Looking Back…

 

For the past two years, August has been a special month for me. Two years ago, I had just finished volunteering at the Los Angeles 2015 World Summer Games. One year ago, I was in Rio volunteering for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Both of those experiences are very important to me, and I have such wonderful memories for both of them. Before both of these experiences, I was very nervous. For LA, I was traveling somewhere by myself and volunteering at an international event for the first time, and for Rio, I was going to Brazil without knowing a lot of people or a lot of Portuguese. However, I loved each experience so much.

Thinking back to August 2016 and 2015, I thought a good blog post would feature my favorite picture from each one. I love photography, and there are some photos that really capture the spirit of the Games.

Here’s my favorite photo from LA 2015:

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LA 2015 was an eye-opening experience for me partly because it seemed like the whole world had come together to compete or to cheer for the athletes, but also because of moments like this. This is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. Those two athletes are from different countries, might not even have spoken the same language, and one of them won gold while the other won silver, but they are united in their celebration. They look so happy, proud, and triumphant. It makes me happy just to look at it.

For Rio 2016, it was a lot harder to choose, but I do love this one.

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This photo reminds me of the Closing Ceremony, one of my favorite moments of the Olympics. It was a symbol that I had achieved my dream of going to the Olympics. I had gone there and made the most of it. I was there at the Closing Ceremony! It felt like a really big party, and I think this photo captures that.

Thanks for reminiscing with me! Even though I’m sad that these events are over, the great thing about the Olympics and Special Olympics is that there will always be more moments like these in the future.

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Who Will Host the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics?

Less than a year left to find out!

Now that the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics are over, there’s only three more Games until the 2024 Games. On September 13, 2017, in Lima, Peru, the International Olympic Committee will select the host of the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.

Currently, the competing cities are Los Angeles, Paris, and Budapest. Rome recently dropped out of the race. Here is a little information about each one.

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Los Angeles

Boasting 97 percent of their venues as world class and already in existence and a history of two very successful and profitable Games in 1932 and 1984, Los Angeles is running to host its third Olympic Games. Its arguments about sustainability are important, especially after so many recent Games have cost enormous amounts of money. Additionally, Los Angeles is focusing its efforts on making its Games the most athlete-centered experience, and it has actually been organizing and running Athlete Town Halls across the country.

Website: https://la24.org

Here’s a picture of me standing at the LA 2024 Athlete Wall in the LA 2024 office. Olympic and Paralympic athletes came to sign the wall in support of the bid!

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Paris

Similar to LA’s bid, Paris is promising sustainability with 95 percent of its proposed stadiums being temporary or existing stadiums. It aims “to minimize investment costs while optimising benefits for our communities.” Paris hosted the Games in 1900 and 1924, and hosting the 2024 Olympics would be the 100th anniversary of when it hosted in 1924.

Website: https://www.paris2024.org/en

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Budapest 2024’s bid is a self-described “genuinely national” Games because it will bring Olympic competition to 90 percent of Hungary’s population in less than 90 minutes. Hungary has never hosted the Games. However, it will be the host city of the 17th FINA World Aquatics Championships in 2017, the Judo World Championships in 2017, the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2017, the Table Tennis World Championships in 2019,  and the European Maccabi Games in 2019.

Website: https://budapest2024.org/en/

 

I can’t wait to see what city wins the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics!

 

Happy Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day 2016!

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

– Special Olympics Athlete Oath

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver wrote this down on the morning of July 20, 1968, the day of the first Special Olympics International Games. She spoke the oath at the Opening Ceremony, and ever since, Special Olympic athletes have been pledging it at every Special Olympic competition.

Today is the seventh annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day! We celebrate this every year to honor Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. She changed the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities by providing them with a way to train and compete in sports, and she changed the lives of everyone in the world by creating a way for inclusion.

She was a hero in changing the world, and every day, Special Olympics continues on her heroic legacy. By reciting the Athlete Oath 48 years ago, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a movement toward inclusion, and all of the 4.7 million current Special Olympics athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers have continued her effort to create a world that celebrates people’s abilities instead of disabilities. Thank you, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for giving the world Special Olympics. ❤

Click on the images below to make them bigger and celebrate EKS Day and Special Olympics with me! 🙂

My Olympic Summer

Hi everyone!

I’m sorry for not posting for such a long time. After Rio, I was really exhausted, and then I had to get ready for my last semester of college! Now, I’m back in school, and I’m going to try to keep a regular posting schedule again.

Coming back to school again after Rio and my summer has been difficult, but I’m slowly adjusting. Because it’s almost the end of summer (it ends on September 21), I thought I would look back on my very Olympic summer for this post. Here is a recap video.

 

This summer, I was lucky enough to intern for Special Olympics Southern California at the Summer Games, volunteer for LA24 and LA84’s Olympic Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, organize a day for Rio 2016 volunteers in Southern California to visit LA 2024’s office to learn more about the bid, meet Kerri Walsh Jennings, attend the Road to Rio event at Venice Beach, meet Dustin Plunkett, attend NBC’s Social Media Opening Ceremony, intern for the LA 2024 Olympic Bid Committee, and volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Mostly though, I was really lucky to be able to spend a whole summer doing what I love. I’m so grateful to have had the summer I had and to have met the people I met.

What’s next for me?

I am currently writing my senior Honors thesis about incorporating a Special Olympics’ Unified Sports experience into the Olympics. It’s due in December! In the meantime, I’ll also be going to Olympic, Paralympic, and Special Olympic events in the city and volunteering! Keep an eye on my blog to read more about what I’m up to!

After that, I’m graduating from Pace University, and then, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. 🙂

Olympic Day

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To me, every day is Olympic Day (especially when it’s one more day until I leave for Rio!), but Olympic Day is also a day celebrated every June 23 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games in 1894. Every year from May 31 to June 30, communities and programs around the United States organize events to celebrate the day. Before my internship at LA 2024, I had never been to one of these events.

On Thursday, June 23, the LA 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Bid Committee and the LA84 Foundation, which was formed with the profits from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, hosted an Olympic Day celebration in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Over 500 youth in the Los Angeles community came, and after the Opening Ceremony, they were able to learn and play Sitting Volleyball, Volleyball, Archery, Rugby, Soccer, Fencing, Rowing, and Badminton.

The Opening Ceremony, staged in front of the Memorial Coliseum, featured LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman, LA 2024 Vice Chair and Director of Athlete Relations Janet Evans, and LA84 Foundation and CEO Renata Simril. After the Opening Ceremony ended, the cauldron ignited, and a day of Olympic Spirit began.

We started the day off by arranging all of the students into the Olympic rings, which was kind of difficult but very cool. After creating the rings, each group went off to its station to learn the rules of the sport and try it out.

IMG_0686 (1)During the day, I was also able to learn a few new sports. I tried Sitting Volleyball, a Paralympic sport where competitors are only allowed to sit on the ground while playing. This was so much fun! I never enjoyed playing Volleyball in gym, but I really liked this.

I also learned a little Fencing from a very energetic coach. Before this, Fencing always seemed too foreign for me to understand, but she broke down how to play it for me. Although it was really hard (so much to think about!), I enjoyed the little private lesson, and I would like to try Fencing again. I’m really excited to watch Fencing at the Olympics because now I have a little more understanding of the sport and how it feels to do it.

Toward the end of the day, I tried Rowing. Because they weren’t able to bring a place where you could actually row onto the field of the Coliseum, they had rowing machines set up. I had used them before in high school gym class. Now I know what they’re really meant for because the person at that station talked me through what the motions on the machine stimulated in actual Rowing.

This day was really fun, and it made me very excited for the start of my internship. A little less than a year ago, I had been in the stands of the Coliseum watching the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony happen on that same field where I stood on Olympic Day. While watching all of the kids try out different Olympic sports with the cauldron burning above the field, I was really inspired. It felt right for Los Angeles, and it felt right for me. The cauldron of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the place where the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, and Olympic Day began, will hopefully light up at the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympics, and maybe some of the students from Olympic Day 2016 will be there competing.

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For faster updates while I’m at the Olympics, follow the Olympics of Blogs on Instagram @theolympicsofblogs. I leave on Monday!

 

The Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony

When I was interning for Special Olympic NYC last spring, I met Annamaria who was also an intern. In 2004, she attended the Opening Ceremony for the Athens 2004 Olympics with her family. The Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony is one week from today, so I asked her about her experience at the Athens Ceremony 12 years ago.

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Annamaria with her grandpa at the Opening Ceremony

The Olympics of Blogs: How old were you when you watched the Athens 2004 Opening Ceremony?

Annamaria: I was 10 years old.

The Olympics of Blogs: What was your favorite part?

Annamaria: The entire ceremony was amazing, but if I had to choose one part, it was when there were two men beating a drum. One on screen at the site Olympia and one in the stadium. Immediately after this, a flame flew into the Olympic stadium and created the Olympic rings. I remember that being a powerful moment and apparently the drum beats were supposed to represent the beating of the heart.

Here is a video of that moment! Click the link to open it on YouTube!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2atZjcBqs4

The Olympics of Blogs: As someone who is Greek and American, do you think that you experienced the Ceremony differently from people of different nationalities?

Annamaria: I would say for Greek people from Greece and around the world, this Ceremony was very important to them and once in a lifetime. I was very proud to have the Olympic Games back at home in Greece and very grateful that I could experience the Ceremony in person. I also think the Olympics are very important to Americans, and they also have a lot of pride as well. So it was a really special night, experiencing the entire ceremony as both a proud Greek and American. We had both the American and Greek flag with us; this made the whole experience of cheering for the Greek and American athletes really fun! We were cheering for everyone though. The people sitting near us were from different areas around the world, so we were cheering with them too and just having a great time!

The Olympics of Blogs: Could you describe the ceremony?

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Annamaria: The entire ceremony felt surreal. I was sad when it ended because I didn’t want it to end! It was a very well put together ceremony and very symbolic, which ties in with the importance of symbolism and philosophy in Greek history and culture. A large portion of the ceremony was the procession of the history of Greece until modern day. It was so beautiful to watch. A moment that stuck out to me the most was when the athletes from Iraq walked out. The entire stadium started cheering very loud for them to support them, given the political tensions that were happening around the world at that time. It really proves how the Olympics can be unifying and bring peace during times of political division in the world. Overall, the entire ceremony was beautiful and well put together. The feeling in the stadium was full of happiness, excitement, and pride from everyone.
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I’m still working on trying to get Opening Ceremony tickets of my own! We’ll see how that goes as we get closer to August 5. Only 7 days to go until the 2016 Rio Opening Ceremony.

For faster updates while I’m at the Olympics, follow the Olympics of Blogs on Instagram @theolympicsofblogs.

Special Olympics Southern California’s Summer Games

IMG_0489Special Olympics Southern California’s Summer Games were held June 11-12. These were the fifth Special Olympics Games I had been to, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. With my internship at SOSC, I was able to work behind the scenes and definitely had a different perspective from the other Games I’ve attended.

The entire week before was very fast-paced, and everyone in the department worked really hard. There was so much to do! There was a very strong sense of team in my department and in the entire organization. I was impressed by something called the Dog Pound where we had lunch and dinner every day after Wednesday. The volunteers of the Dog Pound were so close-knit and so passionate about Special Olympics. Some of the volunteers no longer lived in Southern California, but they still came back every year just for this! Some even had volunteered at the Summer Games for over 40 years!

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We were primarily stationed in Games HQ, which was in the pyramid on campus (Cal State Long Beach has a giant blue pyramid!). During the Games, people came here with questions, problems, and for lost and found.

Saturday started with the Opening Ceremony. They kept it short and very athlete-centered. All of the delegations filed in, and then there were speeches from various important people involved in the Games (like Bill Shumard, the CEO of SOSC). Additionally, two of the stars of Born This Way, a reality tv show on A&E about people with Down Syndrome who live in Southern California, were there and spoke. This was cool because I’ve seen this show! The two who spoke were Sean, a Special Olympics golfer, and Carly, a swimmer (she’ll be on the show next season). I also met Carly later that day! She was really awesome to talk to, and I’m excited to see her on the show!

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On Saturday, I was able to shadow the Director of Competitions, and she gave me tips on IMG_0404how to properly manage large competitions like the Summer Games. We went to each venue to make sure everything was going well and to see if they needed help. In addition to the tips, this was really cool and helpful because I had never seen the inner workings of a Summer Games.

The Athlete Dance was Saturday night, and I went with a few other people to see what it was like. It was held in the Student Union, which was so big, and it even had a bowling alley inside! Athletes could choose to bowl, play pool, or dance. There was even a DJ and a live band for them to choose from. I danced a little with one of the athletes, and it was a lot of fun!

Sunday was a little more relaxed, and we were able to attend many of the competitions. I saw Rhythmic Gymnastics, Bocce, Athletics, the Festival, Unified Bocce, Basketball, and Aquatics! This was a really fun day because there wasn’t a lot left for us to do, so we were able to enjoy everything we had done to make the Games happen.

All in all, it was a really great learning experience for me. Special Olympics Southern California has one of the best Summer Games in the country, and I’m really grateful that I was able to work to make them happen with the SOSC Sports and Programs team!

After the Summer Games, my internship ended, and I got another internship at the LA 2024 Olympic Bidding Committee (see this blog post for information about the LA 2024 bid)!!! This past Thursday, we had an Olympic Day celebration at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, so check back here in the upcoming week for a blog post about it!

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