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As everyone probably knows, the 2016 Summer Olympics are going on now in Rio. As with every games, there is some controversy, but for the most part, the world has come together and it is a positive and inspiring occasion. One which inspires in the way that it should.
I grew up like so many people always wanting to visit the Olympics. That dream came true in 2008 at the tail end of our around the world trip. Those games were not only unique in that they were sort of a coming out for China, but they also coincided with Shawn Reece’s 8th birthday. It was a special couple of weeks for China and for our family.
Initially we weren’t sure if we would be able to go, but ultimately decided to bite the bullet. The first hurdle was tickets. Tickets had all been sold ahead of time with a large portion going to locals. Foreigners who wanted tickets had to get in a lottery and we weren’t home to do that. Thankfully we met some people in Mongolia who sold us some archery tickets. At least we knew we would be able to go to one event!
Things turned out much better than that though. Quickly we learned that a lot of the locals had no interest in going to the games and thus wanted to sell their tickets. We used Twitter to find out where the makeshift scalper stands were and each morning we made our way to get tickets for that day’s events. Eventually we figured out that Shawn Reece didn’t need a ticket as long as we agreed to make him sit on our lap if there wasn’t room. Venues were rarely full so that never became an issue. When all was said and done, we spent less than $200 total for all of our tickets!
Over the course of 11 days we saw 7 events including: Archery, Water Polo, Beach Volleyball, Weightlifting, Boxing and Track Cycling. The highlight though had to be watching Cuba play the United States in baseball. That was actually a tough ticket to get. We showed up at the venue trying to find someone selling tickets, but no one was. Then a woman whose son was a pitcher on the American team gave us two extra tickets! We sat next to the loudest group of Cuban fans. It was amazing.
In fact, the whole Olympic experience was incredible. In between the actual sporting events, we attended parties and other Olympic events. We even met some athletes. We also talked to people from everywhere. It was amazing to see some much patriotism yet so much friendliness. It truly is unlike anything I have seen before and is something I will never forget.
I often tell the story of when we watched the opening ceremony in a park with about 3,000 Chinese people and maybe 100 Westerners. While I won’t try to claim to understand even 1% of the Chinese culture, it was awe-inspiring to see how much these games meant to them and to watch them cheer as both the American and Chinese delegations came out. They almost cheered as hard for the Americans as they did for the Chinese.
So the days came and the days went. Beijing became more blue and beautiful as the games went on. Eventually we had to leave and we moved on to Xian and then to Japan and finally home to end our 18 months on the road. What a spectacular finale though! I couldn’t have planned it any better. Dreams becoming reality.
Life and work prevented us from going to London in 2012 and while Rio sounded nice this year, baby Ellie was just a little too young. She’ll be 5 1/2 when the Tokyo games come around in four years and I think it might be time to return. I still wouldn’t mind doing a Winter games as well, but the Summer Olympics have always been more interesting to me.
If you can make an Olympics trip happen, you won’t regret making the journey.. It is something unique and something that you will only be able to experience in a limited quantity within your lifetime. Do yourself a favor and go when and if you can. Besides, NBC has way too many commercials, so why would you want to watch it on tv anyway when you can be there?
Have you been to the Olympics? Share your experiences in the comments!
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