Game Changers: Leslie Gamez
From horses to bobsleds to people, Gamez gets them to the Games.
In February, the U.S. Olympic Committee will charter transportation for more than 1,000 people to Sochi. It will deliver uniforms and opening ceremony outfits for 200-plus athletes, and it will ship 20 sea containers abroad loaded with everything from bobsleds to medication to guns. It’s an enormous operation, and it will be handled by a small team of 11 employees led by Leslie Gamez, the USOC’s managing director for international games.
Gamez joined the USOC in 2002 and has overseen its Olympic travel and logistics ever since. She manages the organization’s medical facilities on-site at each Games and arranges everything from athlete flights and housing to spectator passes for support staff. She even manages the transport of horses for equestrian competitions. “Horses actually have microchips with passports and go through customs and immigration like people,” Gamez said. “They want to make sure the horse is the horse that you say it is.”
But horses aren’t the prime challenge. The biggest challenge is the fact that every two years, the Olympics shift to a new country, with different shipping and travel rules. “You have to learn what’s required to do business in Russia, what’s required to do business in Brazil [for 2016],” Gamez said. “It’s different than London. It’s different than Vancouver. Visa [and] passport requirements vary from country to country. It’s all challenging, and it’s all fun.”
- Crowning professional achievement: Serving as the games director for the U.S. team for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was my first time leading our largest Games.
- Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Jerry Lace, former executive director at U.S. Figure Skating. In my formative years, Jerry was my boss and he was a no-nonsense kind of guy who had an incredible work ethic, high expectations and challenged each person to achieve more than they thought they could.
- Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Heidi Ueberroth. Her experience as a leader in NBA global operations must present her with exciting and challenging opportunities on many fronts: gender, culture and language. I’d like to know how she navigates through these challenges.
“Leslie must ensure that the athletes receive the necessary services in the most seamless way possible to be able to perform at the best of their ability. She has been extremely successful in achieving this goal, and we often rely on her experience and knowledge to help us evaluate the service levels and operations delivered by organizing committees at the Olympic Games.”