Scott Usher's Olympics Blog #6
The Olympics are full of incredible moments and being from central Nebraska they were full of life changing experiences. The opportunity to spend two months traveling, touring, meeting and experiencing other countries and the Olympic Games was amazing. So below I have "Five Things You May Have Never Known about the Olympic Games"
First, several USA teams travel to the Olympic village 10 days before the opening ceremonies to check in, stay for one night and leave the next day to spend a week at training camp away from the host city. In 2004 we traveled to Mallorca, Spain where we spent the week training at a great facility on a beautiful island. This allowed us to escape the media, nerves and crowdedness of the host city and venues.
Second, athletes are given an unlimited amount of trading pins with the United States flag on them to represent USA and trade among other athletes. These pins facilitate communication between athletes, to learn about one another, our home countries and cultures. The first opportunity that I had using these pins was when I met three Iraqi athletes after stepping off of the athlete bus. I introduced myself and handed them the Team USA pins and was immediately engulfed with hugs and stickers that the Iraqi athletes substituted as pins. We continued to communicate with gestures and common language for the next five minutes. This amazing cultural experience created a spark to travel the world and experience other cultures throughout the Games.
Third, Team USA athletes are hit with two giant waves of apparel shopping. The waves are large enough to fill a large grocery cart each. These two waves of shirts, shoes, bags, jackets, hats and many more items are used to outfit the athletes for the opening and closing ceremonies, along with the entire time they are competing. You may think you could get away with only a few outfits but you must remember that most events have morning and night sessions, along with several days of competition. In the case of the USA swim team there is a new outfit for each day and session to be worn chosen by the team captains. It was convenient in 2004 that there wasn't a charge for a second or even third checked back on the return flight back to the United States.
Fourth, athletes have an opportunity to travel around the host city and country once their sport has finished competition. In Greece, after the swimming events finished, we had two weeks to take in the historic sites and events. I had the opportunity to experience the Acropolis and Parthenon along with several other historic locations. There were also several huge celebrations that are hosted by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Speedo, MTV and other establishments that allow athletes from different cultures to get to know one another and celebrate their accomplishments. There is even the option for the athletes to change their return flight to a later date and continue traveling for as long as they would like.
Fifth, and what can actually be a very difficult part of the Olympics, is the limited interactions that can happen between the athletes and their families. At the Olympics security is very strong, there are fences and armed guards separating the athletes from their families. I was given two locations to meet my family during the Athens Olympic games. The first location was at the swimming pool where I would stand on a bench and hang over the top of the fence to talk to my family. This was often difficult because fans would see this and start to crowd for autographs. The second location was at the Olympic village. You are able to bring in a couple family guests to show them the village but this is not an easy task. When applying to have family come into the village you have to be willing to have your whole identity and background thoroughly checked several days before they are able to enter. They even asked for my great grandparents' names and locations. Safe to say, often the love and support of family, friends and other loved ones has to be seen and felt from the stands while they watched and cheered.
These were just a few of the interesting and memorable moments unique to my experience at the Olympic Games. There were several other memorable stories that I will carry with me for a lifetime and will continue to make the Olympic Games something totally unique and extraordinary for all who will participate.