The Opening Ceremonies were just as amazing as I had hoped they would be!! As I write this you’ve probably just finished watching them, so you have an idea of what I'm talking about. I just hope the broadcast captured even half of the excitement of the event as I saw it!!
Before the ceremonies, we went to the US athlete staging area with the rest of our team. While there we met the USA Basketball team and got a few photos with them. They are so nice and humble—I think they took pictures with anyone and everyone who asked! We also met the first lady, George H.W. Bush, and our current president! He was kind enough to let us take both a team shot and individual shots with him. In his address to us, he said he was so proud of us and so honored to be here, but really I think I was more honored to meet him. Mr. Bush seems like a really kind, gentle, even fatherly man in real life.
After photos we went to the gymnastics stadium with the rest of the athletes. I was disappointed that there was no ceremony live feed for us to watch, but I passed the time meeting other athletes. I was inspired by the Lopez brothers who sat right in front of me—all three brothers and their sister are in the Olympics for taekwondo, three as athletes and one as their coach. What an amazing story!
Walking into the stadium was indescribable!! As soon as we entered the tunnel into the stadium the whole delegation started chanting USA-USA-USA…and it seemed to erupt as we entered the stadium of around 100,000 people. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard that many people cheering, but the feeling is beyond words when they are cheering for you! By the time we made it all the way around the track, we were covered with sweat because our parade outfits were anything but breathable; but we were almost too excited to notice.
The culmination of the evening was the lighting of the torch which was probably one of my favorite torch lightings. A man rose into the air, and “ran” around the top layer of the bird’s nest carrying the torch. Behind him, video of the world-wide torch relay played on the wall. Then he lit a track and the flame swirled its way up to the top of the Olympic torch. The stadium and what seemed like all of Beijing erupted in fireworks!!
By the end of the ceremony, we were exhausted but thrilled all at the same time. It was even a little hard to fall asleep, despite the fact that I got into bed at about 1:30 am! This day will certainly stand in my memory as one of the most inspiring, most exciting, and most amazing days of my life!!