There’s a secret museum, of sorts, hidden within Aventura.
Nestled on the 10th floor of an office building, some of the most precious political and sports memorabilia of the 20th and 21st centuries hangs on a wall. But there are no tickets to this exhibit. For access, you’ll have to make an appointment to see Ron Book, the highly successful lobbyist and longtime chair of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.
Book’s collection of torches from the Olympic Games goes as far back as the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and there is a good chance that one from this month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea will find its way to his Miami-Dade office or home.
Ron Book: Tenacious Advocate
Book, who is known for his determined approach in politics and advocacy against child abuse and homelessness, credits his tenacity to playing competitive sports as teen.
“I learned most of that determination, focus and discipline from my years running track” in high school and college, he said. “My coaches really taught me what it was to be competitive, what it was to be hungry, what it was to fight for the things that matter to you. Track and field were important to me, and I always loved the Summer Olympics, so I started collecting torches.”
Book is a fierce collector — if he doesn’t already have it, that means it’s on his radar to get. He recalls a time when he watched the sun rise as he was participating in three simultaneous overnight auctions. Of his more than 40 Olympic torches, many still hold the residue of the mother flame, which Book notes adds to the torches’ value and desirability.
‘One of the things I always wanted to do was run in the Olympic torch relay, and I did it.’
Once-in-a-Lifetime Olympic Opportunity
He is hesitant to estimate a total worth of his collection, but he points to one that will forever remain priceless to him. It’s from the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta — one that he carried as part of the official Torch Relay Team.
“One of the things I always wanted to do was run in the torch relay, and I did in 1996,” Book said, tapping his finger to the glass case that holds the torch, the uniform he wore and a photograph of him during the relay. “At home, I have one just like it, but it’s one of eight that Muhammad Ali held and used to light the big torch in Atlanta.”
That opportunity of a lifetime came thanks to Jimmy Carnes, Book’s late track coach and friend. Carnes did it to give Book another shot at Olympic glory — the young runner had qualified for the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, in 1972 but blew his Achilles tendon two weeks before the tryout.
“I surrounded myself with things growing up that taught me the meaning of fighting for what you wanted and working at it,” Book said, adding that he doubts he’ll ever stop collecting, because it reminds him to stay focused.
“Torches are important to me. They’re a symbol of being the best.”