Don’t Be Surprised to Pop Into a Pub And See The Competitors Having Beers at the London Summer Olympics
The coolest thing I discovered while attending the Olympic Games was not just running into the actual athletes around town but seeing them in the bars. And having drinks with them, too!
Almost from the minute upon in arriving in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games, I saw athletes wearing their country’s logos and jackets. When I got to Whister – with its small, confined Village the perfect setting to be for an Olympics – the athletes were everywhere. Members of the Team USA bobsled team were even out trying to recruit people to attend their preliminary rounds. In fact, they approached me!
Later that day, there was a guy in a Switzerland team jacket with long skis posing for photos. He had something around his neck. It was a Gold Medal. Turns out he was the first Gold Medal winner of the Games and he was just casually walking around the Village with it, happily taking pictures with anyone who wanted one (myself included).
Generally, you only see the athletes on TV, often in their most intense moments. Not even getting “up close and personal” as American television has long done to put a personality to the team members, can remotely compare to the experience of seeing and meeting them up close and personal.
But the real thrill came later when I ran into the athletes in the bars. Yes, the athletes were in the bars!
At first, I found this to be pretty surprising. But then it dawned on me that they are just like any other top-tier athlete, in their 20s and at the very peak of physical condition. And while they are certainly intense at competition time, it’s certainly not lost on them that while they are at the Games, they had damned well better take the time to enjoy it. Many have spent four – or more – years of sweat and sacrifice just to get there, and they deserve to soak in as much of the atmosphere as possible.
Also, some of the athletes don’t even compete for a week or so, and so of course they are out having a good time. That’s how I wound up drinking beers with the German bobsled team. This turned out to be the highlight of my time at the Games. And they guys I had beers and cheers with won the Silver Medal! They finished right behind the Team USA members that I had met out in the Village.
Back in Vancouver, I was in a bar reveling in Team USA hockey’s upset of the hometown Canadians when in walked a group of people with USA jackets. It turned out to be the women’s luge team and I spent much of the night getting to know Megan Sweeney. What a sweetie! (And quite the babe, too.) I could not fathom that this girl flew down an ice ramp at 75 mph, but there she was in the flesh and I was having beers with her as if she had just won the Gold Medal.
The real partiers, tho, are the coaches. They are usually former Olympians themselves and don’t have a curfew.
So if you are at the London Summer Games, don’t be surprised to pop into a pub and toast a few pints to the actual competitors. It’s part of the great Spirit of the Olympics.