It seems to me that the common question in the month of September is always, “How was your summer?” Returning to school for yet another year with such enthusiasm, most students answer the question with such pain, knowing it’s all over. Fortunately for me, I get to smile and say, “I was at the Olympics this summer…for a second time…in a row.”
In 2008 I was fortunate enough to be in Beijing, China for the 2008 Summer Games. I was then blessed with another opportunity this past summer to be in London, England for the 2012 Summer Games. Both experiences were different yet eye-opening, but London was my favorite.
Great Britain’s Sebastian Coe — the Chairman of London 2012’s Olympic Committee — set a very high standard while London was still just in the running to host the summer Olympics for a world record-setting third time. A year before London was even granted the summer Games for 2012, Coe was confident. In 2004, it seemed that Coe was setting out to host the best Olympic Games ever when interviewed by CNN.
“It is to create the best games the world has ever seen by unlocking the UK’s unrivalled passion for sport, by delivering the best games for athletes to compete in,” said Coe. “By showcasing London’s unmatched cultural wealth and diversity and by creating a real and lasting legacy.”
Coe’s ambitious statement fueled the nation to believe that London would be selected, and on July 6, 2005 it was announced that the world’s most cultured city would host the Summer Games of 2012.
As cliché as it sounds; the numbers say it all. London’s 2012 Games had the highest TV ratings in history. According to the L.A. Times, the opening ceremony telecast — which aired on tape from 8 p.m. to just past midnight — delivered 40.7 million total viewers, up 17% when compared with Beijing’s Olympic kickoff four years ago. The 2012 Olympics beat out the 2008 Beijing Games, which brought in 215 million viewers. Those are just the American television numbers; the British Broadcasting Corporation, known world-wide as BBC almost broke every record in the book during the airing of the Olympics, but I won’t bore you with more numbers.
I had never watched so much of the Olympics as I did the London Games. It seemed to be the case for everyone back home as well. Friends and family that I spoke with after my trip all had the same thing to say about the games; that they had been watching hours and hours of it each day. The coverage of the games from BBC was brilliant. Any event at any time, I could tune in. This all-access type functionality to the games fit in beautifully with London 2012’s Olympic motto, “Inspire a Generation”.
Obviously, not every little boy and girl could attend an Olympic event, but if a child just had access to basic television in Great Britain, they had all-access to all the events.
This aspect is a HUGE reason why London’s Games had more impact than Beijing’s Games. A young child just had to turn on the television, and watching Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, Michael Phelps, or USA Men’s Basketball was merely a click away. When I was in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, the same access was not available. Not to say that Beijing wasn’t amazing, because it was absolutely phenomenal, but BBC’s all-access aspect to the 2012 Games could potentially jump-start the youth in Great Britain to be more active.
I was fortunate enough to see Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant take on Lithuania while I was in London. That wasn’t the highlight for me though. My highlight was being with good friend Jrue Holiday — Philadelphia 76er’s point guard — and witnessing the USA Women’s Soccer team take home gold against Japan. It was an atmosphere I had never experienced before in my life. Wembley Stadium, filled with 80,000 screaming fans on a world stage. The energy was remarkable.
The value of my trip to the games this summer was my ability to compare them to Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Games. Most would call me spoiled rotten, but I just consider myself blessed and fortunate. Being to back-to-back Olympics is definitely not something many people on this planet get to do, but I’ve done it at such a young age. I’ve also been able to develop a competence to understand what I am actually doing. It’s not about just being in another country, or being at the Olympics two times in a row, I personally look at it as being in a city that’s on display to the entire world. I soaked up the moment. Maybe I look at it differently from everyone else, but then again, that’s the beauty of it.
Something about the abundant amount of cultures in one place at one time makes it extremely special. For a span of 17 days, the world puts sport on a pedestal and all of a sudden; peace, equality, sportsmanship, cordiality and respect are the focal points of the event. I’m not saying that the whole world honors these attributes during the the Olympics, but at the games, they are constantly on display. Athletes hugging each other at the podium, crying together after the 10,000 meter run, and even giving each other high-fives during a volleyball match. At the end of the day it’s so much bigger than winning, it’s about humanity.
For the Olympics, I feel that it’s not just about getting the gold medal, it’s about taking part in history. Americans are proud of anyone in the games, no matter what position they may finish in. Of course, we want to see our American athletes win medals, but by simply representing the country, the athletes have already won. It may sound kind of “soft”, but after being in the Olympic Park with thousands of patriotic fans screaming for their nation, I can say the mutual feeling throughout my experience was PRIDE. Regardless of the result, fans were proud of their fellow countrymen.