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Last Word Prince Albert of Monaco reflects on a lifetime of Olympic involvement

It has been 16 years since I first traveled down a bobsled run,
and even in my fifth Olympics, I still long to go faster. It has
been 17 years since I became a member of the International
Olympic Committee, and I am still honored to serve sport and
athletes. It has been 40 years since I can recall my family
first telling me about their Olympic experiences, and I still
want to hear more. I love the Olympics. I have been extremely
fortunate in my life to be involved with the Olympic movement as
a spectator, athlete and administrator. The opportunities the
Games have afforded me have enriched my life immeasurably. My
passion for them started when I was a boy, seeing footage of my
grandfather John B. Kelly rowing at the 1920 Olympics in
Antwerp. When I was 14, my Uncle Jack, who had rowed in four
Olympics himself, took me around the village in Munich and
introduced me to Jesse Owens, who was at the Games as a guest.

With my family's encouragement, I was lucky enough to experience
many sports firsthand: I fenced, ran, swam, went skydiving and
earned a brown belt in judo. In 1985 I was introduced to
bobsledding while on a ski holiday in Switzerland. From the
middle of the sled, I remember thinking I was in a roller
coaster. I took lessons as a driver, and later that year I
rattled down awkwardly from the top of the hill for the first
time. I was hooked. To understand the sensation, you really have
to live it. Everything comes at you so fast, but as your eye
gets used to it, the speed becomes less intimidating, even
though, as you get better, you start getting faster. I expected
to retire after my fourth Olympics, in Nagano, but the honor of
representing my country and the satisfaction of little
improvements made it hard to walk away. My best placing at the
Games is 25th, but our four-man sled is still striving to
surpass the highest Olympic finish ever by a Monegasque athlete,
16th at the 1964 Tokyo Games.

When I first became an IOC member, I felt it was like an old
gentlemen's club, but I've seen the IOC do a lot of good things:
bringing more athletes into its membership, incorporating new
events, such as women's bobsled, into the program and taking an
increasingly vigilant stance against doping. Under the fine
leadership of our new president, Jacques Rogge, the IOC has some
important decisions to make in the next few years. In
particular, we need to keep the number of accredited people at
the Games to a manageable size, to minimize the strain on the
host cities without shortchanging the athletes who strive to
participate. In my role on the athletes' commission, I also see
ways to help the athletes, such as improving the training
facilities available to them in the Olympic Village. Life in the
village is a highlight for me. No matter how much I have
traveled, I have always learned something new about people from
different cultures, whether I was meeting skiers from Mongolia
last week, exchanging stories in Sydney with athletes from Papua
New Guinea or renewing friendships with people such as Picabo
Street and Maurice Greene. People turn to the Olympics as
something that celebrates the best in all of us. Though I am
still trying to go faster, I am also taking the time to enjoy it
more than ever. --Albert Grimaldi

COLOR PHOTO: ELAINE THOMPSON/AP At his fifth Winter Games, Grimaldi is still a grand Olympic ambassador.