I was told on 23rd July 2012 in London that the next 19 days of my life would be a journey that would make me or break me. These 19 days spent at North Greenwich Arena also known as O2 Arena, would change my life. I would never be able to experience this again and I would be one of the very few who would have had the opportunity to experience it in the first place.
How could 19 days make any difference in my life ?
But it did and till date not a day goes by that I don’t think of those 19 days
It all started in the year 2011. I was completing my masters in Film Making in London and one fine day this broadcasting team was over at the Uni. I was desperate to land a job so I went for the seminar. In that one hour we were told that a background in television was a must, and that there would be many levels of interviews and examinations. A short course in television was needed to even apply for a position. I still remember the fees, it was 300 pounds for a one week course. Not cheap from any angle!
A call back home was in order. I don’t remember how the conversation went, but I just remember my father telling me that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that I would be foolish to let it go. But the course didn’t guarantee a position , it was just a requirement to apply. This event was going to take place a year later. I didn’t know what I was going to do the next week and here I had to decide my fate for next year. The fee was paid, and I was in a way forced to do this course by my father. “Why do I tell my parents everything”, went through my head several times.
Finished the course, applied for the job.
First round completed. My application gets accepted, second round of seminars, interviews begin. I clear that level as well. The final round of group tests, interviews commence. This lasted over a period of 6 months. Still no guarantee that I would land the job. Meanwhile Uni had gotten over, life got complicated. Surviving in London without a job and living on money sent from India was very difficult. I had to make the decision to come back home, with the hopes that I’ll go back to London again in July. Only if I landed the position.
My second week back in India, I got my acceptance letter. But a sort of mixed feeling crept in. I was back home, back to comfort and I had landed a job.
Did I really want to go back to London?
Nothing doing, no way my father would let me miss this opportunity. I didn’t even dare telling him that I was thinking off backing out.
On July 23rd I attended my first pre event briefing. We were given our uniforms, merchandise, our time schedules, our meal schedules. Briefed on all protocols , shown the lay of the land. North Greenwich Arena was a huge concert hall and if I ever go back to the place, I will still remember every nook and corner
On 26th July 2012, I wore my green T-shirt and khaki pants to London Olympics. This was going to be the 19 days that would define me !
How do I sum up the best time of my life?
I can still hear the crowd squealing. I can still hear me squealing when I saw the Duchess of Cambridge. I can still feel my blood pulsing at the sound of Chariots of Fire. I was part of the broadcasting Team as a Liaison Officer, managing and guiding broadcasters from all over the world. I was in the commentary section when U.S.A won against Spain. I was in the mixed zone when the American Gymnasts won their multiple gold medals. I saw the famous McKayla Maroney face meme happening live. I passed Laxmi Mittal in the VIP section and didn’t recognise him. David Beckham was inches away from me. Kate Middleton was sitting right over me. But these celebrities didn’t matter. The real heroes, the real deal were the athletes.
The first 10 days were Gymnastics. One of the most watched sport in Olympics. I saw gymnasts flying in the air and sometimes crashing on the bar. These were children , no more than 16 years of age. One wrong move and their chance at winning gold was gone. One slip and that was the end of their career. No coming back next time, they would be too told to take part in the next Olympics. The Chinese gymnasts never smiled, Gold silver Bronze same expression though out. The Americans were a hoot. I once held a crying gymnast in my arms; her routine was perfect but at the last second, she slipped, lost balance and lost her chance at Silver. Their wins were our wins, their losses were our losses. But life doesn’t stop there, after every win or after every loss they had to go through the mixed zone, get bombarded with questions from journalist and all we could do was make sure that they had a chance to move on from one reporter to the other quickly. I saw Gods being made and Gods being destroyed. During the medal ceremony, Chariots of fire would play. The respective country flags would be raised high up in the air and a sense of pure joy would glide over all of us. At the time we were so busy running from pillar to post, making sure everything went smoothly, that sometimes we missed the magic happening all around us. Millions watch the Olympics on the TV, and we were responsible for the smooth running of that event.
One day break and the next day the gymnastics arena had become the basket ball court. Unlike gymnastics that had a strict time schedule, basket ball went on for hours and then over time, which was mind numbing for us folks you had to stand on our feet for hours on end.
Unlike the gymnasts who were sweet, polite and so timid. The basket ball athletes were a rowdy bunch. These guys were huge and so tall. Controlling them was next to impossible. They would jump over us, break the lines and go off here there everywhere and standing next to them during an interview would be a sweat shower for us. Them dripping sweat all over us, yuck ! On the final day we were assigned the commentary section and by then we were exhausted out of our minds. The play went into overtime. USA versus Spain caused us too much pain. We weren’t allowed to sit in that section but by the last day, we didn’t care.
Tony Parker was the only basket ball player I recognised only because of his relationship with Eva Longoria. Kobe Bryant was standing next to me for 15 minutes and I was completely clueless as to who he was !!
I made some wonderful friends, and we still keep in touch. Four years later I can still hear the crowds cheering. I can go on and on about my experience but words do no justice. This week starts the Rio Olympics and somewhere in some arena are a bunch of kids in green T-shirts and Khaki pants who will experience their first and only Olympics. The best 19 days of their lives.
Can you imagine if I had given Olympics a miss ?
Would I do it again. In a heart beat yes. I wish I could have also been a part of Rio but paths change, professions change, life changes. I will always be one of the lucky few who had this experience and an experience it was.