At GCN Gala, sports and IT mix it up

At GCN Gala, sports and IT mix it up

How do sports and government IT mix? Swimmingly well, if the GCN Awards Gala last night is any indication.

Swimmer Mark Spitz, who won a record seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympics, was the gala's guest speaker. At the VIP reception before the main event in Washington, Spitz compared success on the Olympic stage to success in the government IT arena.

'Most of the people who are getting these awards have taken some similar pathway,' he said. 'Many people have no clue of what it takes to win an Olympic gold medal. It's no different than what somebody who becomes a CIO goes through.'

For Environmental Protection Agency CIO Kim Nelson, the GCN civilian executive of the year, Spitz's Olympic feat was an big inspiration when she went off to Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania on a swimming scholarship in 1974.

'I went to college after his spectacular Olympic record,' she said. 'I just found out yesterday he was going to be here. I was so excited.'

There was also considerable interest last night in the fourth game of the World Series, which took place during the gala. When GCN editor in chief Thomas R. Temin departed from the evening's business to report an early 1-0 Red Sox lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, a murmur of excitement rippled through the crowd. Indeed, many stuck around after the awards presentations and jammed the Washington Hilton's sports bar to watch the Sox win the game, 3-0, and sweep the series.

But more weighty matters were also on many minds last night: like next week's presidential election and how it might impact government IT. Many feds and vendors said they were optimistic that vital IT programs would continue to move ahead and major priorities such as e-government would remain firmly intact, no matter what the outcome on Election Day [see GCN story].

'I don't see a big change,' said Mike Sade, the Commerce Department's procurement executive. 'The e-government initiatives may change names perhaps. There could even be some changes if President Bush wins. But a lot of it is being driven by the citizens. They like what they see. And they are going to demand more.'

'No matter who wins, e-gov lives on,' an Office of Management and Budget official said. 'We're building guidance into the budget, and that can't be rescinded.'

An industry executive saw the election as signaling a time for rejuvenation in the government's IT programs. 'I think the more new people there are, the more innovation there will be,' he said.

'There's always going to be a transition, regardless of what happens in an election,' EPA's Nelson said. 'I think it's an opportunity to be very creative.'

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