It was two years ago that I walked in the Opening Ceremonies at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Tonight, I will watch from home and share in the joy of many who are experiencing this incredible moment for the very first time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It was an absolute honor to be a small part of the 230 athlete delegation the United States of America sent to compete on the world stage. I want to do my best to share with you (in pictures and words) what it’s like to walk in Opening Ceremonies.
Ralph Lauren provided our gear for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, just like they will do for Team USA in Rio. This picture is of the U.S. Men’s Bobsled Team lined up for a team photo in the Olympic Village. Steve Langton clearly has the best hair.
Team USA sent two bobsled teams (USA-1 and USA-2) to the Sochi Olympics in the 4-man bobsled event. This picture is of our USA-2 crew and truth be told, we took this picture before the team photo I posted above. FYI.
Side note, take a look at our shoe laces and socks. Ralph Lauren had an Opening Ceremony app on our phone to show us how to dress properly in order to walk. The shoe laces had to be tied in the back and we had to have three folds in our socks. It was simple: follow the dress code in the app, or don’t walk in the Opening Ceremony. You decide.
We made it to the Olympic stadium and each country was instructed to line up in alphabetical order, according the the host country’s dialect. No one on our team spoke Russian so it took awhile to find where the “U” (United States) is located in the Russian alphabet.
In the meantime, a few of us bobsledders found snowboarding legend Shaun White and asked for a team picture. He happily obliged and we all became best friends. At least for one photo we did.
Out of 230 U.S. Olympians, only four were from the great state of Texas. Therefore, it made perfect sense for us to take a “Team Texas” picture! Your 2014 Texas Olympians consisted of two bobsledders and two speed skaters. Jordan is from Denton, TX, Jonathan is from Katy, TX, Justin is from San Antonio, TX and I am from McKinney, TX.
There isn’t much to this picture, other than a bunch of U.S. Olympians trying to find a seat. Each country had a specific section to sit so that wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was trying to coordinate a seat within the Team USA section. It was tough to navigate while fellow athletes were taking selfies, snapping on Snapchat or taking crowd photos, like I was with this one.
Olympic stadium was incredible! Everyone was taking pictures with their phones or cameras, so to see all the flashes from across the way, it looked like a light show! Across from us, halfway up, on the 50 yard line (not sure what else to call the middle), are the Olympic rings that are illuminated with box seating. Vladimir Putin and his staff were sitting in the box directly above the Olympic rings. He was wearing all black for this night. I don’t know why that matters, it just felt like something I should share with you all.
After the Opening Ceremony (which was incredible!!!) we were walking back to the Olympic village and I HAD TO get a picture with the Olympic Flame. I was a student-athlete at the University of North Texas in Denton, America and the third person in school history to make an Olympic Team. The first two from UNT were Summer Olympians (David Clark, Pole Vault, 1960; Bill Schmidt, Javelin, 1972) and I was the first Winter Olympian (Johnny Quinn, Bobsled, 2014). Here I am doing the Eagle Claw with my hand. Now say it out loud with me… CAWWWWWWWWWW!
I hope you enjoy watching the Opening Ceremonies tonight as much as I will! There are 555 athletes on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. Many are first timers, just like I was, and they are about to experience a moment that will last a lifetime!
P.S. The Olympic Flame is really hot to touch. It almost burned my finger. Almost.