With the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics slowly creeping up on the world–February 7th to be exact!–the news and social media are constantly buzzing with reminders and opening statistics. Now, I love the Olympics, and more specifically the winter Olympics. Like ski jump? Come on, how awesome is that? I knew that I wanted to write about the Olympics, but I wasn’t sure what approach to take, nor what I could write that hasn’t already been said. Then I had an epiphany—why not ask someone who has already been to the Olympics about what it’s like to be there and compete? So I phoned home to Buffalo, NY to talk with my parents, both of who attended the Olympics three times; one as a spectator and one as a competitor.
My dad played for the Czech National Hockey team and subsequently competed three times: Albertville, France in 1992, Nagano, Japan in 1998 and finally in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2003.
My dad got hit in the face by a hockey stick—he has a nice scar there as a reminder.
What is it like to take part in the Olympics? What was your favorite part? What could you have done without? As I listened to my parents’ answers, I was baffled that I never thought to ask before. They shared wonderful insight into an event I thought I already knew enough about.
Sidenote: My parents have awesome Czech accents so I’m writing how they speak.
On the opening ceremony:
Richard [Dad]: We miss the opening ceremony, which is something we all regret. Because the hockey season is during the same time, we cannot make the opening ceremony. It would have been cool to do it though.
Martina [Mom]: That is something I would like to see too, but it just never work out.
On Olympic village:
R: Oh, Olympic village is so cool. Every country live together in a set building, so it’s very cool to see different competitors of different events from your country. There is a big sense of pride for your country because you are all there together representing it. You meet interesting people too.
M: The entire mood in Olympic village is also something like you never felt before. The entire city is alive and pulsing with energy. There is national pride for your own country, but there is also a huge sense of pride for everyone there. Everyone deserve to be there.
Daily sightings at the Olympics:
R: Everyday, you see athletes walking around with their medals on. It was cool to see someone who already win a medal. No one sees it as showing off—it’s something that you accomplish and you have a right to wear it around.
On being a spectator:
R: The athletes all get to go for free to any event they choose. We just call ahead and they get us tickets. I always went to see the Ski Jump and downhill skiing. I think it’s very nice that they do that for the athletes because it brings you all together to cheer others on. Ski jump is so cool.
M: Because I didn’t compete, I didn’t get to see them for free. I had to pay, but I always got tickets. There was never an issue of not being able to go, which is a nice part of having a husband who competes; I was never worried I wouldn’t be able to see an event I like.
On your favorite part:
R: The mood. Like I said, the mood and the energy is unparalleled. You are always in good mood and having good time. I prefer Olympics in smaller villages as well. It’s more intimate. Also being in a different culture too. Japan was awesome. The food? So good.
M: The mood definitely and I agree about different cultures. It’s nice to see a different part of the world and nice to see countries coming together. It’s competitive, but there is an obvious sense of camaraderie.
R: She copy my answer.
On your least favorite part:
My parents had only positive experiences.
On winning in Japan:
R: It was incredible. Of course, we were underdogs going in. We were all nervous. But once the period ended, it was pure elation. Dominik [Hasek] threw his hockey stick in the air after we won and it hit me across the face (SEE PICTURE ABOVE). But I didn’t feel it, I didn’t even know! It wasn’t until later he look at me and say, “You’re bleeding.” We were all so excited that nothing else mattered.
M: He’s going to say again that I copied his answer—but it’s true. You are so nervous up there watching, but as soon as they won every wife/girlfriend was screaming. It’s an incredible feeling to watch them, who worked so hard, win the gold.
On the post-win celebration:
R: We left Japan the day after. We got one day in Prague to celebrate and then we all had to go back to play in regular season. The celebration was something I had never seen before. There were 400,000 people lined in the streets, waving Czech flags, screaming, some crying. It was incredible to be welcomed like that in your home.
M: The line of people stretched from the airport to the city center. It was madness.
R: Madness, but such a great feeling.
Talking about the Olympics with my parents was incredible; I heard the opinions of two different people, a competitor and a spectator (albeit their viewpoints overlapped). My dad shared all the perks of competing: free housing, clothing, they could spectate any sport they chose, etc. But it wasn’t about that for him. It wasn’t about winning (although that was kind of the point). It was about the bond that all athletes feel. They’re the best, surrounded by the best, and it’s a time of celebration.
Let the countdown to Sochi begin!
Photo Credit: 1