During the 2008 Olympics my now-wife (we had only been dating for seven months then) was a sports copy editor intern at the Denver Post. From inside that vast, and might I add vibrant, newsroom – the same newsroom where Post columnist Woody Paige records his piece on ESPN’s Around the Horn – I watched American swimmer Michael Phelps win one of his eight gold medals in Beijing.
I can’t believe four years have past. I can’t believe I’m married. And I also can’t believe the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London is one week away.
I’m starting to feel the Olympic fever symptoms. There’s the anxiousness, the anticipation, the careful planning of just how early to get up and how to, one way or another, ignore the Yahoo! home page and wire service websites so that NBC’s primetime coverage isn’t spoiled when I get home.
Around here, the Opening Ceremony will air at 7:30 p.m. next Friday night. London will certainly put on a great show – enchanting dance routines, the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. But for me the main event on opening night is the Parade of Athletes. Does anyone else get chills watching all those hopefuls with bright eyes and big smiles march around the track beaming as they show off their countries colors? Goosebumps. Those athletes are the epitome of excellence in their sport of expertise. The best of the best in the world, gathered in one place, under one umbrella of sportsmanship.
If it were always that easy to get people together in agreement, right?
That sense of pride must overwhelm even the fiercest competitors. Almost oozing out of their pores. In some cases it’s the blood, sweat and tears, or their voices raised, singing along with their national anthem on the podium. It’s contagious.
For the first time in history, all competing countries will have women representatives – and that includes Saudi Arabia, which is another monumental first.
The past is brought back to present; heroes of Games gone by are honored and remembered once more. And this year, assuredly, there will be anguish, celebration, shock and amazement, and inspiring stories of triumph against all odds. All of that bundled into two weeks of captivating action.
Can the USA men’s basketball team and women’s soccer team defend their golds? Will Phelps’ teammate and rival Ryan Lochte steal some of his thunder? Can the world’s fastest man in 2008, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, deliver another jaw-dropping performance in the 100-meter dash? And on, and on.
We have a local Olympian to root for this year. Shelley Olds, 31, is thought to be the one and only Olympian to sprout from Gilroy. She has trained countless hours on the roads that dip, curve, and wind around South County.
The cyclist arrives in London on Monday, where her Olympic adventure will hit maximum speed July 29. That’s when the women’s road race will be held. All riders start together and the first to finish the 140-kilometer trek earns gold.
I caught up with Olds, who is in Europe right now, via email earlier this week. She described the dynamics of the race, and what it will take to cross as winners.
“We compete as a team. We all will have a specific job to do in the race. Each of us has different strengths and we will use them to compete against the riders of the other countries. The course is 140 km and throughout the race we will be looking after each other, riding together as a team, making it hard when we feel it is appropriate and using our riders the best way we can on the course. I am a sprinter, so my job is to make the final selection and sprint for the finish.”
Let’s hope Olds can feel our support halfway across the world. (Read more from my chat with Olds in Tuesday’s edition of the Dispatch.)
Athletes will make memories, and moments will forever stick in us spectators’ minds. These are occasions not to be taken for granted or unappreciated. The Olympics are a massive symbol of unity through competition, a shared experience we can all get behind.
• The course that Olds and Team USA will travel is laid out this way on the official website for the Games: london2012.com.
“The Road Race starts on The Mall before the riders head southwest through the city. They then cross the River Thames at Putney Bridge and continue out through Richmond Park, Bushy Park and past Hampton Court Palace. The Surrey section of the course incorporates several circuits of a challenging loop around Box Hill (nine for the men’s Road Race, two loops for the women’s), before the riders head north through Leatherhead, Esher, Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond Park and back to The Mall for a dramatic finish.”