Thursday, February 9, 2012
One of my favorite Olympic experiences was attending the Pre-Pre-Dress Rehearsal of the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games. As a volunteer I was given one ticket to attend, and my brother-in-law, Rick also got one ticket, so we bundled up and headed to the Olympic Stadium one night in late January. When we got to the stadium and got settled in they announced that they were going to try to recreate the March of the Athletes coming in to the stadium as they hadn't rehearsed that yet. They asked for volunteers to be the athletes and asked some of us to go up to the concorse and divide into countries. Rick was not interested in pretending to be an athlete, but I dashed off and ran into a friend who volunteered with me. We tried to be German athletes but they were full. We tried to be French, but they were also full. Finally, we ended up with Team USA. We waited and waited to march into the stadium following the path the athletes would take. Team USA would be the last team to enter as the host country, and finally it was our turn. There were maybe only 100 or so of us pretend Team USA athletes, and the stadium was only about 1/3 full, but as we rounded the corner to walk into the stadium the cheering started, and as we all walked the track around the stadium it became deafening as the other volunteers, city workers, and performers cheered for Team USA. I have never felt a sense of pride to be an American as I did that day walking around the stadium, waving, smiling, feeling as if I was truly an Olympian. The US had been through so much in the previous 6 months with the fall of the Twin Towers on September 11th and the fear of further terrorism. It felt like such an accomplishment just to have the Olympics in Salt Lake when there was so much fear of the world.
When the real Opening Ceremonies happened I watched as the athletes carried the battered American flag found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. I watched the real Olympians march along the track and felt a pride and a kinship with them. I was an athlete once, if only for five minutes.