When a Guideposts staffer voluteered at the Olympics, she thought her work might keep her from seeing the Opening Ceremony. Discover what she saw behind the scenes.
Posted in , Aug 8, 2016
Allison Churchill is an editorial assistant at Guideposts.
I’m a sports fan who loves to travel, so when I learned that the 2016 Olympics were to be held in Rio de Janeiro, a city I’d always wanted to visit, I set about trying to figure out how to get there. Attending as a volunteer seemed like the best option.
After I applied, I got an email back in December saying I’d been accepted as a volunteer and in July, I found out I’d likely be working in the press room at the Opening Ceremony at the Maracanã arena in Rio. I was absolutely thrilled. I love watching the host city tell its story. But I get teary just thinking about the Parade of Nations. I genuinely believe that the cultures of the world have more similarities than differences, and the best way to discover that is to meet people. What better opportunity than an event that brings together nearly every country in the world?
I anxiously arrived in Rio last week, ready to have the experience of a lifetime. But on the night of the Opening Ceremony last Friday, as I was checking media badges, making sure that only authorized reporters went up to the press tribune, I realized I wasn't remotely close to the field. Or a television.
It didn't look like I'd get to see any of the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics, even though I was in the stadium, watching half-costumed people in elaborate makeup walk past.
I could hear cheering in the stadium, and, disappointed, I wondered how Rio de Janeiro and Brazil were introducing themselves to the world.
But then my supervisor Claudia told me to go up to the press tribune and watch the ceremony. Once I got upstairs I realized the "press tribune" was just a press box, high up in the stands. And then I saw that I was just in time for the Parade of Nations.
Granted, the athletes looked like ants from where I was standing. But I still felt my eyes well up every time I heard cheers when a South American country entered the field. Or when it hit me that I was standing in a stadium with tens of thousands of people from around the globe--from countries that are locked in centuries-long battles, from countries that have never been represented at the Olympics before, from countries where the average annual salary will never come close to covering the expenses of training and travel, but people sacrifice for talented athletes anyway. They all came to Rio.
While I can honestly say that my eyes remained in a constant state of mist instead of a heavy downpour, that almost changed with the joyous reception for the first-ever Refugee Olympic Athletes Team. I even saw a few of the reporters wiping their eyes as the 10 athletes who have been displaced from their homelands walked together, behind the Olympic flag.
As an Army veteran, I know about being part of something bigger than myself. But being one of 75,000 folks cheering on this team of refugees who have lost loved ones and a place to call home was an experience unlike any other I've had or will have. It was just incredible and I’ll never forget it.