Susan Polakoff Shaw has worked 16 Olympic Games as well as dozens of events around the world, earning her global respect as an expert in press operations, public and media relations.
Event organizers, host committees and sports organizations rely on her counsel and expertise as a problem solver, a reputation that has only grown through her more recent work as a grassroots activist, organizer and leader who was featured in The Atlantic in October, 2020.
The International Olympic Committee chose Susan to join its press operations staff for the 2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008 and 2006 Olympic Games—the only American woman on staff.
In addition to the Olympics, she has managed venue press operations at events, including the New York City Marathon, the Pan American Games and World Championships for figure skating, speedskating, gymnastics and swimming.
She has managed publicity and press operations for dozens of domestic multi-sport events, including several U.S. Olympic Trials, national championships and U.S. Olympic Festivals. She contributed to the planning and development of the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs.
She planned and managed the first media center at Asics Hall during the 2022 World Athletics Championships. Earlier in 2022, the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis and the College Football Playoffs in Indianapolis hired her in last-minute cavalry calls.
At the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, she assisted the President & CEO of the local host committee with special media projects. She continued to demonstrate her versatility when the White House sought her assistance with press operations during two visits to Cleveland by President Obama.
Her experience at the New York City Marathon brought one challenge after another. In 2012, she managed the ever-changing press operations plan resulting from Hurricane Sandy. Two years earlier, she organized a press conference featuring Chilean miner Edison (“The Runner”) Peña, for 200 international media in less than 48 hours.
She was called on to manage the media coverage of another major sports story in 2007, this time with only one week to go before the start of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) v. Floyd Landis hearing at Pepperdine University.
The nine-day arbitration was the first time a USADA hearing was open to the media. In just a few days, Susan implemented an accreditation system, created a media policy and organized a media workroom for more than 50 international journalists.
Throughout her career in sports administration, she has managed public relations and press operations for national governing bodies such as USA Swimming, USA Gymnastics, U.S. Speedskating, USA Cycling, National Archery Association, USA Table Tennis and U.S. Water Polo.
She was Chief of Research for ESPN’s inaugural Extreme Games in Newport, Rhode Island. For the Goodwill Games, she spent five weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she managed press operations for a variety of sports and venues. In addition to working for ESPN on several international events, she served as research room manger for NBC at the Atlanta Olympics.
Susan worked as publicist for the Goodwill Games in Seattle, Washington. While at TBS, she was promoted to Public Relations Manager for Turner Sports and coordinated publicity efforts for TNT during the World Cup from several cities in Italy.
Susan began her career in Indiana, working at Indiana Sports Corporation as Public Relations Director. In addition, she worked for the Shelbyville (Ind.) News as general assignment reporter and chief photographer. She won two United Press International (UPI) photo awards and served as a stringer for Scripps-Howard News Service and UPI. She received her B.A. in journalism and political science from Indiana University.
In November 2016, she once again stepped outside the sports world. Susan and her friends formed GRR (Grass Roots Resistance) on Cleveland’s westside. Today she leads GRR, which started with a dozen women and now totals more than 350 members. In 2019 she and GRR hosted “Sex Ed Trivia: Are You Smarter Than An Ohio Lawmaker Edition,” raising $8,000 for the Ohio Center for Sex Education. In 2017, they set an event fundraising record, collecting almost $15,000 at “Party with a Purpose” to benefit Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.
In 2022 she produced “My Body, My Vote” rally in Lakewood, Ohio before the midterm election.
Susan is a member of the League of Women Voters, CWDC (Cuyahoga Women’s Democratic Caucus) and Ohio Progressive Action Leaders. She has been a member of the Sierra Club for more than 20 years and also supports the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council.)
For three years she served as a board member of Preterm, the state’s largest abortion provider. Previously, she served on the board of directors of Kids In Flight™ , the Cleveland chapter of WISE (Women in Sports and Events) and was a member of the Community Leadership Board of the American Diabetes Association. In addition, she was co-chair of the JDRF Dream Gala that raised more than $500,000 for diabetes research.
She lives with her husband, Bud Shaw, an award-winning sports columnist and golf addict in Cleveland, Ohio.