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This must be what it’s like to enter the Stadium at a Super Bowl. The feeling that this event is special, and that you’re kind of privileged to be able to attend.

You snake through the line, thankful the freezing winds off the mountains are not blasting through the valley. You go swiftly through security, have your ticket scanned, and begin the walk to the Stadium. You pass by exhibition areas of some of the TOP sponsors, like Coca Cola and Omega. You make your obligatory stop at the gift shop given the name to suit the moment – The Super Store. And then you file into the Stadium.

It’s not a massive stadium. In the shape of a pentagon, all spectators look down on an oval arena. When I got to my seat in the fairly narrow seat rows, doing the movie theater shuffle – “excuse me ma’am, sorry sir,” I removed the bag full of PyeongChang Olympic swag that was on everyone’s seats, and sat down.

If you came to see everything close and personal, then you shouldn’t have gone to the event. Even the big screen televisions were relatively small and on the whole not helpful. Understandable in a way since the Stadium will be torn down right after the Olympics – temporary venues are significantly cheaper to build than permanent ones.

Most of the spectators were seated an hour in advance of the start, and the pre-ceremony MCs got us started by having us practice a count down from ten to one in Korean, and practice K-Pop dance moves to keep us warm. There were volunteers in red scattered throughout the Stadium to model the dance moves. The one about 15 meters from where I was sitting was particularly committed. He danced enthusiastically during the entire march of nations, which lasted about an hour!

Volunteer Dancing All Night
Volunteer dancing all night

On occasion I could see to my distant right a group of women clad in red – the famed North Korean cheering squad. But just to keep geo-political balance, a man who looked suspiciously like President Donald J. Trump would parade by the walkway in front of our section.

Trump in the House
Trump in the House

For much of the ceremony, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. My seat was directly across from the entry part for the marching athletes, so it was central. And yet when it came time to light the cauldron with the Olympic flame, I had to crane my neck all the way to the right. I got to see how beautiful Yuna Kim was as she skated at the top of the Stadium this morning when I watched the clip on YouTube, but what I was able to see was a slightly blurry view through my iPhone which I was able to position so that I could see what was happening on the phone’s screen.

I couldn’t really see the lighting, but I could see the burst of fire, the explosions of fireworks, and the cheers of the crowd in an intense personal way that cannot be experienced on the screen. And then began the incredible in-Stadium fireworks display that stuns you with its proximity.

And then the ceremony was done.

 

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My seat in proximity to the Olympic Cauldron

 

I filed out with the masses, fairly quickly. I wasn’t so cold, as I was bundled properly, but I was hungry and fish soup awaited on the first floor. As I slurped a late snack, I noticed a commotion. The North Korean cheering squad had made their way down the stairs and were lined up in rows. While hugely popular in North Korea, it is unlikely they have ever been surrounded by so many South Koreans and foreigners with cameras and phones.

People who never imagined to be so close to a North Korean, let alone dozens of young attractive North Korean women, snapped and selfied away. I noticed just before they left, and somehow while holding my soup bowl in one hand, I took two quick pictures with my SLR in the other. Fortunately, one was in focus, proof of my personal encounter with the enemy.

Chance Meeting with the North Korean Cheering Squad
Chance Meeting with the North Korean Cheering Squad

All pictures and videos were taken by the author.

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Super Bowl XLI was memorable for its football. It was the first time ever two African American coaches faced off against one another. The game started with a touchdown on its first play, a kick-off return TD. Peyton Manning was named MVP. And the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17.

But today, what many will recall lovingly from that Super Bowl on February 4, 2007, was the electrifying performance by the artist, Prince. As New York Times writer, Kelefa Sanneh, wrote of the 12-minute performance, “His performance last night at Super Bowl XLI will surely go down as one of the most thrilling halftime shows ever; certainly the most unpredictable, and perhaps the best.”

Watch this short documentary produced by the NFL on Prince’s performance and the concerns leading up to it. There had never been a Super Bowl in the rain. Rain is fine for the football players, but it was a worry for the producers of the half-time show. As one said, “We were told ‘It’s never rained in a super bowl in 40 years. Don’t worry about it.’ We were in a booth at the top of the stadium. The rain is pouring into the booth. It was so windy and rainy we couldn’t even see.”Prince performing in the rain at Super Bowl XLI

 

Another person on the production team said this. “I was must panicked. Prince was using four separate live electric guitars. The stage was made of a very slick tile, which when it got wet, was even more slippery. He had two beautiful dancers with him – The Twinz. They were wearing, I think eight-inch heels. And I was thinking, ‘what’s going to happen now?”

But apparently, the unexpected rain storm did not faze Prince. As the production designer of the half-time show recalled in a conversation that was had with Prince before the show, “‘I want you to know it’s raining.’ And Prince said, ‘Yes, it’s raining.’ ‘And are you OK?’ And Prince is like, ‘Can you make it rain harder?’ And I was like, ‘right on!'”

Sanneh thought that “the heavy rain made the smoke and lights seem mysterious, instead of merely ridiculous.” Alan Light, who wrote a biography of Prince called “Let’s Go Crazy” said in the documentary, “It felt spontaneous. He turned the weather to his dramatic advantage. It was almost like a special effect. He could totally lean in to that, and make it seem like, ‘Sure it’s raining. I would have wanted it to rain.’ Like, ‘I ordered that.'”

John Pareles, the Senior Music Critic of the NY Times, marveled at Prince’s song choice and performance in the documentary. “Prince’s set is so wild. He does other people’s songs. He’s not promoting himself. He’s just making music. It’s profound. It’s loud. It’s funky. It’s one performer, shaking the entire world.”

Prince’s final song of the set was his anthem, Purple Rain, one of my favorite songs. As one of the producers of the half-time show said in the NFL documentary, “When he did do Purple Rain, things worked magically, and there’s nothing you can say except ‘thank you’.”

Prince performing in the rain at Super Bowl XLI_2

rings and nflSunday, February 7 is Super Bowl Sunday – half of America will be watching the Carolina Panthers battle the Denver Broncos for supremacy at the 50th iteration of this quintessential American experience, while the other half will enjoy comfortable seating at movie theaters, as well as restaurants not showing the game.

As you are aware, American football, the version with the oval, rugby-like ball, is not an Olympic sport. So unlike basketball, or soccer or tennis or ice hockey, there are not so many Olympians who have played in the NFL, let alone win a Super Bowl.

Irvin Bo Roberson was the silver medalist at the 1960 Rome Games in the long jump, and had a distinguished career as a wide receiver for several NFL teams. In fact, he is the only person to be an Olympic medalist, an NFL player, an Ivy Leaguer and a PhD, but he never went to the Super Bowl.jim thorpe card

The legendary Jim Thorpe, who was essentially brilliant at any sport he played, was the gold medalist for the pentathlon and the decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, and was actually the first president of the American Professional Football Association in 1922, so of course, never went to the Super Bowl.

In fact, there are only two people in the world who were Olympians, and who played in a Super Bowl.

Willie James Gault was on the US track and field team as a sprinter in 1980. Unfortunately, that was the year the US boycotted the Moscow Summer Games. Gault would go on to become a star wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Raiders, and was on the Bears team that won Super Bowl XX in 1986.

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Bullet Bob Hayes won two gold medals in the 100 meter and 4×100 relay at the 1964 Tokyo Games, and had a hall of fame career as a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. In 1972, he became the first Olympian to win a Super Bowl, contributing with a 16-yard run and two catches for 23 yards in Super Bowl VI against the Miami Dolphons.

Michael D’Andrea Carter took the silver medal in the shot put at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. He was then drafted by the San Francisco 49ers where he played one of the more violent positions on the field, nose tackle, better than anyone else in the game. And he played on a 49ers team that won the Super Bowl three times, in 1985, 1989 and 1990. Carter is only the second person to have won an Olympic medal and a Super Bowl ring ever, let alone in the same year.

michael carter card