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.

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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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From SONY to SOSC

May 13 was my last day at Special Olympics New York City. I was really sad to leave because the employees and athletes had become my family. I will definitely volunteer with them again in the fall because interning at Special Olympics NYC changed my life. I started out very quiet but determined to be a good intern, and I ended as a super intern with a really strong passion for Special Olympics!

IMG_2151.jpgHere is a look back at my five favorite parts of interning at Special Olympics NYC:

  1. Fall State Games

This was my first State Games as an intern, and I really enjoyed it! It was different from my first New York State Games because I actually knew a lot of the staff and the athletes, and I was there with my friends/co-workers from Special Olympics NYC, Amy, Kaitlin, Sam, and Bill. I was stationed at Equestrian, which was so much fun to see. Before that, I had never seen Special Olympics Equestrian because NYC doesn’t have it. All in all, it was a magical experience. Seeing the love Special Olympics athletes have for their sports while they’re competing makes me so happy, and that love was definitely there all day.

Here’s my blog post about the Fall State Games:    https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/special-olympics-new-york-fall-state-games/

2. Metro Tournament

This was my first Special Olympics NYC competition, and it took place May 30, 2015, right after I started my internship. This day was so exciting, and it gave me a really good look into Special Olympics. I met some awesome athletes, including three athletes who ran the Flame of Hope in with Law Enforcement officers, Valerie (who won a gold medal at the National Games), Thomas (who would compete at the World Games later in the summer), and Doug (Thomas’ dad and also a fierce Special Olympics competitor). I took photos throughout the day, and being given free reign to wander around the competition allowed me to fully immerse myself in Special Olympics. My favorite event was the Powerlifting because each Powerlifter competed with a different persona (see the photo below of the Skullcrusher).

Here’s my blog post about the Metro Tournament:    https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/countdown-to-the-world-games-day-3/

3. Halloween!

Although this wasn’t an official Special Olympics event, it still is one of my favorite moments while working at Special Olympics New York. Luckily Halloween fell on a Friday, so I was able to celebrate it while at the office! The day contained a lot of eating, sugar highs, scaring people with masks, and a piñata! It was a really fun day spent being with my Special Olympics family. ❤

4. Winter State Games

These Games had some of the best competition that I’ve seen since I’ve started working for Special Olympics. Thanks to a really nice volunteer photographer, I was able to see Cross-Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, Snowshoe, and Figure Skating, in addition to watching the Opening Ceremony and dancing in the Closing Ceremony! Watching the skiing and snowshoe competitions was really fun because I have no background in those sports. I had never even watched someone ski in real life before! Of course, the Figure Skating was still my favorite. I love watching the athletes play to the audience and seeing the audience react with cheers and applause.

Here’s my blog post about the 2016 Winter State Games: https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/the-2016-winter-state-games/

5. Anytime with Special Olympics Athletes

Special Olympics athletes are some of the best people I know. After a year at Special Olympics New York, I know how hard they work to accomplish everything they do, and it’s really amazing and inspiring.

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It has been an incredible year at Special Olympics New York City. Last summer, I said I pass the flame for happiness, and Special Olympics does mean happiness for me.  Even though I left Special Olympics New York, I’m carrying that flame of happiness with me to my internship at Special Olympics Southern California this summer. Thank you to everyone who made Special Olympics New York special. 🙂

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Hello 2016!

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2016!

2015 was an awesome year for me. I volunteered at the Special Olympics World Games, started interning at Special Olympics New York, created this blog, met two of my heroes, made a lot of amazing new friends, and was accepted to volunteer at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro! 2015 made me really excited for 2016!

In honor of 2016, here is a list of 16 things I am excited about for 2016.

  1. VOLUNTEERING AT THE RIO OLYMPICS!!!!!!! 112414-OLYMPIC-2016-MASCOT-AS-PI.vadapt.620.high.55
  2. Watching the Olympics in person!
  3. Going to the Olympic Village in Rio.
  4. Exploring Rio de Janeiro.
  5. Trading Olympic pins with people from all over the world.
  6. Continuing to intern at Special Olympics New York.
  7. Growing my blog and updating it more frequently.
  8. Meeting more people who love the Olympic Movement just as much as I do!
  9. Graduating from Pace University in December 2016.
  10. Getting my first full-time job!IMG_4864
  11. Volunteering around the city (and writing blog posts about it!).
  12. Writing my senior thesis on the Olympic Movement.
  13. Turning 21.
  14. More Special Olympics New York competitions!
  15. Learning Portuguese.
  16. Summer ❤
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Happy New Year in Portuguese

 Happy 2016 to all of my followers! Here’s to another gold medal year!

The 2016 Olympics

After watching the 2012 London Olympics, I promised myself that I would be at the next Summer Games. Last December, I applied to volunteer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I am anxiously waiting to hear back about volunteering, but in the meantime, I bought four tickets to the Olympics! Just in case I am not selected to volunteer, I’m still going!

I’m so excited that I am actually able to do what I promised! I am ready to see what I have dreamed about for so long. There are a few problems such as cost and place to stay, but those can be addressed closer to the Games. The important thing is that I’m going to the Olympics!

Here are the events I’m going to see:

– Soccer (AKA Football), 8/3/2016

– Archery, 8/6/2016

– Handball, 8/15/2016

– Diving, 8/20/2016

I’m most excited about diving because I will be able to watch Tom Daley, the diver who inspired me to start diving, compete! I have less experience with the other three events, but I know they will be so cool to watch! After two ticket raffles and then some, I am ready to go to the Olympics (and of course I’ll blog the whole time I’m there)!

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Interning at a Nonprofit

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In addition to being an Olympics blog, I also want to talk about interning at nonprofits. Currently, I intern at Special Olympics New York, and I love it. I know that it’s what I want to do when I graduate, so that makes everything worth it. Sure, I do feel burned out sometimes. It’s normal when one does a lot of work without being paid. However, someone once told me that unpaid internships pay in experience, and especially at Special Olympics New York, it’s true. I have learned so much that I wouldn’t be able to learn in a class while doing something I love and for my future career. I will be staying on at Special Olympics New York until December.

At first glance, interning at nonprofits seems to be a tough sell because they are almost always unpaid. Most nonprofits unfortunately do not budget to pay their interns. It makes sense that nonprofits want to keep as much of their funding for the people they help, but it is still a huge problem because not everyone can afford to work for free. I’m interning and doing another job, but I wish I could afford to intern all the time. Interning is one of the most important things for someone concerned about his or her career to do.

Recently, I figured out how many hours I spent interning at my previous internship and how many I would have by the end of the summer. It was startling. At my previous internship at YAI Network (which I had for a year), I interned approximately 26,500 hours. By the end of this summer at Special Olympics New York, I’ll have interned or volunteered 70 hours. That’s a lot of unpaid labor, so why did I do it?

Pluses of Interning at a Nonprofit (in no particular order)

1. You are integral for an organization to accomplish its mission. You should choose a nonprofit that has a mission which you are passionate about. While working there, you will feel like you are making a difference, and you will be. The organization couldn’t help the people it serves without you.

2. All interning experience counts as real world experience, so it will stay on your resume long after you have to take your college experience off. Eventually, employers won’t be looking for who was president of what club, but they will always be looking for someone who has experience working in the field.

3. You can’t learn everything from class. Even though I’m a Nonprofit Studies minor, I have learned so many things at Special Olympics New York that I would never be able to learn in class. I get to learn by actually doing something, whether it is writing a grant proposal or researching possible sponsors or interacting with the athletes.

4. You get to start working on your career while you’re still in school, and while you can afford to be unpaid. More and more, internships are becoming vital to anyone interested in entering the nonprofit field. Employers look for experience over anything else. Because of this, it’s important that you get that experience while you can, so you don’t have to do it after you graduate.

5. It’s fun to escape college sometimes. I love my college, and I love my college friends, but sometimes, you need a break. You just need to leave the building and do something outside of your school. Interning at a nonprofit could be that something. It will make a difference to you to intern where you are making a difference for someone else.

I have used some nonprofit websites to find internships or places to volunteer like idealist.org and The Foundation Center, but the best things to rely on during your search are word of mouth and Google. Use your contacts! I got my first internship at YAI Network because my sister’s friend was temping there. I got my internship at Special Olympics New York by Googling Special Olympics New York City, going to its website, and emailing the person in the department I wanted to work in. Before interning, the best thing to do is to try out the organization beforehand by volunteering. Then you can see how the organization is from the inside with very little pressure.

Good luck interning or volunteering!

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