I completely get addicted to watching the Olympics every four years. And my favorite part is what defines the Olympic spirit. The moment when some athlete, often a relative unknown, reaches deep into themselves and finds a hidden power that allows them to rise up to some glorious height they never knew they could achieve, and probably never will again. We witnessed one of those classic moments this week when 32-year old Jason Lezak anchored the American relay team and powered himself to a swim that seemed beyond his physical capacity. An Olympic moment for the ages.
You might be surprised to learn that I, too, had an Olympic moment.
In 1984, like everyone else living in Los Angeles, I sent in my official form requesting tickets to the Summer Olympics. Unlike everyone else, I won the Olympic jackpot–tickets for the most sought-after events, the opening and closing ceremonies.
It’s odd to think that so many years before 9/11, there were so many fears about terrorism at the L.A. Games–but there was a lot of discussion about the potential for a terrorist attack, especially during the opening ceremony.
I was a world-class worrier in those days, and all I needed was something like this to set me off. Plus I had just become a mother 6 months earlier. Which raised my worry quotient to Olympic proportions. I became absolutely convinced that something bad was going to happen at the opening ceremony. I felt incredibly lucky to have the tickets in our possession, and I really wanted to go. But fear won out, and I insisted that H sell our tickets. (By the way, this was not the cause of our eventual divorce but it certainly didn’t help.)
Of course nothing bad happened at the opening ceremony. Or during the entire two weeks. The worst problem the Olympics brought to Los Angeles was the traffic. And afterwards I was really annoyed at myself, that I missed an Olympic opening just because I let fear get the best of me.
By the time the Olympics returned to American soil in 1996, I wasn’t worrying about terrorists hurting me from the outside. I was worrying about things hurting me from the inside–since I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer a year earlier. I was so worried I would die in the near future, that I was seeking life experiences that would build memories for my children after I was gone. So V and I were taking them to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Naturally, because I wasn’t worrying about bombs, there really was a bomb. A woman was killed right on the Olympic grounds two days before we were scheduled to leave. My first instinct was to immediately cancel the trip. No way would I take my children into such a dangerous situation.
You’d think that cancer might have cancelled out some of the lesser fears. But I was still afraid. Of more bombs in Atlanta, and lots of other things. But it was the Olympics, after all. And after years of watching athletes dig deep to find a hidden reservoir of strength, I did some digging, too.
While the world watched as gymnast Kerry Strug had her magical moment on the vault, and Jason Lezak had his heroic moment in the pool, only my family was there to witness my Olympic moment, as I stepped on the plane bound for Atlanta.