When I was at West High School in Salt Lake City in 2002 I had a unique opportunity, to work for the Winter Olympics. My school was less than two blocks from where most award ceremonies and official non-athletic events were to take place, so rather than figure out how to get us all to class in the crowds and post 9/11 influenced security boom, we got a couple weeks of vacation. A month ahead of time some recruiters from the Games came to West High to get people to work. I signed up.
I worked at the figure skating/short track speed skating practice rink managing traffic. I helped direct vans from the tightly secured Olympic Village to the back entrance without delay while sending everyone else to the front where the metal detectors were. It was a lot of fun, we made new friends, ate lots of free food, got to see the athletes practice during our frequent breaks and even got to see the bomb squad robot blow up something suspicious looking (it was probably just trash). It was a lot of fun, but exhausting because I had to wake up between 3-4 every morning to arrive for work on time. There wasn’t much time or energy to see the attractions or events that were happening all over the city. In the end I had fun and made enough money to buy my first Mac, a G4 Tower, and didn’t feel cheated that while working I had missed all the fun.
A couple weeks later I got tickets to go see the Paralympic downhill skiing. I don’t know what I was expecting but what I saw was amazing and still one of the most inspiring memories I have. These athletes were flying down the course at speeds that I will likely never approach (I was a regular snowboarder at the time), seemingly without regard for the danger or difficulty. There were many skiers without limbs, but to me the most amazing ones were the blind skiers. They were led by a spotter a few yards ahead at breakneck speed. Trusting someone else and your own abilities that much is a singular thing to behold. If you are ever in a position to see a comparable event I hope you take it. In the meantime check out all the wonderful photos over at The Big Picture.