I’d like to think that the majority of people around the world get excited about watching their country’s athletes compete in the Olympics every 4 years, but I also know I’m a pretty optimistic person. Throughout the years I’ve come to realize that while most of my friends enjoy watching the Olympics, none quite got into it like I did, and I attribute a lot of that to my parents.
See, I’m from Atlanta and we hosted the Centennial Olympic games in 1996, so with that comes a bit of pride. Because my parents, like many Atlanta citizens, were excited about hosting the Olympics and my sister and I were equally swept up by their passion and excitement. We were in Underground Atlanta on September 19, 1990 with thousands other for the announcement of the Olympic games (I also found out my parents took my sister out of school for it, #history). At 3 I had no clue what it meant, but people were excited so I was too!
In the years before 1996, I remember a lot of construction downtown and seeing the countdown to the Games above the Connector. Lauren and I got bricks in Centennial Olympic Park, my parents signed up to be volunteers, and we all waited for July 19th: the Opening Ceremonies, and my sister’s birthday.
We were at Turner Field that week to watch the dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony (they didn’t reveal the iconic Muhummad Ali caldron lighting), and the excitement was at an all time high. For the next 17 days, I remember everyone in Atlanta was a little more hospitable and the Games were on everywhere. I would stay at friends’ houses after school if my mom was still taking athletes around the airport, or my dad was volunteering at the tennis center.
I was lucky enough that my parents realized what a huge opportunity this was, and they got us tickets to several events. We watched swimming at Georgia Tech, women’s gymnastics at the Georgia Dome (a day before team finals and the Kerri Strung heroics), women’s soccer in Athens, beach volleyball, tennis, track & field, etc. We went to Coca Cola Olympic Park, I ran “fake” races, we collected pins, and Lauren’s cheerleading squad even performed.
It’s hard to believe that was 20 years ago (I’m getting old…). I’ve had fun looking back at the 1996 Olympic Games, bringing out my Izzy stuffed animal & watch, having conversations about what Izzy really is, rereading ‘One Glorious Summer’ and reminiscing on the great memories.
So for the remainder of Rio 2016, expect to see me in my red, white, and blue with Izzy watch on, streaming the Olympics at work, watching it at night, and generally getting way too into it because it’s the Olympics… and we could all use some positive news right now. Plus it’s just fun watching athletes compete for something they’ve worked their entire lives for, and hear all the stories.
Go team USA! 🇺🇸