Charles Carter Lee, a longtime La Cañada resident and recently retired Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, has been named chef de mission for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced his appointment as this country's delegation leader in May.
In an interview held at his La Cañada home, Judge Lee could hardly contain his excitement about the journey that will soon unfold for not only him but also for his Chinese-born wife Miranda and their three daughters, Alice, Dabney and Annie, who will also attend the games in Beijing.
“This is an amazing opportunity, not only for one lifetime, but ten thousand lifetimes,” Lee said. “I love my country and I'm deeply honored to have been selected to represent the United States at the Olympiad as the USOC's chef de mission. It is a wonderful honor and a great privilege.”
Lee said he will be marching onto the field with the United States athletes during the opening ceremonies, which he thinks will probably be one of the most amazing experiences ever. “I'll make sure that I wave to all of you in La Cañada,” he said.
A soft-spoken and humble man, love of country runs deep within the very fiber of Judge Lee, who descends from the Carter and Lee families who emigrated from England to Colonial Virginia in the 1600s, leaving their political and military marks on what would become a new country.
In a press statement, USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said, “Judge Charles Lee will make an exceptional Chef de Mission. Judge Lee's experience, stature and knowledge of both the Olympic movement and China is unparalleled. He will bring invaluable insight to our delegation.”
Lee said, “Being involved in these Olympic games is in a way coming full circle for me. In 1984 I was appointed by the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee to be an envoy to China. As it turns out, the '84 Games was the first participation by what is now known as The People's Republic of China. During that time I made many friends with not only China's officials but also their athletes. I am now reconnecting with many of these people.”
Ueberroth chose Lee to be part of a group to meet with the Chinese government and their sports ministers in 1984 because he speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. Lee's participation in that meeting proved to be a good choice, for as a diplomat he encouraged that nation to take part in the games, in direct opposition to the Soviet Union-led boycott of the Olympics that China was prepared to follow.
Lee returned from that special trip he made to China on behalf of the USOC with a signed document in hand promising that China would participate in the '84 Games.
The late John C. Argue, also a La Cañada resident at the time, was pivotal in bringing those Games to Los Angeles. The '84 Games turned out to be the most financially successful Games in Olympic history.
Lee's resume is an impressive one. In 1967 he graduated from Washington and Lee University with a bachelor's degree in German and from the University of Virginia Law School in 1976 after serving in the U.S. Navy. In 1972 he took a two-year leave of absence from law school to study Mandarin Chinese in Taipei, Taiwan at the Taiwan National Normal University's Mandarin center.
Lee's first job after law school graduation was here in Los Angeles with the law firm of Latham & Watkins, where he worked in the litigation department for five years.
After working independently and with a New York law firm's Los Angeles office for two years, in 1983 he was appointed an assistant United States attorney in the criminal division in Los Angeles.
A frequent visitor to China, earlier this year Lee received a Fullbright Senior Specialist Grant to lead a series of lectures in Mandarin and English over a two-week period at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing.
While on sabbatical in 2006, Lee received a specialist grant from the U.S. Department of State to give a series of lectures in six Chinese cities over a period of two weeks. On both trips he discussed the state court structure in California and lectured on topics including judicial independence and suppression motions.
Lee met his wife, Miranda, more than 30 years ago in Los Angeles. She was born in a Canton province of China, however she grew up in Hong Kong, where her parents and five siblings still live. She has another sister that lives in Toronto, Canada.
“Miranda is going to be such an asset in Beijing when we attend the many social functions that are necessary in my job as chef de mission. Even though her native language is Cantonese, her Mandarin is very good,” Lee said.
“Our entire family is looking forward to this experience. I'm especially eager to meet the athletes from all over the world,” Miranda said.
The Lee family moved to La Cañada in 1978. Their youngest daughter, Annie was a La Cañada Court princess in 2000. All of Lees' three girls attended La Cañada High School. Alice, 28, is a consultant with Accenture out of Miami, Fla.; Dabney, 25 is the category manager for Classic Shoes at Vans; and Annie is in her third year studying law at Berkeley.
Even though Judge Lee has been keeping a jam-packed business schedule he finds time to do daily Bikram Yoga and gets in a few games of golf at the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club.
All eyes will be turned toward Beijing, China on Aug. 8 when the opening ceremonies will officially begin the XXIX Olympiad with its theme of “One World One Dream.”
For Judge Charles Carter Lee it will be a dream come true.