Friday, 3 August 2012

Why I love the Olympics so much: my memory of being a medal presenter (+ giveaway alert)

As you may have noticed, I have been running a couple of Olympic themed competitions (this one has closed but this one is still live if you would like to enter to win some Alpha-H Liquid Gold goodies). I though that I might share with you my special Olympic memory.

During the Sydney 2000 Olympics I was Medal Presenter - not one of the people who placed the medals on the athletes necks but one of the girls who carried the tray of medals - and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Unfortunately it was back in the days before digital cameras became mainstream so I don't have any photo's to show you. I took one roll of film of photos but have since misplaced the prints. However, I did manage to find a picture of myself online from the National Library of Australia Collection. As I don't have the copyright permission to reproduce this image I can only provide you with the link: In the photograph (you will have to take my word that it is me), I am presenting the gold medal so I am the third girl along in the line.

The medal presentation teams were split up according to height and then were assigned to sports with similar height. As I was in the shortest team we were assigned to gymnastics - probably the sport with the shortest athletes (well, apart from jockey's). In addition to gymnastics, I also presented medals for Synchronised Swimming, Fencing and European Handball.

In the lead up we had deportment training to learn how to walk properly; were taught makeup skills as we had to wear quite heavy makeup each night; we were invited to watch the dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony and we were in the Closing Ceremony. It was such an exciting time of my life!

Up until this point I hadn't really seen much gymnastics so it was a real eye opener for me. The strength and flexibility of these athletes was absolutely incredible.

Four moments stand out in my memory from this experience, that I will share with you.

The first one actually occurred just before the Olympics. It was at the Telstra Swimming Trials - the selection event for the Olympics. They also used that as a test event for the medal presenters to get some training before the Games. I was sitting in the holding room waiting for the next presentation when in walked Grant Hackett. I was like omg (internally of course, externally I was cool as a cucumber!). Then behind him walked Ian Thorpe so I was like OMG! Then in walked John Howard so I was like OMG!!! Now, I was 19 at the time so quite awe struck.

As I mentioned before, prior to this I was unfamiliar with gymnastics but I was about to get acquainted with a couple of the superstars of the sport. One of these was Alexi Nemov from Russia - every one of us girls was a bit in love with him - he was just gorgeous!

Alexi Nemov wearing a medal I might have
presented to him!
 The other superstar I became acquainted with was Svetlana Khorkina. I think just about all of us were shit scared of her! This brings me to the second memory that I want to share with you. We were standing in line waiting for the presentation to go ahead. I was carrying the gold medal for this one. I think Russia were expected to win gold but were beaten (I can't remember who by). I was standing there holding my tray of gold medals when Svetlana walks up to me and picks up one of the medals. I promptly shit my pants because we had been taught not to touch the medals - it was protocol that the athletes be the first people to touch the medals (they had to be manoeuvred onto the trays using the ribbons). I was freaking out thinking what the hell was I supposed to do if she didn't return it - would have been a bit awkward getting to the presentation being one medal short! But she then tapped the medal, huffed and dropped it back on the tray - situation avoided!

Svetlana Khorkina and a medal she won
(not stole!)

The next memory I want to share with you came from the presentation of the gold medal for the men's European Handball. In high school I had dreams of going to the Olympics for Handball. I had been invited to try out for the NSW team but never did as I snapped my ACL playing soccer (and in all honesty I don't think that I was good enough!). But, as host nation, Australia got automatic qualification for every team event so at the time I had thought that it was my best opportunity to go to the Olympics. Since I had an interest in Handball, I 'bagsed' carrying the gold tray for this presentation (we had an agreement between the presenters that if there was one particular ceremony you particularly wanted to present a medal on, you could 'bags' it!). The was a general rule that you would only carry a maximum of 5 medals on a tray at once as they were quite heavy. However, this presentation fell on the last day of competition when all the team events were being presented, so it was all hands on deck as there were not enough presenters available to split the load. This meant that I had all 15 gold medals on my tray at once. That was a hell of a lot of gold!

The delegate presenting the medals to the athletes for this particular ceremony was Juan Antonio Samaranch so I was super excited about that. The teams involved in the ceremony were Gold - Russia, Silver - Sweden, Bronze - Spain - so a very vocal crowd. When we entered the stadium the athletes were directly behind me. So, as soon as I entered, the crowd saw the athletes entering and erupted in the most roof raising cheer. Deep down I knew the cheer was for the athletes but it honestly felt like it was for me. I think I experienced the biggest rush - I was on such a high! I'm guessing it is what it is like for rock stars to perform live. Once that ceremony was completed we had to rush to assemble for the closing ceremony -which brings me to my final memory for you.

In the closing ceremony they used the volunteers to act as a human wall to prevent the hyped up (and possibly drunk!) athletes from charging onto the stage and interfering with the entertainers. They had two rows of the normal volunteers then a third row of us presenters. I think it was because our uniforms were more formal we were made the final row between the entertainment and the athletes. That meant that I had a completely unobstructed view of the show from approximately 20 metres from the stage! It was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! I got to shake hands with most of the entertainers as they left the stage. Kylie performed 'On a Night Like This' and I swear for about 3 months afterwards I teared up every time I heard the song as I was so sad that the Olympics were over (now it is a happy song for me and we actually used it as our farewell song from our wedding). Once it was over we got to mingle with all of the athletes who remained behind afterwards to party. I traded the Akubra hat from my uniform with a Canadian athlete for their jacket. I kind of regret doing that now, though. My reasoning was that I could always buy another Akubra afterwards but of course they were special ones made exclusively for the Olympics so my uniform is now incomplete. Oh well - its not like I will ever wear it again!

So, those are my memories and now you can see where my fondness of the Olympics comes from.

If you have any great Olympic memories (and they don't have to be of you - anything to do with the Olympics) make sure you enter them into my giveaway so you can go into the draw to win a bottle of Alpha-H's Liquid Gold Perfecting Daywear. The details of teh giveaway can be found here.