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Why hosting the 2024 Olympics could make a difference for D.C.

An op-ed from Maryland grad and former judo champion Robert Hisaoka.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

My time as a student-athlete transformed my life in ways I could not have predicted. I was a co-captain of the USA high school All-American Judo team and competed internationally five weeks before starting my first year at the University of Maryland. I had been training for the Olympics since I was eight years old. Unfortunately, I sustained a major knee injury and was unable to fulfill my Olympic dream. But I didn't give up.

I was 18 years old at the time. I turned to the values of judo-discipline, competitive spirit, perseverance, humility, among them-and they helped me achieve success in business and later in philanthropy. The sport taught me to set ambitious goals and nurtured my determination to accomplish them.

The chance to inspire a new generation of young people through sport drives my support for the bid to bring the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games to the Capital Region in 2024. The shared language of sport, inspired by the Olympic movement, can show our youths how we can put our differences aside and compete in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The Olympics also have the potential to bring improvements in our communities that last long after the closing ceremonies.

Local colleges and universities, including my alma mater, could play an important role if the bid succeeds. Campuses could provide lodging and training facilities for athletes prior to the Games. Their athletic facilities could be chosen as venues for events. I'd personally love to see a popular competition like gymnastics at XFINITY Center at College Park. I can only imagine my pride at seeing the jersey numbers of Terp legends such as Tom McMillen, a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball team, and Juan Dixon and the championship banners that hang in the rafters broadcast to a worldwide television audience. That sort of publicity, for any school, could boost recruiting and fundraising efforts.

What excites me most about the bid is the prospect of improving the lives of youths, a mission to which I have long been committed as a mentor to athletes and an active supporter of programs that help children from low-income families. Where other activities might fail, sport can succeed at teaching kids to overcome adversity, summon courage under pressure, or help lift their self-esteem and school grades.

It all starts with encouraging more children to play sports, and that's where the Olympic Games has been so inspirational. After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, USA Swimming reported an 11 percent rise in youth participation and a similar increase after the London Games. In England, the London Games have led to booming enrollment in sports societies and niche sports such as weightlifting.

Judo taught me lessons which extend well past competitions and are part of my daily life. One such lesson is "mutual welfare and benefit for all." I believe our bid to bring the Olympic Games to our region will do just that. Together, we can fulfill the promise of the Olympic movement for our young people, our colleges and universities and the rest of the region.

Robert G. Hisaoka, University of Maryland class of 1979, was named a distinguished alumnus by the Robert H. Smith School of Business in 2013 and serves on the Smith School's board of advisors. He also serves on the board of Washington 2024, which is making the bid to host the Summer Olympics and Paralympics.