time.
Grossman was recently named chef de mission of the Canadian contingent that will participate in the 2019 FISU Summer Universiade, which will run from July 3-14, in Naples, Italy.
The Universiade is an international multi-sport event organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) that brings together university athletes from around the world. It is considered the second-largest multi-sport event in the world, behind the Olympics.
More than 6,000 student athletes are expected to compete in 18 disciplines in Naples.
For Grossman, it’s the second time he’s been given the task of heading up the Canadian university contingent. He served as the chef de mission for the Canadian team at the winter games in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2017, and before that he served as director of communications for the Canadian team at university summer games in Belgrade, Bangkok, and Izmir, Turkey.
As chef de mission, Grossman, the son of longtime Toronto sports reporter David Grossman, will have the task of liaising with local officials and making sure that everything runs efficiently so that the Canadian team can focus on excelling in their sports.
Many of the athletes will be representing Canada for the first time and may not get a second chance. “It’s a pretty proud moment,” he said.
The delegation march “is the really exciting part for all the athletes,” Grossman said. “This part is memorable and it’s something everybody looks forward to.”
Altogether, Canada will be sending athletes in 13 disciplines, including archery, athletics, fencing, taekwondo and table tennis. There will also be men’s and women’s teams in basketball, volleyball, rugby sevens, plus a women’s team in soccer.
Grossman, associate director of business operations for the Waterloo Warriors, has the experience and drive to handle the task as chef de mission, said Darren Cates, chair of U Sports International Committee. U Sports is the governing body for university sports in Canada, which has selected the athletes who will compete in basketball, volleyball and soccer. The remaining athletes were selected by the respective national governing sports organizations.
“Ari has extensive knowledge of international sport, FISU and has built excellent relationships with representatives from other delegations, which will benefit Canada tremendously at the 2019 FISU Summer Universiade. He is passionate about Canadian sport and is an exceptional leader for Team Canada,” Cates added.
Grossman will be heading to Naples in early April to scout out the sporting venues, see what accommodations are being prepared for the athletes and to make sure there are no surprises in store for the Canadians.
Based on his experience at previous university games, Grossman expects that the challenges he and his team will face will most likely be related to logistics and overcoming the language barrier to make sure no request or concern gets lost in translation.
“It’s a lot of problem-solving along the way to make sure that everyone gets a good experience,” Grossman said.