Sunday, July 15, 2012

I carried the Olympic Flame

What a day it was. And what a journey it was to get there! I had dreamed of one day running the Olympic torch and on July 10th my dream came true! Coca-Cola has been a proud sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1928 and has sponsored the Olympic Torch Relay since the 1992 Games in Barcelona. We our both celebrating a 20th Anniversary, and we did it together on the streets of Windsor.

My trip, however, was almost derailed by a case of appendicitis and an emergency appendectomy, which took place only three days prior to my run. But thanks to great doctors and a very helpful family, I was able to make it to London and participate in this historic event. It was a little painful, being only two days removed from the hospital, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world!

The day started with a short bus ride from our hotel, Malmaison Oxford Hotel, which until 1996 was a prison (creepy yet extremely cool), to our section of the relay in Windsor. I was on the bus with 10 other runners, all of whom were chosen for different reasons. One happened to be local and a swim coach of 40-plus years. Another was a friend from my TV roots at NBC who has worked 9 Olympic Games from the inside. And then there was Gina. Gina told me she coached, "Netball for 60 years and was fulfilling two dreams, running the torch and handing the flame to HRH”... or as we know her, Her Royal Highness The Queen. She was running leg #73. I was leg #71, which gave me just two degrees of separation from the Queen. Pretty cool.

My torch kiss (that's what it’s called when the two torches come together to transfer the flame) was with a Columbian Futbol star named Carlos Valderama, and he really got the crowd going. The bus dropped me off at the designated spot and went ahead, and it seemed things were moving so fast yet so slow. I couldn't wait to hold that flame, and I put the torch up as high as my arm would let me. Then before I knew it, Carlos' torch was touching mine and I was receiving the Olympic Flame. I gave him a huge high-five and my face simply lit up with perma-grin at seeing its light. I then waited for the “ok” from all eight security that were running with me and away we went down Charles St. The streets were packed, everyone was cheering, and I couldn’t stop waving or smiling. I carried the flame my assigned 370 yards down a cobblestone street so small, it was hard to image it was wide enough for a mini-cooper. Everyone wanted to see the flame or touch he torch, and just ahead of me was Windsor Castle.

To say the experience was amazing is an understatement. I love everything Olympic and have since I was a little girl. I never thought I would get a chance to run the torch. And while physically running was not an option for me, that didn’t change a thing. To hold the Olympic spirit in your hand is a truly awesome feeling, and I am still in awe of the event and the honor bestowed upon me by Coke. It was a once in a lifetime moment, or as they would say over in the UK, "It was absolutely Brilliant!"

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