Tomorrow I leave for the Olympics. The Olympics!!! Where do I begin to convey the powerful emotions this word conjures in my heart, my soul and my imagination? Since I was young I watched for and counted down to the Olympic Games in an anchored anticipation that borders on clinical obsession….(Really, Truly, I am obsessed. Check out this video I made for Ellen four years ago during the London Games. It shows just a fraction of my excitement and love for the Olympics.) And now, four years later, I am on my way to the OLYMPICS in RIO! While I have visited most of the Olympic stadiums and villages of the past. I have never actually been in a city during the Olympics!
My fascination with the Olympics begins with my love for discovering the world. When I was young I loved learning about all of the elusive Olympic Host Cities. I became enthralled with cities like Barcelona, Lillehammer, Sydney, Nagano, Athens, Torino and Beijing. I grew up in rural Indiana and when I fell in love with the Olympic games I was actually falling in love with the world and its diverse cities.
I may have been stuck in farmland Indiana, but every two years I would get to visit these places through the eyes of the games. Bob Costas and his NBC team took me to Barcelona, Athens, Beijing and Sydney before I was able to go for myself. I got to see these elusive locations and was filled with wonder and curiosity. I looked forward to these games with the same passion and intensity as the athletes themselves.
How could all of these fantastic cities be real? They were bursting with so much history and beauty . And they all had their own unique zest for life. I was amazed at how different they were from the farmlands of Indiana where I grew up.
I sat there looking at these places wondering about the people who lived there and those who were brave and fortunate enough to travel there. The actual sporting events themselves were always captivating, dramatic and sensational. I loved learning about the stories of the the athletes and their teams. These stories were always full of triumphs, heartbreaks, successes and overcoming hurdles. Yet, just like the athletes, each Olympic Host city always has its own story to tell. It is suddenly thrust onto a global platform. It is the time for the city to shine, to showcase their strengths, and perhaps even expose some follies.
My favorite part of every Olympics is the dramatic, entertaining and emotional opening ceremony. This is where the host city gets to give you a taste and feel for the city, the host country and its culture. Your eyes are opened to the sounds and flavor of the Host City’s people and history and you absolutely fall in love.
However, over the course of a few weeks, you begin to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the city as the games unfurl. Each day you learn something new. You see how the city handles the stress of an international event. You see how they accommodate the world’s athletes, spectators and media crews as we all come together to celebrate this global event.
When I was young I decided to become a world traveler. And as I reflect on my life I may have the Olympics to thank for this passion. I have often talked about my goal to visit 30 countries before I turned 30. I met that goal last year. And true to form I immediately started a new goal that is going to continue to Fill My Map.
I decided to visit every city that has had the honor of hosting the Olympic Summer Games. So far there have been 22 different cities that have hosted the Summer Olympics. I have been to all but four of them. (The four I have not yet visited are: Los Angeles, Montreal, Mexico City and Athens- where it all began). I hope to write more about these trips and voyages to each Olympic city of the past, but I am also looking forward into the future.
While I have visited many Olympic stadiums and villages of the past. Next week I will be heading to Rio de Janeiro to experience the Olympics firsthand. I will be going there to fulfill my lifelong dream of actually attending an Opening Ceremony and getting to experience some of the events!
I cannot fully comprehend this fact. I will be getting on a plane tomorrow, yet it still does not feel real. I am not sure what to expect. I have been a fan of the Olympics my whole life. I have visited most of the Olympic Stadiums and venues of the past, but I am not sure what it will be like to be in the city that is hosting them. I don’t know how to process it all, but I will try.
I will be writing about this experience here and for a local Indianapolis radio station. WIBC.com. I will be connecting these posts for the Radio station to this blog, so please check in the next few weeks for updates to the games.
The next time you hear from me I will be in Rio! Olympics or BUST!