My 2 weeks in London have ended and now I sit in my kitchen ready to write about the 2012 Olympics. Funny how I was invited to work this event almost 2 years ago and now it’s over. As far as events go, this one will always be considered one of my favorites. I am a very lucky man to get to do what I do for a living and working this international event makes it even more glaringly obvious that I am extremely fortunate. I am fortunate to be able to do what I enjoy for a living, I am fortunate to work with the people I get to work with and I am fortunate to be able to travel to some amazing places and get paid to do it. Anyway, there are quite a few stories to tell about my London experience so I’m gonna try to narrow it down the best I can…
After staying in London for an extended amount of time, there are a few things I have learned. Firstly, air conditioning is NOT guaranteed. Our hotel didn’t have it, the ExCeL Center apparently didn’t have it and I’m not sure if the British even know what air conditioning is. All I know is that I was hot & sticky a lot of the time and considering we had to wear the same uniforms to work for a week, it got kinda smelly by the end of it!
Nevertheless, we went about our work tirelessly and with great conviction (despite the smells). Working behind the scenes at the ExCeL Center had its perks as I was able to see a few events while I was there. Most of the games that took place there were going on at staggered times so I was able to see some Olympic Table Tennis (I watched some of the bronze match between Korea & Singapore), Boxing and Fencing. I also got to see several U.S. Olympians win medals! I was lucky to be on a break when Jordan Burroughs won his gold medal in the 74kg Freestyle and I watched as Clarissa Chung brought home a bronze medal for the women’s 48kg Freestyle!
The first gold medal bout I worked was the Greko-Roman 120kg match between Cuban Mijain Lopez Nunez and Estonian Heiki Nabi. Nunez won the gold in that one. Our crew also got to know some of the officials by heart as they worked the mat for several matches. One referee, Anastasia Migkipi from Greece, was particularly hard core as she continually smacked at wrestlers who would hold or go against the rules. Our television crew LOVED to watch her work the ring and our spotters (all coaches from various Big Ten schools) loved to joke that she could have wrestled any one of the athletes for a medal.
I have to say that I learned a lot about different cultures and geography in my short stay. There were some countries participating in the games that I honestly had never heard of (quick…where is Azerbaijan?), many athlete’s names I couldn’t spell (I’m a professional…why can’t I spell “Saeid Mohammadpourkarkaragh” in less than 2 minutes???) and lots of new wrestling verbage that I had to learn (a repechage match what?). It truly was a learning experience every day and meeting so many people from so many different cultures was one of the highlights of this trip.
It was interesting to note that certain countries put an emphasis on wrestling. While the U.S. was definitely up to snuff, there were wrestlers from Georgia, Russia and the aforementioned Azerbaijan that were constantly in the running for the gold. You would think that with wrestling being an event at the Olympics since 708 BC, more countries would be interested in it but there seemed to be quite a few that didn’t field any wrestlers in any of the wrestling categories.
As for my fellow worker bees, it was a pleasure to be a part of such a great group. 2 weeks is a lot of time to spend together but I never felt like we got tired of one another. Not having known most of the crew I was on, I got to get to know an entirely new group of great people! Our motto on Mat C was “Bring It!” And I am happy to say I think we did just that!
It was sad yesterday when we made our run to Heathrow Airport and had to say our goodbyes. Events like this don’t happen very often (well….once every 4 years or so) and so it was hard once it was all over. But I know I speak for the everyone on the crew when I say a big “Thank You” to Doug Brooker, who was our coordinating director and the man who brought all of us on board as the U.S. representatives for Wrestling at the 2012 Olympic Games. It was an event I will never forget and I am hopeful that there will be more Olympic opportunities somewhere down the road!