LONDON – When you’re an Olympic athlete engaging in the biggest moment of your career that you’ve been working towards your entire life, where do you go to let loose? For some American athletes, it is the Team USA house. Thanks to fellow Bobcat, Christa Mann, who is the Communications Coordinator for the United States Olympic Committee, the Scripps London team got the chance to tour the house and see where some of the athletes and their families hangout.
Sheryle Miller, Coordinator of Meeting and Event Services at the house, said that it took seven days to transform the Royal College of Art into the Team USA house. The retreat spot is private and available only for Olympians both past and present (because once an Olympian, always an Olympian), families of the athletes and sponsors and partners of the team.
At the Team USA house, all of these approved people are able to relax, grab a bite to eat and watch some of the Olympic action. Athletes and their company are provided the same catering service that the royal family uses as well as an outdoor Budweiser Deck equipped with comfortable couches and two weatherproof televisions. Any guest is also able to check out a laptop to surf the web or a bicycle to enjoy a stroll through one of London’s royal parks. Team USA house serves as the ideal chill spot for an Olympian trying to relieve some stress.
What better way is there to relax then to go shopping? In the house is the two-story, official Team USA shop. This is the only venue in the United Kingdom where the official team gear is sold. Customers have their choice ranging from $28 Team USA t-shirts to $250 Ralph-Lauren polos to the $450 jackets that the athletes wear during competition. The shop is open to everyone with access to the rest of the house as well as all United States citizens. How much money do the athletes spend in the shop for team gear?
“The athletes get one of everything in the store,” said Peter Zeytoonjian, Managing Director of Consumer Products and Licensing.
Before we left on this trip, everyone in my hometown fawned over me. They could not believe this opportunity I had earned, and they were congratulating me on great things before I had even so much as started packing. To my credit, I told them all the same thing, this trip is a vacation unless I make the best of it.
I think I failed.
Making the best, does not mean doing everything you want to do and then some. To me, making the best is taken what you are given no matter how small or insignificant that opportunity may be. I had pipe dreams, and they never materialized, and all I had left was day dreams.
True I was given little. Actually, a classmate and I were given the least, but I still could have done more. It would not have been easy or convenient, and truthfully it’s easier and probably fair to blame others for my misfortune, but where will that get me?
Better to focus on the positives, I saw a beautiful city, had some once in a lifetime opportunities and met some of my best friends. Maybe I did not achieve any of my professional goals, and I will tell that first to anyone that asks me how London was, but I will quickly tell them of all the fun I had here and to not think for a second I regret anything about coming. And in that regard, I ended up making the best of this trip.
I’ve learned that cultures are different, but people are really the same. No matter what skin color or accent or mannerisms a person has, we’re actually not that different. Men and women are all looking for their mates, their careers and their desires.
But I’ve noticed that it’s in the children here where you truly see the basis of our humanity. Children are going to laugh when you tickle them, cry when they fall, or smile when they are hugged because those are purely human feelings, stripped of cultures and backgrounds.
The Olympics makes us these children again, and that, in itself, is what I’ve learned most here. It’s not the volleyball match or basketball game that makes it such a memorable event. It’s the people and communities formed.
It takes me back to being a kid when it didn’t matter where you are from or what you look like because I’m going to ask you to play anyways. We reconnect with the youthful innocence we lose in the judgments we pick up and carry throughout the years.
These judgments are lost when you’re sitting in one of the arenas with four different cultures surrounding your seat, and you realize you are all there for the same thing: the experience, the atmosphere, the “just so I can say I did it”. What people don’t see, however, is through our playful country loyalties and appreciation of other cultures at these events, we create our Olympics.
This atmosphere isn’t planned out by an administration. It happens when you see someone waving an American flag and another person three seats down waving a Pakistani flag, and it doesn’t bother you in the slightest.
I now realize how some things can truly transcend cultural differences or political strife. The Olympics isn’t a time to find out who the No. 1 athletes are in the world but instead to celebrate our youth, each other and the human race.