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Gold medals make golden memories for this Olympic spectator

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Gold medals make golden memories for this Olympic spectator

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The 30th Olympiad of the modern era took place over the course of several weeks this summer.  From July 27 through Aug. 12, London was overrun with more than 10,000 athletes and an estimated 500,000 spectators from 204 countries.

By some strange combination of years of planning and dumb luck, I ended up with tickets to 11 Olympic events throughout the 15-day period.

In case you were not one of the 219.4 million Americans to watch the Olympics, making it the most watched event in television history according to the Nielsen ratings, here is what you missed.

“For the first time in Olympic history, all the participating teams will have female athletes. This is a major boost for gender equality,” said President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge.

Michael Phelps became the most-decorated Olympian of all time.  He took this title from female gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won 18 medals for the Soviet Union between the years of 1956-1964.  Phelps won 6 more medals in London, bringing his total medal count to 22—18 of which are gold.

The U.S. women’s gymnastics team, a.k.a. the Fierce Five, took gold in the team competition for the first time since 1996.  No one was more impressive than 17-year-old Gabby Douglas, who also won the gold in the all-around individual.  Best of all, I stood about 15 feet away from her.

Although not quite as much man-power as China’s, London’s opening ceremony was very theatrical and very English.  Under the direction of acclaimed director Danny Boyle, the ceremony told the story of London’s history from the industrial revolution to the modern digital age. Cameos included the beloved Mr. Bean, James Bond actor Daniel Craig, and the Queen herself.

NBC was under fire for its controversial coverage of the 2012 games.  The network cut out portions of the opening ceremony that didn’t specifically relate to Americans, delayed events so they could show them during primetime, and didn’t show events that the U.S. didn’t have strong competitors in. 

A Russian man came up to me as I was standing outside the NBC tent, trying to get on the Today Show, and asked, “What is this crowd?”

I explained to him that it was Americans trying to be seen on NBC—a major U.S. television network.

“Ah, the ones who screw everything up?” he replied. 

Yes, the ones that screw everything up.

Despite our poor coverage, though, Team U.S.A. had the highest medal count of the games with 104 total medals, 46 of which were gold.

One of the top 3 moments of my life was in Wembley Stadium, standing up and singing the national anthem as loud as I possibly could.  I was draped in an American flag and the U.S. women’s soccer team had just spent the last 2 hours in a fierce battle against Japan.  But as Hope Solo, Megan Rupino, and Abby Wambach took the stand, I may have cried.

The Olympics are the pinnacle of human athletic achievement.  I am honored to have witnessed the events I did and can’t wait to head to Rio in 2016.

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Gold medals make golden memories for this Olympic spectator