Friday, August 10, 2012

My Olympic Experience

By Jordan Wagner

     This summer, I had the privilege of being able to study abroad in London with Florida State University and go to one Olympic event, the USA men’s basketball game versus France. What a summer it was. The atmosphere even before the opening ceremonies was ecstatic, electric and hectic. Waves and waves of visitors from all over the world flooded areas such as the London Eye and Piccadilly Circus. I was able to meet people from France, Austria, Brazil, Australia, and Scotland, among other countries. The country may have been British, but the city was certainly international. When Italy beat Germany in the Euro Cup match, you would’ve thought you were in Venice with all the Italian flags being waved in the streets. But the city was alive with Olympic fever. Banners, flags, and even newly constructed mini statues of the London 2012 mascots (these little guys that kind of look like the minions from Despicable Me) were sprinkled all over town, setting the mood for what was sure to be a fantastic few weeks. 
A view from the London Eye
     However, nothing could match the atmosphere of when the jets flew across the sky and over Olympic Stadium, spreading red, white and blue in a spectacular fashion. I watched the opening ceremonies at a crowded pub right outside Olympic Park; my friends and I watched the jets on TV, then turned around to look outside and saw them fly right over our heads. The prestige and utter brilliance of the summer Olympics is something that cannot be matched, and while I may value events like the Super Bowl more, there is no denying the power that the Olympics have in the sports world.

In front of Olympic Stadium

     On Sunday, July 29th, my friend Julien and I donned our USA outfits (complete with flags worn as capes and matching USA shoes) and proceeded to Olympic Park, where we attended the USA men’s basketball game versus France. While the Olympics might be international, the basketball arena seemed to be as American as a tailgate before a college football game. United States’ flags waved from every section of the arena. My row in particular consisted of three older women on my left, each holding up a letter to spell U.S.A. On the right of my friend, more American supporters, dressed in patriotic T-shirts and headwear. The NBA is watched around the world, and boy does the world love our NBA players. Heck, it was the game versus Tunisia where one of the opposing players asked Kobe Bryant to sign one of his shoes.
Team USA before the tipoff against France 

     This is a great thing. Our players inspire the rest of the world to get better at basketball. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying other players and countries haven’t shown up this year. Tony Parker has played very well for France, and that team is certainly no pushover. Look at Spain, with both of the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. Even non-NBA players such as the seven-footer Salah Mejri of Tunisia, who leads the Olympics in blocked shots, are showing they have what it takes to go head to head with our best players. Let’s not forget Lithuania actually was beating the U.S at one point late in the game when they met a few days back. Of course, the mighty USA is still the favorite to win the gold and hasn’t lost yet. It does go to show, though, that as the world becomes more globalized and connected, basketball greatness will not be limited to our great country.
     I could not have asked for a more exciting opportunity this summer. The atmosphere was surreal, made up of people from all over the world in a city so unlike anything you would find in my home state of Florida. Bravo and cheers to London, you’ve made what I’ve seen of the 2012 Olympics so far absolutely phenomenal. 


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