Photo credit: Carine06
Did you catch the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games yesterday? I sure did and evidently all my twitter friends did too given my stream was wall to wall commentary on the event as it unfolded. As always the Parade of Nations came along hours into the ceremony and after Australia made their usual early appearance the twitter natives started to get restless:
“Oh my god, we’re only up to Morocco?”
“Alright, this is boring now.”
“Can’t we fast forward to the lighting of the flame?”
And while I understood their sentiments, I didn’t share them. At all.
Maybe it’s because I have had the privilege to march in two Opening Ceremonies. Sure they were for Commonwealth Games and not Olympics, but pretty exciting all the same. I will never forget the emotions I felt walking into the MCG for the opening of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. It had been a long wait – and I am not just talking about the three hours we had spent in Rod Laver Arena, our Opening Ceremony holding pen.
It was the years of training I’d done to even be good enough to represent Trinidad and Tobago (the country of my birth). Following that came a lot more years of setting my alarm for 5am. Packing a bag every night for two training sessions plus a full day of work the next day. Wishing every morning that I could just stay in bed for a change. Getting to the end of a working day and wanting to do anything but go to training. Getting cranky at my boyfriend and my coach and my long-suffering training partners. The ever-present fatigue and soreness. Rinse and repeat, week after week.
I wasn’t anyone special, I wasn’t going to win any medals but I was the best female triathlete Trinidad and Tobago had to offer. I’d qualified and earned my place and there I was, about to enter Australia’s greatest sporting cauldron with the rest of the team. The acoustics at the MCG are astounding and when there are 90,000 people in the stands, the noise is mind blowing. Walking out from the tunnel and into the arena I felt a huge rush of emotion knowing that my family, both in Trinidad and back in Perth, could see me (me!) on their tv. In fact, the second she saw me appear, my sister sent me a text that said “I am so proud of you.” It took everything I had not to collapse in a sobbing mess right there.
Then, unbelievably, I managed to pick out one of my best friends in the crowd of 90,000. She was jumping up and down waving at me from her seat and the jerky video I was taking at the time got even jerkier and featured some eardrum shattering, delighted screams from me. It still makes me smile to think about it now.
So yesterday when the athletes were parading, I wasn’t bored. I was looking at their faces, revelling in the pride and excitement and satisfaction and sheer emotion reflected back to me. Fact is, a large number (the majority even?) of athletes at the Olympic Games are just like the version of me who marched in Melbourne. They’re not household names, they’re not medal chances and they probably fit their training around full time work. But they’ve done the hard yards and they’ve all qualified to be there and at that moment when they walked into Olympic Stadium, they stood equal with all their fellow athletes. That was their gold medal moment and it deserved all of our attention and celebration.