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  • The Olympic Voice of Robin Williams


    08/12/14

    Comic legend Robin Williams in July 2013 (Getty Images)
    (ATR) The world of Robin Williams included the Olympics. 

    In return for doing the voice over for the IOC's "Celebrate Humanity" campaign in 2000, the comic legend only asked for a spot as a torchbearer in the 2002 Olympic torch relay--a spot that he gave to a disabled child. Williams later cheered on the young torchbearer in person. 

    Michael Payne, who served as IOC marketing director from 1998 to 2004, tells Around the Rings there was no question Williams would be the voice of the campaign. However, Payne says it was assumed "he would never do it."

    TBWA/Chiat Day, the ad agency behind the campaign, reached out to Williams' agent and wife at the time, Marsha Garces Williams. She responded by saying that all that was needed to get Robin on board was a ride to the recording studio.

    Williams narrated both the summer and winter "Celebrate Humanity" campaigns in 2000 and 2002.

    Click here to view "Celebrate Humanity" campaign films on Payne's website.

    "His voice and the inspiration of his voice just made such a difference and contribution to the Olympic Movement," Payne tells ATR.

    Payne says the "sheer diversity and and beauty of his voice captured the pure magic of the stories being told." "He was the ultimate professional," Payne tells ATR, "he did everything in the first take."

    Terrence Burns, a former member of the Meridian/IOC marketing team, said he too was impressed with Williams "amazing" performance. 

    "People still ask me about it to this day," he said in a statement to ATR.

    Fans paid homage to Williams at Hollywood's Walk of Fame on Monday. (Getty Images)
    Williams was born in Chicago in 1951. He attended the Julliard School in New York City and broke into the entertainment industry in the late 1970s. Williams went on to establish a successful career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1998 for "Good Will Hunting".

    On Monday, Williams was found dead in his Northern California home. He was 63.

    An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday. CNN reports that investigators suspect "the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia."

    Known for a biting wit during his stand-up comedy routines, the Olympics were not spared from his humor, even with his Olympic connection. 

    In this video from 2002, Williams parodies the Winter Games (Warning: explicit language).

    Writing in his book "Olympic Turnaround", Payne recalled Williams expressing how honored he was to do the voice over. 

    "Many of my favorite Olympic memories were not gold medal situations," Williams said according to Payne's book. "They were inspiring moments of humanity that transcended borders, obstacles and languages--and unified people around the world.

    "I feel this campaign conveys that, and I am proud to be a part of it."

    Written by Nicole Bennett

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    20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is 
    AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.