A year ago at this time, I was at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, soaking up the atmosphere and events and generally having a blast — although it was also one of the more tiring experiences I’ve had. I’ve been a huge Olympics buff since I sat at the edge of my seat watching Nancy Kerrigan try to skate her way to the top of the podium (I remember being upset that she got the silver but also thinking silver is a better color than gold), but this was my first time getting to see the Games up close and personal. I’m already anxiously awaiting London 2012, but here’s a look back at what I learned from my first turn at on-site spectating (adapted from a post I wrote for The Kitsap Sun’s Olympics blog):
– Know that it will be different than watching at home. There is a trade-off to the in-person experience — while you almost certainly won’t get to see as many events as you would if you were sitting on your couch glued to the TV, the energy and the enthusiasm in the air are things that don’t transmit 100 percent through that magical television box.
– Research beforehand. Learning what you can about the sports and athletes before attending an event provides for the best experience. While some events have commentators for the crowds (like alpine skiing), others don’t, and it’s always more fun when you have some idea what’s going on. Plus, athletes’ backstories are — at least for me — one of the best parts of the Games.
– Stay as close as you can to the events. I know people who stayed in towns farther away and they did just fine, but I was thankful every night when I could easily walk back to the centrally located B&B I was staying at. Availability and price definitely dictate your accommodations, but the closer you are, the more time you’ll have to enjoy the experience. (Although $900 a night is just crazy.)
– Embrace the lines. The Games are crowded. On the weekends, extremely crowded. Fortunately, everyone at the Olympics seemed to be in a cheerful mood, and everyone was super friendly. Striking up a conversation with fellow line-standers proved to be informative and an entertaining way to pass the time.
– You can sleep when it’s over. Right after I returned, I was sneezing every two minutes and couldn’t taste food. My guess is that the go-go-go pace of being at the Games and the lack of zzz’s did my body in, but I don’t regret it. I saw and did what I wanted to, even when it meant the alarm went off a mere hour and a half after my head hit the pillow, and I’ll remember those things I experienced far longer than I’d remember eight hours of sleep.