Once every 4 years, we get to participate in something truly magical. Truly inspiring. Truly historical. Little children watch in wonder and awe, dreaming of future gold. Mothers watch with teary-eyes, inspired by and proud of potentials reached and dreams achieved. Humanity watches and overcomes chasms of hatred and discord, all of God's children coming together to participate in fairness and harmony. It is a celebration of the human spirit.
Who doesn't love the Olympics?
I've screamed and yelled Michael Phelps and Apolo Ohno into victory. I've held my breath while Salé and Pelletier skated a flawless program, then cheered when they finally won gold. I cried when Kerri Strug vaulted on an injured leg to clinch the gold, and America's heart.
And yes, every "Go World" commercial was written for cry-babies like me. I'm the reason Bob Costas still has a job every 2 years - he's "special interest pieces" and "a look into the athlete's life" journalism is catered to my heart-on-my-sleeve emotions.
So I spend the majority of the 14 days of competition with tears streaming down my face, tissue in hand.
But the Olympics is more than just some international competition I enjoy every other winter and summer. I've lived the Olympics. I've been there. I might as well have won a gold medal.
Ok, not really. But I have lived in two cities when the Olympics came to town - Atlanta in '96 and Salt Lake in '02. I've experienced all the hype an Olympic Games has to offer. Hoards of international tourists. Tours of tricked-out, state-of-the-art Olympic venues. And waaaay overpriced Roots gear.
More than that, I've been on the international stage. Literally. The cameras flashing. The crowds screaming. And the heat - seriously, the heat! It was the biggest adrenaline rush of my life.
The Olympics came to town the summer I turned 15. And my dance company was invited to dance in the Opening Ceremonies. We practiced from April until August. We practiced on high school football fields. We practiced in parking lots. We practiced in the old Fulton County Stadium, with artistic directors screaming at us through megaphones, perched atop high scaffolding. We practiced until midnight in the middle of downtown Atlanta, then had to drive home. 5 young white girls in an open-top Jeep navigating through the projects to find our way to I-85. We had 10-hour practices, every day, for the last two weeks leading up to the Ceremonies.
And after all that, they still made us wear our Pepto-Bismal pink, Power-Ranger looking costumes. In front of millions of people.
But I got to be on national TV. For all of about 3 seconds. And you can see me here - pause it at 1:45 and look at the far left of the screen, then at 7:11, and look at the middle right. I'm there, the girl with the really long blonde hair. And in case you really care, I'm in the "T" when we spell out Atlanta, and the "Y" when we spell out "How Y'all Doin'?"
I showed this video clip to my girls. Shaelyn was mesmerized. And when the trucks started driving out on the field, she exclaimed, "Get out of the way, cars! Mommy's dancing!"
I showed it to Michael, who had never seen it, and informed him that I will forever be able to sing every lyric of the entire song for the rest of my life, due to the insane amount of times I heard it. That and the phrase "take it from the top!"
I got to live the Olympic Dream. The only version I'll ever get to live, anyway. And I wanted to share it with the next generation. So of course I had to host the Olympics during preschool.
I can't help it! "Fix You" already gives me goosebumps on its own. Add images of the torch relay (my absolute favorite part of the Olympics, hands down) and you get a recipe for guaranteed waterworks. I dare you not to cry!
After carrying our torches across the vast expanses of Miss Shelley's classroom, we had to welcome the athletes! (Evidently, the only country participating in these Games were American.)
We played hockey.
And ice skated in our socks.
We soared in the ski jump.
And sped through the gates of the downhill. (With ski poles twice the size of us.)
And all won a gold medal. How's that for sportsmanship?!
But hey, while watching the American female bobsled team win Bronze, I heard a commentator mention that one of the bobsledders' decided at age 5 that she would be an Olympian. What made her decide that at such a young age? Her kindergarten teacher hosted an Olympic Games in the classroom, and our Bronze medalist was the flag bearer in the Opening Ceremonies. She claims it was the makings of her Olympic ambitions.
Maybe we'll see 4 familiar Olympians to cheer on in 17 (or so) years.