Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Olympics: The Rest of the Story

I've been a bit dissatisfied with my Olympic stories. Not because they weren't true, but because they were only part of the story. I've been trying to figure out what I should and shouldn't say, as I always do when the story isn't mine alone.

My daughter and I had tickets for one round of diving. It turned out to be the women's springboard preliminaries (when we entered the ticket lotteries we didn't know which events would be when). Each venue had different levels of seats--some had only 2 or even 1, others as many as 6. When you entered the lottery, you indicated the highest level of seating you'd be willing to pay for. If you chose A-level seating, you'd be entered in the lottery for, say, levels A, B, C, and D, but if for the same sport you chose C-level seating, you'd only be entered for C and D levels. The more you were theoretically willing to pay, the better your shot at getting any seats at all--but the trick with the lottery was that you had to agree upfront to either pay for everything you got in the lottery, or decline it all. You couldn't pick and choose out of what you were offered.

In the first round of the lottery, I asked for all 4 days of eventing, then one day each of diving, gymnastics, fencing, and something else--can't remember. I asked for the best seats for the stadium days of eventing ,because I very much wanted those tickets, and the best seats for diving, because diving seemed like something that would be much cooler close up than far away. This turned out to be a very good choice. In the first round of the lottery, I got 3 of the 4 days of eventing, fencing, and diving, and we were able to get the other day of eventing plus archery and badminton in later rounds.

Our diving seats were level A, which put us right at the diving board end of the natatorium, just above the judges' seats. They were superb tickets--and, in fact, everyone in the seats around us was actually a family member of a diver. We sat beside the mother and brother of one of the American women, who made it to the final round but didn't get a medal. Every time she dove, her mother and brother utterly ceased to breathe. Watching them, I got a sense of how much effort had gone into this diver making the Olympic team.

Which brings me to the part of the story I don't entirely know how to tell: a friend of mine made that Olympic event team. Now, I had to register for the ticket lottery almost a year before the Olympics, and the U.S. event team wasn't named until 6 weeks before the competition, so I didn't know I was going to be able to watch my friend. But with a friend on the team I got access to a sort of lounge set up for friends and family of many of the equestrian teams; it was there that the Brits threw a party to celebrate their team silver, which is how I got my photo taken with eventing superstar Mark Todd and how I got to hold Mary King's medal in my hands. All that was exciting, but, for both my daughter and I, the essence of the Games could be distilled into one moment, after cross country ended, when the lounge was packed with people from several nations, and my friend, entering the room still in riding gear, caught sight of my daughter, went up to her, and said, "Take me to my mother," and my daughter did.