Summertime reminds me of the Olympics, and I can’t help but think about the time I actually went to the Olympics back in 1996, when they were in Atlanta. Although exciting, it was no easy feat. In fact, it almost took the stamina of an athlete just to attend. It started a couple of years before the events, when my husband and I filled out forms requesting tickets. When they finally came, we were disappointed not to receive any for gymnastics, but we did manage to obtain some for dressage, equestrian cross-country, diving, tennis, and rowing.
We stayed with a relative on the outskirts of the city, but our first event, rowing, was an hour and a half north of there. It was a pleasant enough drive, and the scenery around Lake Lanier is gorgeous. I’m not sure why we chose to attend this event, since it wasn’t something we were especially interested in, but it ended up being one of my favorites. I think the atmosphere, more than anything else, made it enjoyable, and almost all of the spectator seats were close enough for easy viewing. It was fun watching the sculls race, and a family near us kept cheering for someone named Michael. He didn’t do that well, then we heard, “At least he got to be in the Olympics.”
The second day we drove a short distance to see the cross-country riding. I didn’t know I would love it so much. We stood in the woods, waiting for a contender, then we heard hooves pounding the ground. Finally, a huge horse came around a bend, headed right for us. At the last moment he swerved to jump an obstacle, then he continued on his way toward the remaining jumps. The woods were cool and comfortable, and we waited for the next athlete to repeat the process. When we attended dressage a couple of days later, I liked it, but we were far away from the rink, and it was harder to get involved. I’m sure it was more enjoyable watching the horses clear the jumps on television.
My husband and I have played tennis most of our lives, so we looked forward to seeing some professionals, but it was the hottest day we spent at the Olympics, and our cement seats were in the sun, near the top of the stadium. The players looked pretty small from there, and the heat started taking its toll on us. I envied spectators who were underneath some stands in the shade. We left before the match was over, passing a few people who also had trouble with the heat, and trudged to where a van was to pick us up. We waited there in the sun, and when the van finally arrived, I’d never been so grateful for air conditioning in my life.
Near the end of our stay in Atlanta, the phone rang about six in the morning, and my husband’s brother heard about the bombing that occurred in Centennial Olympic Park. It was terribly upsetting, and we considered going home. But after thinking about it, we realized it would probably be safer than ever, since security would be tighter.
We started toward our last event, not knowing how arduous our journey would be. We met a bus in a parking lot and rode into the city to MARTA–their subway system. So far, so good. We switched trains, then got onto a bus that took us to the diving center. Our seats were way at the top of rickety bleachers, and the divers looked like matchsticks. It was a good thing I took my binoculars, so the experience wasn’t a total loss, but it definitely wasn’t worth all we went through to get there. When we left, the trip back to our car was even longer, and we had to stand up on the bus. Arriving at our car, we drove nearly three hours to a lake house in South Carolina, where we spent the remainder of our vacation, glad we went to the events, but also glad for a rest.
All in all, it was a thrilling, unforgettable adventure worth the time and effort. I believe we’ll always cherish our Olympic experience.