Revisiting the London Olympics through the eyes of the one high school and 15 college students who took advantage of what is so often described as a "once-in-a-lifetime experience," discloses some of the realities of actually being part of the Games. MTV or ESPNU could make a mint on a reality show depicting the travels and trials of the Co-eds involved in the Tiffin University Olympic Academic Experience, especially for the events that never make it in a public journal blog.
One blog entry seemed to truly capture the inspiration of the Olympic Games, which undoubtedly unites billions of sport enthusiasts on every corner of the globe.
Djibo Issaka, a rower from Nigeria, was more than a minute behind the competition, but from the roar of the crowds you would think he was winning. Turns out Djibo learned to row three months ago. He knew he had no chance in the world to win, or even come close, but his Olympic spirit shined through every drop of rain that day.
Students were required to blog about their initial expectations and goals prior to departing for London. One student noted he had three priorities, which were to "see Phelps, Bolt, and the gold medal basketball game." All three goals were achieved.
Another student provided a bit of humor by commenting on the outcome of her pre-London bucket list:
n "Watch the English soccer team play while in a pub. (Easy.)"
n "Meet and take a picture with an athlete. (Totally did!!!)"
n "Try and make a Palace Guard laugh. (Instead, I wore one of their big black bear-skin fur hats.)"
n "Ride in a double-decker bus. (Done.)"
n "See David Beckham in person. (Does Madam Tussauds' wax museum count?)"
n "Stand on an Olympic Stadium field. (Didn't happen, but maybe in Rio!)"
Another student had a more serious list:
n "Understand the role of the home country's culture in the scale of the Olympic Games."
n "Interact positively with members of other countries.
n "Attend an event that has a serious European atmosphere."
n "Arrive safely and cultivate relationships with roommates."
n "Try traditional cuisine and drink customs."
Luckily, London offered plenty of opportunities to achieve all these goals, especially to watch an Olympic event with a "serious" atmosphere. Journal entries about navigating around London to reach some of these iconic Olympic venues (whether on purpose or by accident), seemed relatively interesting.
"After Leicester Square, we wandered down to Trafalgar Square so we could see the National Gallery and official Olympic Countdown clock. We then hopped on the Tube to Westminster and saw Big Ben and Parliament. To our surprise, there was a huge gathering along the street and we realized we were at the mile one mark for the women's marathon.
"I took the subway from Kings Cross to Paddington station, then the train from Paddington to Slough, and the bus from Slough to the rowing course. It seems complicated but the whole journey was well-marked with pink Olympic signs and pink vested transit volunteers eager to help.
"I had to leave about three hours early from Potters Bar to make the commute to Strattford International for the Olympic Stadium.
"I started out the day on the far end of London in the ExCel Arena for fencing. You had to enter on one side, then when you exit, you have to walk to the other side of the venue. No big deal, except the venue is at least a mile long with at least 12 arenas. It can hold something like six 747 jumbo airplanes or something...insane!"
Most journal entries captured the daily grind of summer days in Europe (many traveled to other countries for day trips) and the essence of rare opportunities associated with just being part of the 2012 London Olympics:
"While waiting in line for some more overpriced poor quality concession food in the Olympic Park, I saw my old roommate works as the assistant to Vin Lananna, Head coach for the University of Oregon AND for the USA's track team. At the stadium that night, it was surreal to watch Usain Bolt run a 9.63 to break his own Olympic record.
"I got to see Ryan Lotche, Missy Franklin, and Matt Griever at the Olympic Aquatic Center. I took notes of what they were doing because I thought it might help me compete in the future. The next day I went to Wimbledon where I got to sit in the front row to watch Venus Williams. That night I met and talked to Matt Griever's mom in a pub (I had the usual fish and chips).
"We left the Olympic Museum and were surprised to find the NBA house which had their Grand opening. Gordon Heyward, now with the Utah Jazz, was on a Cisco web chat. I only regret not getting a picture with the Boston Celtics cheerleaders greeting people at the door.
My day started at women's volleyball where Japan defeated Dominican Republic. I then headed to Wimbledon and saw Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray all win. I didn't stay to see the end of Murray's match because I had to head over to Wembley Stadium for soccer that evening."
Three Olympic events in one day. Wow.
Overall, it was refreshing to learn most of the students really seemed to grasp the bigger meaning behind the TU Olympic Academic Experience to recognize the significance for Great Britain and to demonstrate appreciation for the spirit of Olympism which uses the Games to promote education, peace, and solidarity:
"Being able to volunteer on this trip was incredible. Volunteering to assist underprivileged youth alongside members of the World Olympians Association (WOA) mirrors the importance of youth education and participation in sport. As a young professional I can take those lessons from the speeches given by the high character former Olympians we met such as Frieda Nicholls, Liston Bouchette, Ada Kok, and Francis Dove-Edwin.
"I did not see the Queen in London, but she has the most honor and respect from all citizens and people in London. I heard the words 'I am so proud to be a Brit tonight' at least 100 times, and for good reason. The 2012 Opening Ceremonies for the London Olympic Games were nearly flawless, a magnificent spectacle of British history, culture, and talent."
It is no wonder 100 percent of the participants of the 2012 Olympic Academic Experience are planning for Rio in 2016. Stay tuned next month for more interesting sports stories from around the globe to our small community in northwest Ohio.
Bonnie Tiell is the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at Tiffin University.