Crazy for the Olympics

This Travelholic is also an Olympics-holic.  I’m especially crazy for the Opening and Closing ceremonies.  Hats off to the Brits for a fab opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics.

I have a deep-seated interest in the Olympics after working for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as logistics manager.  I know how much work goes into the smallest detail, how few hours any Olympics staff member gets to sleep during countdown weeks and the 17 glorious days of Olympic events, and the excitement buzz each day that makes fatigue and no sleep disappear as you watch the world’s best in action.   It was one of the best jobs of my life.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics blew my mind with its opening ceremony cast of thousands in perfect precision performances.  I wondered what London might do to top it.  Great Britain didn’t go for topping; GB made it personal, mixed in British humor, then pomped and circumstanced as only the Brits can do.  I loved, loved the evolution of the pastoral farming era into the Industrial Revolution, those smokestacks rising slowly, with menace but promise.  The Queen and Bond’s helicopter parachute bit was genius.  Then there was Beautiful Beckham, looking like a 21st century Adonis in his couture suit, at the helm of a speedboat on the Thames, in front of the iconic Tower Bridge lit like the crown jewels and the Olympic rings hanging from the bridge as though they’d been there for centuries.  And how could you not like a cloud of Mary Poppins floating down from the sky?!   Logistics, I give them a 10.

But the Parade of Nations is the best.  I watch with pad & pencil, jotting down every nation and a quick check mark if I or hubby have been to that country–45 nations for me this Olympics, 29 for him.  Such a mass of color, costume, faces, body types, antics and composure.   The line of beating drums around the field as the athletes entered the London stadium this year…perfect.  In person, it simply takes your breath away.

So kudos to  Britain, but a thump to NBC.  One thump for tape delaying the popular events until prime time evening hours.  Another thump for its tunnel vision focus on America, Team USA.  Yes, it’s an American network that has paid a gazillion bucks for broadcast rights, but NBC also has a responsibility to cover each competition as a whole since it’s broadcasting worldwide.  The endless profiles of American athletes and concentration on what and how the Americans are doing drives me nuts.  Where are the pieces on the Muslim women allowed by their nations to compete for the first time?  What’s happening with those countries who have only one or two athletes competing?  Can’t NBC at least show the total scores before zooming to closeups of an America athlete’s winning or losing face?  Worse yet, sometimes you have to wait to see which other countries got the medals.

I count myself incredibly lucky to have sat in the Olympic stadium for both opening and closing ceremonies.  You look around and see people from all over the world cheering their own athletes, but they’re also cheering for all winners and losers, recognizing that each athlete has a story and is there to do his or her absolute best.  In spite of politics and advertising, this is where global citizens unite.  The Olympics lets us learn about other nations, meet their people, sample their food, learn a little of their culture.   This brush with learning and sharing gives hope for a better world.  That’s why my  loudest cheer was for Britain’s first medal.

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