The opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games is just hours away. It’s safe to say that Generations United has a case of Olympic Fever.
In our latest bookend blog installment, take a sprint down Olympic memory lane with Seniors4Kids Special Advisor Thomas Taylor and Annie Clearly, a National Academy of Social Insurance summer intern for Generations United and a student at Miami University of Ohio.
In the comments, we encourage you to share your own memories. We would also love to hear your ideas for celebrating or enjoying the Games intergenerationally.
Using Grandparents Day (September 9) as a call to action, we are planning a full week (September 8-15) of intergenerational activism. Make sure to visit www.grandparentsday.org for tools, tips, and resources that will help you inspire generations.
In 1948, the last time the Olympics were held in London, I was 22 years old. My heroes at these games were two competitors in track and field, my favorite Olympic sport. Alice Coachman competed in the high jump. She was the first Black woman to win an Olympic medal, the first American woman to win a gold medal in track and field, and the only one to win at the 1948 games. Mal Whitfield won medals in the 800 meters and 4x4 relay. The 4x4 is a four man/woman race for four hundred meter. It’s very fast and requires great physical endurance for such a long distance.
In high school, I was on the track team. At the time, my hero was Jesse Owens. Jesse competed in the 1936 Berlin Games, won four gold medals (three in track and one in the long jump). Adolph Hitler boasted about the superiority of the Aryan Nation and German athletes participated in all sports. Hitler was angry at Jesse’s accomplishments and refused to offer him congratulations. My Brother-In –Law, Ben Johnson, ran with Jesse. He often spoke about the fine person Jesse was and how pleased he was to beat a German in Germany during the hateful days of the Nazi regime.
The 1984 Olympics was held in Los Angeles which I had the pleasure to attend. The excitement is unreal and the pageantry of the opening and closing sessions are a wonder to behold. I was able to see a number of my favorites and always will remember the grace and power of an athlete racing to the finish line leaning forward to be the first to break the tape.
In the summer of 2004, Michael Phelps wowed the world in Athens with six Olympic medals in swimming (one Olympics before his record-shattering eight medals in Beijing.) That fall, I returned to middle school sporting braces and wielding a poster for my locker of Phelps swimming butterfly. As an avid swimmer throughout childhood and high school, the Summer Olympics has always been a must-see for me.
My first Olympic memories were well before my Phelps phase, back in 1998 at the Nagano Winter Olympics. Michelle Kwan, the great figure skater, was my idol. I remember asking my dad to scrape snow off the frozen pond across the street from our home. I stumbled around on my skates, barely able to do a figure eight, let alone land a triple lutz. The Olympics were inspiring to me even then.
As the world prepares for the Olympics in London, I look back at past games with fondness. The Olympics are a spectacle like no other, connecting nations through the spirit of competition as well as camaraderie. As excited as I am to see Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte duke it out in the pool, I am just as eager to watch international athletes represent their countries. Let the games begin.
Photo courtesy of sundesigns