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COES President was a volunteer in San Salvador 2002

José Armando Bruni proudly recalls many details of his time as part of the volunteering team for the Central American and Caribbean Games 2002 and, 21 years later, the former badminton athlete will not experience the XXIV Central American and Caribbean Games San Salvador 2023 as the president of the El Salvador Olympic Committee (COES).

That is why Bruni, head of the Olympic entity since 2021, seems thrilled when talking about volunteering.

“It has been 21 years since then. Now I’m a volunteer from the sport leadership perspective, so the story is now almost repeating itself. We have to make the most of it and make these games ours, because the athletes and volunteers are the soul of the games, they need to see this as a life experience”, Bruni pointed out, who is also the president of the Salvadoran Badminton Federation.

When he was a volunteer, Bruni was 12 years old, he studied at Colegio Sagrado Corazón and was a badminton player in the under-15 category, and the Salvadoran Badminton Federation (FESALBAD) was barely two years old.

“They started signing up volunteers, the same as now. I signed up as a volunteer in the federation, and we did lots of things. Days were pretty long, we had to be at the place at 7:00 A.M, and we headed at around 7:00 or 8:00 at night because we had to wait until the last person left Pabellón Centroamericano”, Bruni recalled.

“They gave us some orange polo shirts, the kit also included a hat, and we had to wash them every day to wear them again the next day”, he recalled.

Bruni explained that the badminton matches were held in the Pabellón Centroamericano of the former International Fair, which then went on to be called International Center of Fairs and Conventions (CIFCO).

“We had our three meals in there, the most experienced ones were assigned as linesmen, and the ones of us who had less experience had to update the scores. There were no digital screens back then, you had to update the scores by hand.”, he went on.

In his experience as a member of the volunteering team of the 2002 games, Bruni mentioned that as part of the courtesies in Olympism, the delegation of the Dominican Republic gave him a shirt signed by the badminton players and an allusive pin of the games, all of it after they complained about a score a few days earlier in one of their matches.

I had to change the score manually in a match in which the Dominican Republic was participating, and they got upset because I didn’t hear well what the umpire said. There was a lot of people, and I had a confusion about the position in which the athlete was serving, but I saw the Dominicans complaining because there was some sort of mistake in the score because what I was marking did not match to the score they were counting; but you always need to keep a smile on your face at all times”, he explained.

Karen Ramírez, who now is a board member of the Salvadoran Badminton Federation, was part of the national team for the 2002 Games, along with Pedro Portillo who served as the coach and as an athlete, Oscar Molina, and sisters Abigail and Estefany Chávez, recalled the olympic leader.

Bruni also commented that Guatemalan Pedro Yang was one of the international badminton figures and olympic athletes that came to participate in the Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador, and that he was the center of attention back then.

The olympic leader summarizes his volunteering experience as rewarding. “You become part of that sports party, there are volunteers meetings, fans zones, and I think that all of that is important because you end up learning about sports. Normally, we only know about football or basketball, which are the most popular sports, but you also get to learn about badminton, which is a sport that you don’t normally watch on TV. You can also learn about chess and bodybuilding, it is an absolutely beautiful and rewarding experience.

Bruni was not able to be at the stadium for the men’s football final between El Salvador and Mexico, in which the Blue and White won the historical gold medal, a moment he recalls with nostalgia.

 “The badminton semifinals or finals coincided with the men’s football finals, and I was dying to be there. We had access to the stadium, but I had a shift at Pabellón Centroamericano. But we were following the match, and we were able to feel the passion of that gold medal in football.”, he said.

On that December 7th, 2002, El Salvador defeated Mexico in the finals after a 1-1 tie in regular time, with an equalizer by Josué Galdámez, and 4-3 in the penalty shootout.

El Salvador will be organizing the Central American and Caribbean Games 2023 from June 23rd to July 8th, and the president of the El Salvador Olympic Committee is enthusiastic about the experience of a new sports party.

“Now we have the chance of leading the El Salvador Olympic Committee, which is an essential part of the games, and to put the institution at the service of the government, the National Institute of Sports, and the Organizing Committee; with our focus always in the volunteer service for this sports event. I already had that experience as a volunteer, it was great, it was beautiful and gratifying. Now, from this trench, and with the experience we have of other games, I can direct the volunteering effort where it should be focused.”, he expressed.

The president of COES also sees a lot of enthusiasm in the athletes, and encourages people to enjoy the games that El Salvador is organizing by the third time in history, after the 1935 and 2002 editions.

“The athletes are happy, they are getting ready, and they are thankful with the possibility El Salvador had of saving these games. If El Salvador hadn’t stepped up to the opportunity, there wouldn’t be Central American and Caribbean Games this time around.  Panama declined them after the pandemic, and that leaves a very short time for a country to really organized them. But El Salvador took on the challenge, and they are organizing them properly and in record time”, expressed Bruni, who is an attorney and notary, as well as Master in the Organization of Sports Organizations.

From his time as a volunteer, and now as a leader, Bruni urges the sports family and the Salvadoran people to enjoy the San Salvador 2023 Games: “Experience this sports party, it is a unique opportunity, to be able to support the Olympic Movement and these games from this trench, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.


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