A few days from now, the world’s attention will be focused on Sochi, Russia, on the eastern side of the Black Sea, for the 2014 Olympic Games. And I will be one of those people watching the U.S. team, cheering them on. (Gotta support my local peeps, don’t you know.)
I love the human stories behind the Olympics — hearing about what the athletes did to earn the right to be walking into that stadium during the opening ceremonies. Those athletes practiced and bled and sweated and strained to get there. They moved to training centers, spent hundreds of hours in practice sessions and maintained an indomitable faith in themselves. I admire that quality — to stay faithful to yourself and keep working when the world tells you something else.
This year is particularly interesting. After a long legal fight, these Games will be the first time that women will be allowed to participate in ski jumping. And twin sisters and U.S. biathletes Tracy and Lanny Barnes will be there. Lanny will be competing and Tracy will cheer her on, having given up her spot on the team so her sister could compete instead. (Best. Sister. Ever.)
The announcers have some interesting stories to tell, too. I remember one announcer telling a touching story about an African team during the ’96 Olympics. The team went out for dinner and had never tried pizza, so they decided to have some and found it delicious. For them, it was SO delicious that they had it again for breakfast the next day!
I wouldn’t mind seeing the Olympics live, myself. (Oh, if only….I would pick the opening ceremonies, the ski jumping and the figure skating to attend.) About the closest I’ve ever come was seeing the Olympic torch when it passed through Alexandria, Virginia on its way to Atlanta in 1996. A friend of mine who is a journalist decided to cover the story for our local paper and I went along for the ride.
It was fun to see and if you ever get the chance to meet the Olympic torch on its path to the Games, I recommend the experience. There was a ceremony behind the United Way building, a good-sized crowd, decorative balloons and an honor guard. The torch was borne in by the runner, people made speeches and there was a feeling of being part of something much bigger than yourself, just for a little while.
Overall, my favorite part is the Parade of Nations. The athletes look so happy to be there…some of the biggest grins I’ve ever seen.
And why not? They earned it. Good luck, Team USA. Make us proud.