I’ve moved around a lot in the past ten years. I’ve spent time in interesting, different places, and as I was watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Games last night, I started thinking about how I could trace my life over the past ten years by where I was, and what I was doing during each Olympic Games. So, if you’re interested, what follows is a brief history of my life, as told through my strongest recollections of my one of my favorite sporting events.
Salt Lake City, 2002
20 years old / Paris, France
I was spending a semester abroad in my favorite city in the world. Those four months still hold up as the best of my life. I had no cares in the world. Aside from the first few days, I don’t remember being homesick. I was too busy learning and exploring and spending hours in a cafe, sipping a cafe au lait, writing in my journal.
I didn’t watch a whole lot of the Olympics that year. In fact, I have much stronger memories of watching the Super Bowl in the middle of the night in a Canadian bar full of Bostonians. (That’s a whole other story.) But I do remember sitting up late at night in my host family’s apartment, the TV volume turned low so I didn’t disturb anyone, and watching an Olympic hockey game between Canada and the Czech Republic – more specifically, between Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. I don’t remember the outcome of that specific game, and aside from knowing Canada won the gold, I don’t recall much about the Olympic tournament that year. But I do remember, hundreds of miles from home, listening to a French announcer causally mention the Pittsburgh Penguins (perfectly accented, of course) and feeling so proud.
I love sports.
22 years old / Vrahati, Greece
I don’t know where to begin to describe how it felt to be in Greece for the Olympics, but I tried in the primitive blog I kept during that year. The country was so proud of its heritage, so excited to show it off to the world. I spent the night of the Opening Ceremonies in a tiny taverna on the coast of the Bay of Corinth. On an outdoor patio, with the sounds of the water faintly in the background, I watched with a restaurant full of Greeks, beaming as their country put its best face forward to the world. We all know what’s happened to Greece since then, and whatever happens in the future, that pride for country will never go away. It’s a wonderful country, and I am so happy I was able to be there during such an amazing time.
I had the privilege of going to Athens for a day and attending a few events. It was, without a doubt, one of the coolest days of my entire life. Just being there, walking around, feeling the energy, unabashedly waving our American flags, and, yes, fulfilling an awful American stereotype by eating McDonald’s. We were just happy to be there.
I was embarking on an amazing journey with my ex, and old friend, and new friends. It was exciting. It was scary. I looked back at the few pictures I have from that day, and I wish I’d taken just one without my ex. Just one of me by myself. He’s in all of them, and while I know I can’t erase him from my past – especially from that year – I wish I had something to remember just being me, sweating in the Athens heat, with an American flag temporary tattoo on my arm and a giant smile on my face. I was 22, at the Olympics in the country that created them, and I was unafraid of what the next year would bring me.
24 years old / Arlington, VA
My strongest memory of the 2006 Games? Bode Miller and an Olympics themed party complete with ice luge shots. My friend had recently started dating her now husband, and one of the first times we all hung out was a party he threw at his house. We had a shot relay, where two teams of four lined up with a pair of ski goggles – you put the goggles on, did the shot from the ice luge, then passed the goggles back. Thinking about it now makes me kind of ill.
As for Bode, I just remember finding him fascinating. And really attractive.
Looking back, that period feels settled. Solid and secure in my relationship, in my job, in my location. I loved Arlington. I loved my friends there, the life I had, and if I’d liked my job better – heck, if I’d liked anything about my job – I might still be there.
I try to avoid those thoughts, though.
26 years old / Arlington, VA
Torino and Beijing were the bookends to my DC experience. By the time the Opening Ceremonies began, I had decided to quit work and go back to school. We had an apartment in Massachusetts, and late summer was our DC Farewell Tour. If I felt settled during Torino, I felt driven during Beijing. I had forward progress – I was already married, and I felt I had that part of my life solved, and now I was solving the work part. I was sad to leave DC, but so excited to get back to school and begin a new career.
I watched a lot of the Beijing Games. I held my breath as Nastia Liukin battled for the all around gold. I remember sitting in bed, screaming at our little TV, as the American swimmers battled from behind to win that epic relay race. And the night that Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal, I was at Bar Louie, next to the Verizon Center. The bar went silent when the race began, and as he won, a deafening “USA!” chant erupted. It was one of the coolest sports atmospheres I’ve ever experienced – and trust me, I’ve experienced some great ones.
28 years old / Amherst, MA
What a difference two years makes.
In February 2010, I had just officially filed for divorce. I was feeling incredibly low, and the Olympics were the perfect cure. Sports have always been a release for me, and with my class schedule, I was free enough to watch nearly every moment of the Games. I timed going to the gym to coincide with events I wanted to watch. I did homework with the TV on in the background, so I didn’t miss a thing. I had people over for the Opening Ceremonies, and in honor of Canada, we drank Molson and ate poutine.
And, oh yeah, I was cheering hard core for the Canadian hockey team, and I got a lot of shit for it. The day of the gold medal game, I was on my way back from a weekend in New York. We got a flat tire, and I realized that there was no way I was getting home in time for the start of the game. I called my roommate, had her set the DVR, and then let everyone I knew not to text or call or say anything about the result of the game. When I finally got home, exhausted, I collapsed on my couch to queue up the game, still unaware of anything that had happened so far.
Well, we all know how that game went. Canada took the lead, but Zach Parise tied the game for the US with just seconds to go, and I started to panic. What if the DVR isn’t set to record long enough? I prayed for a quick resolution, which I got at 7:40 into the overtime period thanks to a beautiful Sidney Crosby shot right between the legs of Ryan Miller, and I jumped off my couch screaming. The ecstasy of the Canadian fans – winning their game, on their ice – was what I had wanted to see. That’s why I was cheering for Canada, because I knew that no medal in any sport, in any country, would mean more than this medal for Canada in this Olympics.
For those two weeks, I didn’t care what else was going on in my life. Those hockey players, and the skiers, and the skaters, and the curlers (yes, the curlers) made me forget about my problems for awhile. That’s why I love sports so much, and that’s why I love the Olympics in particular.
30 years old / New York, NY
So here we are, in the early days of the XXX Summer Olympiad, and I’m single in Manhattan. I’m having a bit of a rough time, so these Games are very welcome to help me take my mind off things. And things are improving ever so slightly – I do have a new apartment, I’m moving in a few days, and I should probably be packing right now, but instead I’ve spent a lot of my day getting sucked into the men’s team archery final. (Go USA! Do it for Katniss!)
I don’t know where I’ll be for the 2014 games, and that’s ok. If my personal history has proven anything, it’s that I’m rarely satisfied. I don’t stay in one place for very long, though that’s starting to wear on me. I don’t want to keep moving, keep having to learn new places and make new friends… but the thought of being somewhere permanently is still frightening. So when the Sochi Games roll around, maybe I’ll still be here. Maybe I’ll be in Boston or Pittsburgh or DC. Maybe I’ll be in Sochi cheering on my gold medal winning boyfriend, Sidney Crosby.
The point is, none of us can predict where we’re be in two months, let alone two years. Sitting in that Parisian apartment in 2002, there was no way I’d be able to predict the course my life would take over the next ten years. If I’d told myself in 2002 that I’d be single and living in Manhattan, I would have nodded and thought, yeah, that makes sense. If I’d told myself how I’d gotten here, I don’t know what my reaction would have been.
Wherever I am in 2014, though, you can be sure I’ll be doing exactly what I’m doing now – wasting a Saturday afternoon watching a sport I don’t know much about, sitting on the edge of my seat, admiring the dedication and talent of these athletes. I’ll hold my breath with the rest of my country, and I’ll cheer our successes and sigh over our failures. I’ll definitely be watching. I’ll always watch.