What is it like to walk out into the Olympic stadium for the Opening Ceremonies?
One of my favorites memories is the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Here is an excerpt from Chapter Three, in my book, Be Your Best Without the Stress:
Before the Opening Ceremonies, standing outside the big Olympic Stadium, the swimmers waited to march in with all of the other athletes from Team USA, and from countries all over the world. Images from throughout my life flashed by me in a split second. So many events had led up to this moment—and now here I was, getting ready to walk into the Olympic Stadium.
Testing Our Limits. We all had tested our limits to get to this world stage, to represent our countries. As the Olympic motto states: “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (“Faster, Higher, Stronger”). All of us there had continually sought what was possible within ourselves and done what motivated us to be our own personal best. When we had fears and doubts, we utilized our support systems. Many people had helped us along the way, including families, coaches, friends, and competitors. They reminded us to believe in ourselves, even in our darkest moments. Ironically, it is in those moments that we appreciate the sweetness of life. We experience how resilient we really are, and—even though there are no guarantees—we continue to commit to our dreams, to see what life has in store for us.
Connection of Humanity. It was a warm and sunny day. Anticipation and excitement were buzzing in the air. The Olympic competition was about to begin. A couple of friends and I went around to people from various countries and different sports. Even though we might not have spoken the same language, we connected nonverbally, exchanged pins or other memorabilia, smiled at and hugged each other, and got our pictures taken together. We felt a connection with every person, even though we had just met, as we all had something in common. Each of us had followed our own personal journey to get to this stage, to this moment of waiting to walk into the Olympic Stadium and participate in the Olympic Games. Whether from large cities or small villages, climates that were cold or hot, families with money or those who scraped by just to keep their dream a reality, we were all here together now, sharing a common goal and enjoying this amazing experience as Olympians.
In these moments, I felt a deep understanding of the Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Today, as I get together with my friends who competed globally for various sports whether at the Olympic Games, World Championships, or other international events, we fondly remember the fun times and memories created with one another. There is a feeling of connection and understanding beyond what a medal can give us. We remember testing each other in practice, and being challenged to the point where we didn’t know if we would survive. In those times when we wanted to give up, somehow we found another reserve tank within us, and more energy would burst through. Relying on each other in both good times and bad forged a deep and meaningful bond between us—no other relationship quite compares.
The true meaning of the Olympics. Before walking into the stadium, we Americans anxiously awaited our turn. Since the United States team was near the back of the pack alphabetically, we had watched thousands of athletes representing dozens of countries already walk in. Just like me, everyone else there had also struggled, survived, and thrived. We had our dreams and had spent years training and committing to our goal of becoming an Olympian.
As I walked into the huge stadium full of color and noise and people, I sensed the power and beauty of humanity. We each have our own story, struggles, and joys. No matter where we’re from or what we do, we are all connected by our shared human emotions and experiences. As I looked around, I felt connected to all the other athletes and coaches, and even the musicians, artists, producers, and audience who were gathered for this global celebration. In that moment, it felt as though peace was prevailing throughout the world.
May all participants of the 2012 Olympic Games and everyone throughout the world be reminded of the beauty of what the Olympic Games represent.
Katrina Radke is an Olympic Swimmer, and Bestselling Author of Be Your Best Without the Stress, where she shares her own Olympic story, and tools for you to realize your true potential.
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