Slater and Gordon is the Official Law Firm of the Australian Olympic Team – and one staff member who has a long association with the Olympic movement is WA-based Personal Legal Services Principal Lawyer, Craig James.
A rower since 1965 and a rowing umpire since 1978, Craig has officiated World Championships as far afield as Germany, Japan, Lithuania, Scotland, Slovenia, and Switzerland. He is also the recipient of the Western Australia Government’s 2011 John Graham Award for exceptional service to sport and remains an administrator at the most senior level of Western Australian Rowing.
Craig also officiated at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Rowing and 2008 Beijing Olympic Rowing regattas.
‘My experiences at the opening ceremonies at the Sydney and Beijing Olympics were different, but equally inspiring,’
‘For the Sydney Olympics ceremony, it was the pride of being personally present at my country’s presentation to the world, among the 100,000 people watching at the venue. Not everyone gets to go to an Olympic Opening Ceremony. I went because I was an official at the regatta.’ Craig says.
Craig’s Olympic experiences weren’t all blustery fireworks and dazzling lights, though.
‘I was a member of the International Jury at the Beijing Olympics, and a national technical official in Sydney.'
'At the Olympic regattas, there are 50,000 spectators at the venue – and all eyes turn to the umpire if something goes amiss during a race. You’re praying that things don’t go wrong.’
Has it ever gone wrong?
‘Often. Most boats are steered by one of the rowers using a pulley device that attaches the rudder to the toe of a rower’s shoe. By moving the toe of the shoe the rudder can be moved. But as the athletes tire, usually in the last stages of the race – in front of the crowd – they can forget about their steering.'
‘As an umpire I have to follow the race, travelling in a boat behind the rowers, watching for boats leaving their dedicated lane and interfering with other crews. When I notice a boat deviating, I bring them back on course by using flags and, if necessary, shouting commands.’
Planning for opportunities
Not that all of Craig’s high-octane sporting moments have been on the rowing course.
As past President of Rowing WA, Craig became a technical adviser to the Armadale Redevelopment Authority which was established to reinvigorate a particularly deprived area of Perth.
The project included the construction of a road which required substantial amounts of soil to build up along the road reserve. And it just so happens, Craig says, that a hole was dug beside the reserve to the specifications of an international standard rowing course. That random ‘hole’ is now Australia’s ‘second-best rowing course: Champion Lakes.
‘Champion Lakes is used for rowing, canoeing, dragon boating, triathlon, model sailing boats – and it also features a beach dedicated to the local community who use it for recreational swimming.’
Craig says there is a connection between his legal work and rowing.
‘There are a lot of lawyers in the (rowing) game. That’s because lawyers are good at interpreting and applying the rules.’
But, perhaps because Craig is a Slater and Gordon lawyer, it’s no surprise when he says: ‘As an umpire, my biggest responsibility is to ensure athletes have a fair race.’