EMU staffer set to work Olympic Games in Beijing, China
YPSILANTI — Eastern Michigan University’s Robert Campbell, a native of Jamaica, knows all about the hard work it takes to get to an Olympic Games.
He knows about the long days once you are there and he knows how hard it can be in another country to get a nice shower once each day has ended.
“Most other countries don’t have what we have here in America,” he says with his Jamaican accent and always glowing smile.
When Campbell flies to Beijing, China at the end of July for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, it will mark the fourth time he has been invited to participate and represent his adopted country, not to mention Eastern Michigan University.
And while he is a member of an elite team, you won’t see Campbell on television during the games.
Campbell is one of the select few people who travel to the games to work. He will spend a month as the manager for USA House, a hospitality area for the sponsors, athletes, families and friends who travel to the games.
Clients in his past experiences at Salt Lake City, Greece and Italy have included the Bush family and hockey star Wayne Gretzky.
“He (Gretzsky) started talking to me and was surprised that I knew a lot about hockey,” Campbell said of his first encounter with Gretzky.
The fun of meeting celebrities, tickets to events and a fully paid trip to China is balanced by work days that are 10-12 hours long.
Campbell is used to the work, having been a unit manager for EMU’s dining services for the past five years. Campbell graduated with a master’s and bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from EMU before joining the staff in 2003.
“The University is very supportive,” said Campbell of having to take off for a month in each of his four trips.
Campbell has reciprocated. In each of his Olympic trips he has taken students from EMU’s hospitality program so that they could gain valuable experience.
“When I was getting ready to graduate I had a discussion with Polly Buchanan and I told her that I wanted to do whatever I could to help the (hospitality program) grow,” said Campbell.
Traveling to China, cultural differences, safety issues, and leaving his successful restaurant in Canton, don’t really bother Campbell. Ironically, the name of his restaurant is “Irie,” which means ‘no problem’ in Jamaica.
“I have already started to download Reggae music for the flight,” he said. “This is the longest flight of my life. I am not a fan of flying.”
As for the cultural differences, Campbell embraces meeting new people.
“You always befriend someone who is from there. It’s a good people experience because it can change your entire overview of what you see on TV.”
The one thing that will make this trip more difficult is that Campbell will be away from his 3-year-old daughter Jordyn for the first time.
“I know I will be using my cell phone and the Internet a lot on this trip,” Campbell said.
Campbell won’t have to worry as much for his next Olympics. He has already been asked to go to Canada in 2010.
“When I was growing up in Jamaica, all I wanted to do was come to America. I got here and now I’m getting to go other places. I am very blessed,” he said with a smile.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.