Off To The London Olympics, And The Power Of The Moment

(Photo by Tom Nguyen/Creative Commons)

She got drunk and kissed me by the window as Saturday faded into Sunday.

I didn’t see it coming. That’s one aspect about our longest-lasting memories. Most of them occurred in an instant, unexpected. The head-on collision. The sudden diagnosis. But also the home run. The acceptance letter. The first kiss.

This is not a story about one of those kinds of memories. For this, I have been preparing for many months. And it is not one brief moment, but an overload of incredible experiences spanning many days.

I am going to the Olympics.

When I have talked with people about this, about 90 percent of the conversations have gone like this:

Person: “I heard you are going to the Olympics.”

Me: “Yeah, I am going to be a runner for Sheinhardt Wig Company NBC.”

Person: “Wow, how exciting!”

Me: “Yeah, I’m pumped. Should be great.”

Person: “Can you fit me into your suitcase?”

And then depending on the size of the person, I would joke about their ability to actually fit in my luggage. But the fact is, I have had probably one hundred of these conversations and I was lying. I am neither pumped, nor excited, nor do I think it would be great.

Instead, I am thrilled beyond belief. And it will be the opportunity of a lifetime. “Excited” and “great” don’t even begin the description.

I have been in love with the Olympic Games and their NBC broadcasts from a young age. I have specific memories of obsessively playing the Sydney 2000 video game. I was astounded by the Opening Ceremonies in Salt Lake City, the last American Games. I parked myself in front of the TV for so many hours of Beijing events, I think I left a dent in the sofa. And how can some of these sequences not stir one’s soul?

I always dreamed of being able to go to the Olympics, so much so that I even worked to try to get them to Pittsburgh. (And hey, maybe some day my crazy plan of a Pittsburgh Olympics will come to fruition. As long as the mascot is better than Steely McBeam.)

Then I saw an email in February 2011 with the subject line, “NBC Is Looking for 2012 OLYMPIC INTERNS.” I practically jumped out of my chair. This was my new No. 1 goal. A month after I mailed in my application, I was told I got an interview. Then a few months after that stressful conversation, I was told NBC accepted me. Joy! Then a few months later I found out I would be going to London (others will head to New York). Ecstasy! I have never been there before. Sometimes so many blessings work in your favor that it is almost unbelievable. I am very grateful for this chance.

So here I am. The bags are packed, with plenty of warm clothes because it is England. My phone has been put on the international plan. I renewed my subscription, because the Pirates will still be on at Midnight most nights.

Starting Saturday, I will be working long day after long day at the International Broadcast Centre. I have no idea what I will be doing there. I could be running tapes between rooms. I could be getting food orders.

(Photo by Graham Hogg/Creative Commons)

Fact is, I don’t care what I’ll be doing. I could be a glorified coffee cart the entire time and it does not matter to me.

I am going to wake up every day and roll out of bed into the Olympic city. The torch will be lit. The atmosphere will be like a 17-day party, with an energy that cannot be matched anywhere else on Earth. And I get to be a part of the most-watched broadcast in America. Even people who don’t like sports will check in, even if it’s just for the ceremonies.

If you don’t like the Olympic Games, I feel kind of sorry for you. Even I don’t get hyped up about rhythmic gymnastics, but what could be more exciting than the Olympics? There will be 302 medal events, and for their particular sports, they are like 302 world championships bookended by unmatched pomp and pageantry. For gymnasts, every single muscle move can mean the difference between a medal or an empty hand. For swimmers, every stroke becomes magnified. For track sprinters, a split-second hesitation can ruin the race of their lives.

In every case, all 10,000 men and women represent the most talented, most refined in the world at their sport. They run the fastest, jump the highest, represent the strongest. Their movements write the stories that captivate a planet for two straight weeks. And each individual has been working for not only four years, but for their entire lives, in preparation of their Olympic moment. It is the ultimate athletic event. It is the ultimate human drama. The only thing it is not: boring.

But for the athletes, their moment may be fleeting. They may only appear on the world’s stage for a day, or even just ten seconds.

I don’t get one moment. I don’t get one day. I get almost an entire month to live out my lifelong goal of being at the Olympics, and on top of that, my lifelong goal of working on a national sports broadcast.

This is not a first-kiss moment, wonderful but fleeting. This will be a lifetime of unforgettable moments, packed into four weeks. This is the Olympics, and I will be there.

And when they extinguish the flame, the memories I have carved will remain forever.

[Addendum: Due to the rules of the powers that be, I will not be using Twitter, Facebook or this blog to post updates about the Olympics. I will, however, still be on Twitter and following the Pirates as much as possible. And of course, I will be keeping a journal (online or otherwise) of my journey through London over the next month, to share with you all when I return in mid-August. Enjoy the Games!]

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