PyeongChang 2018 XXIII Olympic Winter Games Provides A Rich Experience For Fans
My first “hey I’m at the Olympics” moment came when I was walking down the street in Vancouver and wound up behind a couple of figure skaters from Russia.
They were wearing their team jackets and backpacks and were out for a casual stroll to soak in the atmosphere.
“Wow, this is really cool!,” I said out loud to no one in particular. The streets were buzzing with activity and while I expected that from fans and visitors, I had no idea the athletes would just be, well, out there like everyone else at the Games.
You see, I come from a sports background where the athletes are kept almost in hiding until they play their game. You don’t get to see them until they come running out of the locker room. But here, at the Olympics, they were walking down the street like ordinary fans.
I stopped them to ask for a picture and – having dealt with all types of athletes – half expected to be brushed off like flurries on a snow-covered sidewalk. But they turned, smiled and said “sure!”
This would hardly be my first up-close experience with Olympic athletes. I ran into members of Team USA Bobsled and high-fived them, drank lots of beer with what turned out to be the silver-medal winning bobsledders from Germany (I really related to those bobsledders!), had several drinks with members of the USA women’s luge team (one was a total babe and I’ve keep in casual contact with her through the years) and sat in amazement in a bar as I watched coaches down volumes of liquor until early in the morning.
“Don’t you guys have training in the morning?,” I asked.
“Yes,” they replied. “The athletes are in bed but we stay out and drink. They are the ones who have to do all the hard work.”
As it turned out, the coaches were former Olympians themselves and when they were competing, their coaches were out drinking late in the bars. Ahh, the Olympics tradition! And something you never see on TV or read about in the mainstream media.
Beyond the athletes, I met fans. People from all over the world. Everyone was friendly, smiling, several even wearing native land costumes and wardrobe. It is kind of an American sports custom to hate one’s athletic enemy but here, every single person was so nice and complimentary of every other country that you could not help but root for the different countries and athletes.
This, I realized is what people mean when they use the team “Olympic spirit.”
Not only that, but several countries rent out shops and other spaces in the Olympic towns and villages and host free receptions. There’s food and even drinks – sometimes you pay, sometimes it’s a few glasses of free wine from that country – and often, the athletes are there, just mingling about the crowd.
No doubt, this is what’s happening for the PyeongChang 2018 XXIII Olympic Winter Games.
If you ever have the chance to go to the Olympics, do it, for it will certainly open your eyes to the greatness that is the Games, well more than you can ever experience from watching them on TV.