Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Olympics: Retro Style

I was in my car when the announcement was made. On my way to a job interview. I knew it wouldn't happen. I mean really, Atlanta? The host of the Olympics? But on that morning of September 18, 1990 - the proclamation was made: "IT'S ATLANTA!" Followed by much screaming. Clapping. And allegations of bribery. Atlanta was to be the host of the Centennial Olympic Games.

There was so much drama surrounding our Olympics. From commercialization. To our mascot. Labeled worst ever. To ticket sales operators declaring that people from New Mexico couldn't buy tickets because they hadn't opened up foreign sales yet.

And then the world arrived on our doorstep. And they were welcomed with open arms and a big glass of sweet tea. Companies gave employees paid days off so they could volunteer. Other companies encouraged people to take vacation days or work from home. And for several weeks at the end of July, there was no traffic in this town. Rush hour was non-existent.

In 1996 I was almost done with school. I was a newlywed. And I was working for a family as a nanny and household manager. And they had ordered lots of tickets to Olympic events. From what I recall, you made your requests. With several choices. And it was done by lottery. So, sometimes you had tickets to events that you weren't that excited about. I suppose that is why I was invited to go to this event:

I can't recall if they were excited about it. I went along. I even brought my camera. Let me set the stage for you. We parked in a gravel parking lot and walked down a path towards the lake. There were metal bleachers set up. And the organizers knew that this would not be a big crowd drawer. There probably weren't any more bleachers than you'd see at a typical little league game. But the Olympic bleachers? Special. Because they were metal. And had been sitting in the sun since "IT'S ATLANTA" was announced. I think I still have burn scars on my bum.

And what is it like to watch rowing? Well...you sit on the bleachers. Watch all the boats (what are they called?!) line up. A gun goes off. And off they go. And you know what? You can't see them rowing anymore. They rowed arond a bend. And completely out of sight. For a really long time. And the rest is blurry. I know we didn't stay long. And I am not sure if we ever saw them come back.

And then for my birthday, they gave me tickets so that Michael and I could go and see some track and field events - and the women's marathon.Do you see the date on this ticket? It is significant because not even twelve hours earlier, the Atlanta Olympics hosted its first tragedy. With a bomb that went off in the park. So this was the first event to take place after that. And the first foray into even more security.

And do you see the time on that ticket? Man, that's early. But, I suppose if you are going to run a marathon. In Atlanta. In July. Earlier is cooler. Here are people walking up the hill to the stadium. With our Capitol building in the back ground. Obviously my date on my camera was a smidge off. While we were walking to the stadium...I noticed all these vans. They were to follow the runners. For security.When we found our seats inside the stadium - we discovered that they were great seats. Up close. And pretty soon after we were seated...the marathoners were off:They ran around the stadium. Once. And then out to the streets. I'm getting a feeling of Déjà vu. Now what? Well, apparently at 7am at the Olympic stadium, I could get a breakfast of beer and a hot dog. Which we did. And we wandered around. And did the wave.Hmmm. Oh, wait. What is that? It's volunteers setting up the hurdles. Yay! Something to watch.I suppose the marathoners weren't anywhere close if hurdles were going to happen. Hey, are hurdles going to happen? After a while. A great while. We got to watch a round of women's qualifying hurdles.And then the hurdles were cleared away. And I think that more snacks were consumed. And we made friends with everyone sitting around us. And we might have done the wave again. And then...a single marathoner re-entered the stadium. It was a photo finish. And Ethiopia won the gold.Not that we got to see her get her medal. Nope, that was reserved for another time. For people that paid more for their tickets. And then. We were told to leave. Everyone was to vacate. Because round two ticket holders needed to get in. And even as we left...Olympians began another event.Discus. Or shot put. Or something.

So, what about you? Have you ever been part of a big event? Did it live up to the hype?

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28 comments:

Swirl Girl said...

you are part of history!

WOW!

Brian and Staci said...

Brian and I were just talking about how great it would be to go to The Opening Ceremonies in London!!! Cool. So, I'm guessing...by your post...The Chinese really went "over the top" compared to the Atlanta games??? But still, to be a part of it and have these pictures...pretty neat. The only Opening Ceremony I've been to was back in '89 and I don't even remember what it was for...is that hysterical? I DO remember thinking it was a big deal at the time and Donnie Osmond sang and rode in a car right in front of me :) Dreamy!

Rhea said...

That's so cool, Kat! I love that you got bum burn and watched the boats row off and never return. lol

And track. Cool.

I've never been to an Olympics (cool music with this post, btw) BUT, get this, you may not want to know, but my parents went to the 1976 Olympics and concieved me there. Ewww! Gross!!!

Insane Mama said...

I remember when I was young, and the marathon ran right by my house. I remember the excitement. I have participated in the changing of the guard in China and I expected a whole lot more hype than it really was.

Jill said...

I have this fascination with the Olympics, but have yet to attend. One day... some day...

That's great that you kept the stubs from the events!

American in Norway said...

Very cool! Here's hoping The olympics make it back to Norway one day...

Elena said...

So cool. I've never been to an actual event, but we watched the torch run through our town on it's way to the Salt Lake games. We also went to Salt Lake and walked around the Olympic village thing-a-ma-bob place. (Technical term.) That was after 9-11 so the security was really tight. Army people (another technical term) were everywhere and had to frisk us all, including my 2 year old baby, before entering. It was still cool though.

Teri said...

When the Olympics came to Atlanta, we were NOT going to get wrapped up in the hype. Yeah, then the two weeks actually began. I couldn't help myself. I got on the phone - on hold for over 30 minutes - and got tickets for all of us to watch the Cuba v. Japan baseball game in the old-soon-to-be-destroyed Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Matt was only 4 months old. I had to buy him his own $50 ticket. Yep. But it was totally worth the experience. Of course, I have tons of pictures.

And that gives me a good idea of what photo to use for this week's Flashback Friday. Sweet!

Weith Kick said...

What about the bombong that happened then? How did that affect the mood of Atlanta.

The biggest event that I remember was the Pope coming to Phoenix in 1987. I saw him in his little Pope mobile.

Lula! said...

I maintain, and will to my deathbed, that the pick-up trucks in the opening ceremonies was PURE CLASS. I was never so proud to be a Georgian 'til that moment.

I'm not kidding, either. We welcomed the world, redneck style. Yee haw!

Have I big a part of a big event? Well, Walmart coming to town 2 years ago was a pretty big deal. I went on opening day. Again, not even kidding.

Kat said...

Swirl Girl--I was a part of history. To look back on it now. Before we just wanted to get out of Dodge. During it was exciting. And now looking back...well...

Staci--Oh, that is putting it mildly. It is so bad to dis your own city - and your country - but the opening ceremonies here with country music, pick up trucks and cheer leaders - compared to the beauty and precision of the Chinese...well...you just can't compare.

Rhea--ewww is right :-) I have to wait till just the right moment to let Katie know she was conceived during a weekend trip to Biltmore Estate... I love the music too. Aaron Copeland - Fanfare for the common man.

IM--What is the changing of the guard in China? Very cool to see a marathon go by your house. It was like that with the rowers. They rowed by. And that was it.

Jill--I have stubbs from everything. I like to keep my memoriabilia. And I finally figured out how to use my scanner!

AIN--It is pretty cool. Such a frenzy that it induces.

Elena--Earlier in the year we had gone to visit my aunt and uncle in Missouri. And the torch came through when we were there. It was pretty cool to see it before it got to Atlanta.

Teri--Oh fun! I can't wait to see your Friday. Don't you love when you get an idea for a post from another blog?! I have been reading all these blogs about the Olympics. Either loving watching them...or hating it. And then I remembered I had these pictures!

Weith Kick--The Marathon event that we were at was less than 12 hours after the bombing at Centennial Park. And honestly, I don't recall it changing the mood a lot. I know that security was beefed up. A lot. But I don't think we had an inkling that it was Eric Robert Rudolph at the time. In fact I think the fingers were pointing to the cop who found it - and everyone thinking he did it for attention. Or a promotion.

Kat said...

Lula--We really did those opening ceremonies redneck style didn't we? I love how Samarach did not proclaim us "best ever." At all. As he did in the Olympics before. And the Olympics after. Such a proud moment for the South...

Joye said...

I was just thinking about how cool it is that you've ben to the olympics. but it didn't sound very exciting. I guess on the TV they just give us the highlights!

Kat said...

Joye--Ahhh...yes...the wonders of editing for TV. Exciting is not a word I would use to describe the events we saw :-)

Jeanine said...

I was in College in California when the Olympics were there. Events were happening all over the place, and the only interest I had was staying out of the traffic. (sometimes I just want to go back and slap myself..LOL) I worked in a convience store at the time right next to a major freeway, so we had lots of customers come in from all over the world, that was cool. I love watching on TV now, because of how the coverage is done, they show the good stuff, and cut out all the other stuff. We miss a lot, after all all those athletes at the opening ceremony's are competing somewhere, but if they aren't a medal winner, or someone that is going head to head with an American competitor, we seldom see them.

Amyway the only other thing that makes me appreciate the olympics in the US, is that the city they go to always gets their roads and airport remodeled. (thank goodness). I have experienced some airports, that would really benefit from a remodel..LOL

Kat...I just want to say, although I am not a big commenter, I love your blog and check in most every day. You always seem to be able to make me laugh or smile.

Jeanine

Tam said...

I came to work here in the South and my boss gave me tickets to the Augusta Open. Golf which I knew NOTHING about. I am not much in to it and the HYPE is over rated...for ME personally because I would rather have spent my day off at home with a BOOK than in Augusta.

Kelly said...

So very cool you got to experience the Hot-Lanta Olympics. I remember this Olympics well as we were moving across country from Washington State to Florida and we were rushing to beat the hurricane (can't remember which one...) and get here in time for the Olympics. Love the fact you kept the memorabilia!!
Lula's comments crack me up!! Embrace your inner-(or outer) redneck girl!!

Firefly mom said...

OK, not the most *exciting* events to have watched, but at least you got to go!

I've never been to an Olympics, but I did get to go to the World's Fair when I was in high school. I absolutely loved it, and if I got the chance to go to another one, I would.

The winter Olympics in 2010 will be about 6 hours from us. I told Mike that we needed to start selling our blood and plasma NOW so that we'd have enough money for some tickets ;D

Dancing Queen said...

i am SOOO jealous!
i love the olympics...how cool to be a part of it all! i wanna go sometime for sure!

jennifersusan said...

I remember the year Atlanta hosted the olympics. Your parents were visiting mine and right about the time the torch runner was going to be coming through. Actually the torch runner came running a block away from the house. I remember your parents muttering things about how much it was costing Atlanta. Now, living in Chicagoland, we are faced with the possibility of hosting the next summer olympics. After reading your blog I'm thinking that it might not be so bad. I definately like the idea of no traffic, but could you imagine any events taking place in Lake Michigan? Sounds very unsanitary to me. ;p

Rhea said...

BTW, that mascot, HILARIOUS.

Kat said...

Jeanine--When the olympics were here, so many people just wanted to be away. Which was why there was no traffic at all. But it was pretty difficult to be part of it. The ticket prices were huge...and you really never knew what you would get.

Thanks so much for reading!!

Tam--I am with you. I don't get the allure of golf at all. It's too bad your boss didn't give those passes to someone who would appreciate them :-)

Kelly--People were definetely trying to avoid Atlanta then. And I am going to stick with the statment that I don't have an inner redneck :-)

FM--They were not exciting at all. But you are right...we were there. And the exciting events were unbelievably expensive. I think swimming and gymnastics were over $500 for tickets.

DQ--Well, they will be back to the US soon. Start saving your pennies!

Jennifer--Like most Atlantans...we were excited and irritated at the same time. There was so much craziness surrounding it all, we just wanted the hype to be over.

Rhea--ummm...hilarious is not exactly the word I'd use :-)

Angie's Spot said...

We actually attended one of the Atlanta Olympic soccer games. It was in Birmingham (???) and it was the opening ceremony. Great game. From what I remember. I almost passed out from the sun stroke. As I recall, it was about 110 degrees and our seats were WAY UP in the bleachers, in full sun. Good times.

Susan said...

OMG!!!!! I was there at the women's marathon at the Atlanta games, too!!!! I was with my lame boyfriend and his parents and he was so hungover he could barely make it there.

small world....

Romi said...

I went to the Olympic games when they were hosted in Los Angeles, California many years ago. I can't remember the date but I think it was the early 80's. My father-in-law was some big wig something or other and we had tickets to everything. I remember going to the events and being backstage with the athletes in the V.I.P. rooms. It was pretty strange to see the same people who were winning gold medals eating sushi and hanging out like normal people. It was fun and memorable. I do remember thinking it was not as fun being a spectator at the event as it was watching it on television.

yertle said...

I was in Atlanta for the Olympics too. I was in graduate school in Houston, and my friends and I thought that when would we ever get a chance to be that close again. I still remember that we were set to go the morning after the bomb, so many people called to ask if we were still going, and we still went. It was a great experience.

Nissa said...

That's way cool, Kat! I wasn't here in '96, so I didn't get to see any of the festivities, but I think even sort of watching rowing while burning my bottom sounds pretty neat! It's the Olympics! :) I'd love to see gymnastics. That's what I like to watch.

The only 'big' sporting events I go to are college football games. Yeah, not that big! :)

amy said...

I love that mascot SO much. I'm almost sad I didn't move here until '97.