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Ozzie's World Cup Adventure - 1994

I don't know why I never sat down to write up my adventures at "World Cup USA 94" before. I'm always telling the story to anyone who'll listen, and just never found the time. Since I've now come up with "reasons" (alibis, really) to go the next World Cup in Germany in 2006, 3-1/2 years from now, it's time to get the story into a file. (Addendum: I never did get to Germany for World Cup Germany 2006)

The story really begins in 1971, or perhaps in 1966. You see, I remeber watching the World Cup Final Match in '66 because it was on ABC's Wide World of Sports (I maintain to this day, that the only reason Disney bought the ABC Television Network was to get hold of the Trademark to use as the name of it's Sports Theme Park near Orlando). I distinctly remember the end of the match when England, as newly minted World Champions, were given the trophy by Her Majesty Queen Elizibeth as Head of State for the Host Nation (the match was played at Wembly Stadium).

When I was stationed in the city of Kaiserslautern, Germany in 1970 and 71, I actually went to a match of 1FCK, the First Football Club of Kaiserslautern. It was while standing there for 90 minutes in the southwest quadrant with the "rowdy" crowd (the gang with the noisemakers and such) that I came to realize for a certainty that this was the game that the World loved.

So here they come in 1993, looking for volunteers for this "World Cup" thing. Orlando's Citrus Bowl will be a "Venue" for 5 of the 28 matches, and they need people to do all sorts of things. I thought to myself, "What American in his right mind would volun... Wait a minute! I'm not in my right mind. I'd better go down and volunteer!". So I did.

The World Cup Final Draw

In December of '93 was the Final Draw. This is the televised event that chooses which teams will be playing against each other in which "group" in the first Round. The way it works is that 4 teams are in each group. Each team plays three matches agains the other 3 teams in its group. Winning the match is worth 3 Points. A tie score is worth 1 Point, and losing is no points. After three matches, the Points are totalled up, and the top two teams in the group move on to the Second Round. What teams you're drawn against in the First Round can tell you your chances of playing in the second round.

Needless to say, I wanted to work in the Computer end of things. The Internet was just starting to heat up in a big way in '94. One of my biggest thrills of the World Cup was having the e-mail address of rosband@worldcup.com. I also had an e-mail address in those day of "Ozzie@MCImailCom", and there was this fellow who was at Lotus at the time, who was pretty pissed off at me for grabbing that nickname first.

But going into the World Cup Final Draw at Orlando's Church Street Station in the downtown entertainment district, I was looking for somewhere to sign up. The staff wore polo shirts with the World Cup Logo and each shirt also had the company names of Official sponsors. I found a guy in an EDS Shirt and said, "Who do I turn myself in to as a volunteer". He turned out to be their computer maven, all right, but they needed me for my radio skills. They were up to their eyeballs in computer geeks, but needed someone to work the Base radio station.

This is "Base"

After I'd signed up, they contacted the Orlando Amateur Radio Club and got some volunteers from there as well. Since they still didn't have enough people, they raided the control tower at Orlando International Airport and asked for volunteers from there also. What did the two groups have in common? Well, they were both used to radio protocols, both groups were used to hearing scratchy radio transmissions and "pulling them in out of the dirt", and both groups were used to communicating via radio with people who'se first language was not English. These were useful traits for an international event where people were coming from all over the world.

I worked every Game Day, and every weekend. At the time, I had a "day job" with a gas company in Titusville, 50 miles due East of the Citrus Bowl. I was a "hydrostatic tester", which means that I put air tanks in a tank of water, filled them to 150% of their rated capacity, and saw how much the tank expanded. If it was within Federally mandated guidelines, it was "good to go" for another 5 or 10 years (depending on what gas was kept in the tank). It was a pretty mindless task, and keeping the earphones of a transistor radio under my hearing protectors kept me sane (or what passed for it, in my case).

There would be two radio operators each game day, and each manned a radio. Each radio had 8 channels. Channels 1 and 2 belong to us at "Base". The rest were broken up into various departments, with some minor departments sharing a channel. Security was Channel 3, and Protocol was Channel 8. Protocol was a very High Priority department, what with heads of state, or government ministers coming in to watch their National Team and all. Merchandise and Food shared a channel, I think, and I forget who all were on the others. Technology had one (that was the computer guys. I hung around with them when I could, and played with the internet terminals in the Press Center every chance I got).

How to be a Base Radio Operator

We would listen on Channel 1, the calling channel. When a Department Head, like Rogers in Security, needed to contact Peterson in Protocol (or the other way around, a common occurrance) they would switch to channel 1, and call "Base, this is Rogers. I need to talk to Peterson in Protocol". Whoever was working with me that day would acknowledge the call. I'd be listening on the other radio on channel 1, and once I'd found out who they wanted, I was up on the other guy's channel calling that person. "Peterson, this is Base. Please meet Rogers on Channel 2". We got so good at this, that I sometimes got the called party on Channel 2 before the calling party had finished talking to my partner, and gotten to 2 himself.

There was no need to waste time calling for someone, waiting for them to respond, then telling them what the message was. It wasted time. Put the message in the call, they can acknowledge it, and move on. It was faster. Our radio room got a reputation. A good one.

During the second match, Barbara (my boss) and Tony (who handled the maintenence on the handheld radios, and who charged the batteries) came in the radio room and told me and my buddy, "You're relived. Go watch the match for 20 minutes, or so". WOW! What a treat! We wandered about into the stands, and as it happened, we got to see the only goal of the match. When we thought we'd been playing "hooky" for long enough, we wandered back to our post, where Barbara and Tony were looking pretty haggard. I think in the brief amount of time we'd been gone, they got a new appreciation for what we did, and how well we did it. I never got to leave my radios during a match again.

There was only one point in the month long event where we had back to back Game Days in Orlando - that is, where there were games on two days in a row. I knew I was doing a good job when my boss stuck her head in the room that first day and asked, "Ozzie, will you be here tomorrow?". "Sure Barbara, it's a Game Day. I'll be here". "Thank God", was all she said as the door slammed behind her.

I had a pretty good job at the World Cup. It was indoors, which meant it was in the air conditioning. I had no heavy lifting, and sat on my butt all day working the radios. But the best job in the entire place had to be Battery Runner. I actually got a chance to perform this task once. In the middle of the game, you take a vest with a pocket full of charged batteries, and an empty pocket. You go out onto the field, and find anyone who'se official with a radio, and trade their used battery for a fresh one. The used batteries go in the formerly empty pocket. It wouldn't do to trade a used battery for another used battery.

Security was very tight for the games. Everyone had to get credentials. I was one of the very few that didn't have to turn their credentials in every night. That's because I'd be at Base before Security showed up in the morning, and I'd close the station after most eveyone had gone home. The hours were the tradeoff for the easy life I had in the radio shack. It was just another one of my Radio Adventures, and I got to tell quite a number of people about my adventures in Homestead following Hurricane Andrew.

Other Matters

One of the stories I heard while working at the World Cup, was about what happenned once the US Organizing Committee learned they won the right to put on the World Cup. They simply asked for the Manuals on how to run the games. "Manual? What manual?", was the reaction. Needless to say, the Organizing Committee went into a frensy, and vowed that they would develop manuals so that future Organizing Committees would not have to start from scratch, like they did. Do you happen to recall who put on World Cup in 98, the one following the USA? It was France. Do you think the French had any intereest at all in doing anything the way the Americans did it? I think that's why I never felt a great urge to write up my adventures at that time.

There was a "Mascot" of the games. It was a dog named "Striker". He showed up on t-shirts, stickers and pins, and of course, there was a guy in a "Striker" costume that would show up on Game Day. He'd wander around the Sponsor's Village, and play with the kiddies. The Sponsors Village was a little tent city outside the stadium where the various Official Sponsors got to parade their products to the thousands of fans from around the world who'd come to watch the match.

You can still find many of the pins and t-shirts available today on eBay, the internet auction site. In fact, many World Cup souvineers I couldn't afford back in '94, I find myself buying on eBay at bargain prices as people clean out their closets, and no one else with an interest in the 94 World Cup finds those items in the week or so they are on the web site.

Oh yes, and there was the matter of the "Missing Man Formation". On the day of the first match in Orlando, the Air Force National Guard pulled a Missing Man formation during the US national anthem, where 4 aircraft come overhead, and the 4th man pulls up, and shoots straight up into the sky. Well, my buddy for that second match (the one where I got to see part of the match) was a fellow from the Orlando control tower. He told me that the fellow pulled up, and went directly to 5,000 Ft - almost hiting a passing airliner along the way! Needless to say, proceedures at other venues were changed following the incident.

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