Behind the Olympics

David Francis '99 (CLAS) (second from left) accompanies legendary tennis great Billie Jean King (third from left) as well as two state department officials at the Olympic Park in Sochi, Feb. 2014.
David Francis ’99 (CLAS) (second from left) accompanies legendary tennis great Billie Jean King (third from left) as well as two state department officials at the Olympic Park in Sochi, Feb. 2014.

Last winter, when most Americans were watching the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on TV, David Francis ’99 (CLAS) was in Russia experiencing them live — and getting paid for it. Francis works at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) as the manager of government relations, a position that involves working closely with the U.S. Department of State and foreign governments to facilitate visa arrangements for American athletes and officials traveling abroad for training and competition. “We’re the team behind the team,” Francis said.

Francis received his first exposure to big-time athletics as an undergraduate at UConn. A student-athlete all his life, at UConn he realized he could no longer compete at the highest levels of competition and needed sports in his life. First, he worked part-time in the Athletics Department, gaining experience in sports marketing and on the department’s facilities crew. He remembers doing a promotion at center court before a nationally televised basketball game between the Huskies and Stanford. “Being a 19-, 20-year-old kid, that was pretty special,” he said. “That’s about as close as you can get without actually being in the game.” He also worked volleyball, soccer, and field hockey games on the facilities crew.

Still a rabid Huskies fan, Francis checks UConn sports blogs nearly every day and regularly attends game-watching parties sponsored by the Washington, D.C. alumni chapter. It was that passion for sports that propelled his career search. “I knew that I wanted to work in the sports industry in some capacity,” he said. “I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.”

After graduating from UConn, where he double-majored in political science and journalism, he earned a JD from California Western School of Law and a master’s degree from Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management (SIM) Program; in between, he interned at the NFL Players Association. Soon after receiving his MA in 2010, around the time of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he saw an open position at the USOC and submitted his application. “I knew it would be an opportunity I’d enjoy, so I jumped on it immediately.”

He eventually rose through the ranks to become the manager of government relations, and has now worked three Olympics. At the games, he’s primarily a “people mover,” as he describes it, escorting officials and statesmen to and from events. One of his favorite memories is spending a day in Sochi in 2014 watching bobsled with Billie Jean King, legendary tennis great and winner of Presidential Medal of Freedom who was part of the United States Presidential Delegation to the Games.

But helping to manage Team USA at the Olympics is only the most visible part of Francis’s job. “The USOC isn’t just a job every two years,” he said. “It’s constant. We’re the support system for American athletes who are continuously training and traveling abroad to compete. The Olympics and Paralympic Games are the crowning moment, but they’re like mile 26 of a marathon.”


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