More than three decades ago, I graduated from primary school. Not sure what the North American equivalent is called, elementary school or middle school perhaps? Here in Australia, primary school is generally schooling between the ages of 8 and 11. In my State, high school starts at the age of 12.
We have only had one primary school reunion in all those years and to be honest, it was a little bit like entering the twilight zone. Not sure what made me feel like this, perhaps it was the amount of time that had passed since graduation, perhaps it was the intervening high school years and the notion that high school generally brings more memories or meaningful experiences. Whatever it was, it felt somewhat bizarre seeing my primary school mates after more than twenty years and talking about marriage, kids, divorce and careers. Perhaps because there were no blunt ended scissors, glue, coloured pencils in the middle of the table or dangerously low hanging projects strung up by pegs hanging from the ceiling.
As part of the festivities we were asked to fill out a questionnaire. Most of the questions were unremarkable, but there was one that I have carried with me. It is a fairly innocuous question, but I felt confronted by it. Coming away from the reunion, I felt under pressure to have an experience where I could answer the question in the affirmative. The question was:
Have You Ever Attended A World Event?
By that stage, I had given birth twice, had career success, was still married to my first and only, was a dutiful daughter and wife who almost brokered
world household peace. Was this not enough? Did I have to attend a world event as well?
Well yes, because it would be memorable and fun and newsworthy and something that no-one could take away. It would also put me in good stead for any future school reunions with tricky questionnaires, not to mention future bridge parties with the girls (for when I get old – ha!).
It was therefore wonderfully fortunate that my city won the right to host the 2000 Olympics. I remember awakening at 3.00am to watch the then president of the IOC, Juan Antiono Samaranch utter the immortal words “and the winner is…. Sydernee”. Really, he said “Sydernee” and the expression has gone down in our city folklore. That announcement made sometime prior to 1995 heralded the start of my own personal Olympic story and journey to a world event.
We watched as Sydney Olympic Park was developed, the main stadium, satellite stadiums built and Olympic infrastructure installed. We heard stories about the supposed crowds and traffic and people renting their house for the Olympic period for exorbitant sums. We were inundated with cheap travel offers to exotic destinations to tempt us out of the city. We watched as they painted the blue line for the marathon runners in the next suburb and we watched the torch relay as it swept through. We saved money, entered ballots and queued to obtain tickets. Leave the city during the Olympics? Not this girl! The world coming to our laid-back doorstep and the prospect of watching Olympic events at a reasonable time, rather than in the middle of the night was an opportunity too good to pass up.
I can honestly say, attending the Sydney 2000 Olympics was one of my finest experiences. We ended up attending the opening ceremony, velodrome cycling events and athletics. But more importantly than the events themselves, for the fortnight of the Olympics our city was enveloped in a blanket of goodwill and cheer. The mood was incredible. Locals wanted to put their best face on to the world and exuded friendliness and tolerance. The city was clean and traffic almost non-existent. Public transport ran on time and business took a holiday. Carefree was in the air and the news was positive. The politicians stopped playing politics and everyone just seemed happy. In a word, utopia. And let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing like hearing your national anthem played on the world stage in your home city.
I can well imagine what London, Londoners and indeed all of England must be feeling right now. Five years is a long anticipatory haul, but the fruits of London’s Olympic labours are about to be laid bare for the world to see. And the world will watch and for the first time will Facebook and Tweet at unprecedented levels.
So yes, I have been to a world event, some would say THE world event. I have my sights set on a World Cup Soccer event, World Series Final (although it is debatable whether this is a true world event), a Rio Mardi Gras and perhaps the Tomatina festival in Spain in the future.
In the meantime, I have set my alarm clock for 5.30am tomorrow morning to watch the opening ceremony. I have reread my herding teenagers post and am armed and ready to wake them so we watch it together to continue a family tradition. Here’s to two weeks of this given our unforgiving timezone!
Would you want to go the Olympics? Have you been? Have you attended a world event? What Olympic moments are you looking forward to?
25 thoughts on “Have A Personal Olympic Story? Why Yes, I Do…”
I never have really given serious thought to whether I’d want to go to Olympics. But now after having read your post describing what a positive experience is was for you and your country when the Olympics took place in Sydney, I have decided that I want the Olympics to come to me. Or more probable, to come to the city where I live, which is Boston MA, USA. I think I’d really enjoy an experience similar to the one that you described.
Being an American, I have no problem with confirming that The World Series is NOT a world event. If Major League Baseball wanted to be more accurate (they don’t) they would rename it The USA and Occasionally Canada Series, since these are the only two countries represented by MLB teams that have competed in The Not Really The World Series. Lol 🙂
The Olympics in Boston would be awesomesauce! Pity baseball is no longer an Olympic sport, they could play it at Fenway. Had some of the best seafood in Boston last year when we visited. You’re lucky to live in such a lovely town.
What a wonderful opportunity for you.. Like you I would enjoy all the goodwill and just meeting (or seeing) so many people in one place with a common goal- to share in the athletic events.. Luck you!!
London must be about to burst with joy today 🙂
Speaking to some English friends, they were and are so excited. For them even if they have to work, it will be like being on holiday and snatching a moment of history.
The ability to turn it into a family tradition is a world event in itself! Sounds like you had an amazing moment and one that everyone should ponder on experiencing. Hey, when your son is in the World Series it will certainly be a WORLD event….Enjoy the Games!
Thanks. In the end, it proved to be a relay. I got youngest son up at the start and then finally older son came to watch on the home straight after the batton was passed.
I had the chance to see the Olympic Torch come through on its way to Atlanta and to go to a ceremony involving the torch. Even though this was a small event compared to the Olympic Games, the mood was the same as what you describe. You feel part of something bigger than yourself. It was a fun experience and one I’ll never forget.
You nailed it, Eagle Eye – being part of something bigger than yourself is special and all too rare. I’m glad you experienced the torch relay, hopefully the memories will stay with you for ever.
I got pictures of the experience, so I can go back and revisit them whenever I like. 🙂
My husband was working in the television industry and got to go to the Sydney Olympics. He could take someone with him and we decided that it should be our sports-crazed son. (I stayed at home with our 5 year old daughter, both of us glued to the telecast.) When they returned, they told us over and over how much they loved Sydney and the Australians they met. The trip ignited a love of Australia for both of them and an interest in the great, big world outside our neighborhood for our son. I hope we all get to go as a family sometime in the future!
What great memories. We can certainly turn on the hospitality. Hope your guys will be back some day and that the rest of you come along too.
My daughter is in synchronized swimming, so I would probably want to attend one of their events. However, someone would probably have to send a limo for me and sit me in the V.I.P. section because I hate fighting parking and fighting crowds. I know; I’m a wuss.
I was the world’s best synchronized swimmer when I was nine… in my head. Used to spend hours doing toe points, catrwheels, somersaults and handstands in the water. Never quite achived Olympic glory ;).
I love this!! I would LOVE to go to any world event. I think I would choose the Tour de France and my husband would love that too so maybe some day. Or the World Cup. I was in Sydney with my Grandfather in 1995, soon after you were awarded the Olympics. I bought a shirt! 🙂 Can’t wait to enjoy this one and see what London has prepared. So fun!!! Thanks for helping get me even more excited for it! Actually, now that I think of it – we had the Tour of Colorado last year which is a new race, but all the big guys were here. And they are coming again this year and we will go again, so I guess I HAVE been to a world event! I feel so much mor sophisticated than when I first started reading this post! 😉
Glad to take you on a little journey with my blog post :). So I gather you have been watching the Olympic road race cycling? Can’t wait for the velodrome cycling – love the stratagy involved in those races. And YAY, to having been to a world event!
They really haven’t been showing much of the cycling, which is a big bummer. We’ve been loving the swimmimg, the gymnastics and the divng. And looking forward to track and field…we jsut love it all!!
Great post, I watched the Sydney Olympics…;) I also watched the Olympic torch being carried by runners through a part of San Diego on it’s way to the Los Angeles Olympics. My oldest was almost 5 and my youngest was in her stroller. I know she doesn’t remember it, but she has been told often enough that she saw the Olympic flame go by her. I know at the time she was busy holding her bottle and looking at everyone’s legs…
Some great memories. My youngest was just over 12 months old and teething!
Having witnessed to greater or lesser degrees 16 Olympiads in my life it is easy to be cynical and take the Games for granted and I thank you for writing about them with such infectious enthusiasm. The special moments for me in Sydney were the old athletes then finally Cathy Freeman lighting the torch….and the courageous 12 yo Nikki Webster suspended waaay up there above the stadium singing.
Ha, Nikki had the BEST view in the stadium! I loved the Man from Snowy River item at the start. Very dramatic.
What a great memory which you can translate to future Olympics when you watch. I have never been to anything that grandiose, although I have been to big singular events. I am envious. Thanks for sharing your anecdotes. The thing I like most about the Olympics is watching world class competition in events you would not normally see. I enjoy watching the volleyball and rowing as much as the more mainstream sports. Of course, watching the Aussie swimmers compete with the US, China and other great swimmers is a treat. Well done.
I agree, I real opportunity to catch sports that you don’t otherwise catch in the intervening years. Aussie swim years not doing so wll this time around, we have been spoiled by our past performances.
A very well and interesting post. Peer pressure and all that stuff.
I’m surprised to find myself following what is going on at this particular Olympic competition, I don’t usually, no TV and all that, and am very proud of my countrymen, both winners and those who were out played.
The soccer World Cup came to South Africa and the experience was very much as you described happenings in “Sydernee”, everyone was on their best behavior.
May the Lord bless those who have taken the time to present such a wonderful event to the rest of the world.
I wouldn’t mind attending – but I am so not a sportsy type and therefore I would probably fall asleep .. I know not very patriotic or endearing of me, Give a Rah Rah etc. but it’s not me 😦 I do however like watching the dressage and the horse events as I ride, I am sure it would have been spectacular to watch and I did see snippets on the Tv …does that count..sortta? 😉
Sorta, kinda, yeah, maybe :). It’s more the spectacle and being part of a world event that was interesting. Otherwise it’s like an adult version of an athletic carnival…