All we see is the pomp and circumstance. But waiting for the start of the opening ceremony of an Olympics Games can be a dull and tiring affair.
As 400-meter individual medley swimmer, Dick Roth, wrote, after getting bussed to a large staging area on a beautiful Autumn day on October 10, 1964, all they did was wait. “We milled around for hours in our new uniforms, awaiting our turn to march in, not daring to sit down in our white pants or skirts. That part really wasn’t fun.”
The American, Roth, won gold in his event, so the wait was worth it. But if an Olympian’s event is in the day’s following the opening ceremony, they are often encouraged not to participate in the team march into the stadium. That’s what American diver, Frank Gorman, was advised.
“The diving events began the day after,” the silver medalist in the 3-meter springboard told me. “So we were cautioned by our coaches to not go. We stayed in the Village dormitories. By that time, we were so pleased that the coaches advised us to stay. You had to go five hours in advance and stand outside waiting for things to get organized. They spent 8 or 12 hours participating in the ceremonies. We would have been worn out.”
And yet, for many Olympians, it’s an experience of a life time. Wrote Roth, “It was overwhelming really – bright blue sky, the entire stadium filled with 75,000 applauding, cheering people, all of us athletes standing in formation on the field. The track was ringed with Japanese, dancing in colorful costumes. The Emperor was standing and waving. Flags and more flags. Did you ever wonder what’s going through an athlete’s mind during the Opening Ceremonies? In my case, nothing besides a bucketful of awe!”