Sunday, August 3, 2008

Olympics - It's A Special Time

I feel sorry for the athletes that miss out on this life time memory. I was in the middle there somewhere. (Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony)

In less than a week the world’s largest sporting event, the Olympic Games, will be in full swing. In case you have been hiding under a rock, this year’s games will be held in Beijing and begin next Friday, running over the next two weeks.

It was just four short years ago that I was about to have my own experience in Athens and I completely understand athletes talking about it being a life changing experience.

The first thing I remember is the moment I realized I had made the Olympic team. I was in Melbourne practicing with the team in preparation for the event when a member of Australia Post showed up to present all team members with their own stamp. Not a bad start.

When we finally arrived in Greece, the Opening Ceremony was upon us before we knew it. There is not better word to describe being a part of this than AMAZING! Outside of winning a medal (which we obviously didn’t do) this would have to be the biggest buzz of my Olympic experience.

The minute you enter the stadium, 100,000 people are screaming all around you. You cannot help but get lost in the emotion. You wave frantically to absolutely no one in particular. Somehow it feels like everyone has known one another for years.

After I finished my lap of stranger waving, I spent the next few hours star-gazing as the rest of the countries made their way into the stadium. No matter which way you looked, there were world class athletes and I was going to get a chance to rub shoulders with them over the next two weeks.

Once the Opening Ceremony came to a close all our energy was channeled towards the first game. I will never forget the atmosphere surrounding that game. We opened up against the host nation as 12,000 crazed Greek fans cheered for their team.

One of my favourite perks that came with being an Olympic athlete was being allowed to watch as many of the world class athletes compete as you could fit in. I managed to see the gold medal game for the Hockeyroos, Alicia Molik take bronze and the women’s basketball team, the Opals, win silver.

The Olympic Village is another memory that ranks high on my list of favourites. The dining hall, in particular, was a great place to waste time. I could sit there for hours and people watch. One minute 7’6 Chinese basketball player Yao Ming is sitting at the next table. The next sprinters Maurice Green and Ato Boldon are asking if anyone is using an extra chair at your table.

I could go on about my experiences for pages and pages. There is little doubt that when next Friday rolls around a piece of me will be wishing I was in Beijing reliving the old experiences and creating new ones.

On the other hand it is great to know that there will be many first time athletes there enjoying the same things I did.

Let me reassure you that over the next few weeks, when you hear an athlete commenting about how they are having the experience of a life time at the Games, nothing could be more true.

You can read my article every Saturday in the Townsville Bulletin.


Darren H said...

That was a great piece, I remember vividly watching the opening ceremony at home , I do remember seeing your face in the crowd and reading the excitement on your face which added to ours. Also adding to my experience was writing to you and you telling me about the banter with a couple of the boys being dunked on. Thanks for the experience :)

John Rillie said...

The good thing is, in a few days time something else will become a life time memory.

Question is, will the Spirit become a life time memory?