Favorites Friday: Moments From the London 2012 Opening Ceremony

Can you believe it's been a whole year since the opening ceremony of London 2012? I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I remember watching that ceremony like it was yesterday -- I was curled up on the couch, trying not to cry, and flailing at my parents because "THIS IS THE BEST PART!" every five minutes.

In honor of the first anniversary, I decided to do my first re-watch of the ceremony... and I was NOT expecting to get as emotional as I did. Though, in my defense, I cried at the same things I did last year. And it probably didn't help that I just got a "one year on" thank-you email from my old London 2012 Ceremonies volunteer coordinator in the middle of the athlete procession. (So. Many. Feelings.)

So what would be a more appropriate commemorative post than my favorite moments from the London 2012 Opening Ceremony?

Answer: nothing.

Well, that was equal parts fun and depressing.

If you too want to relive London, you can watch the full ceremony here and, for "live" tweets from the games, follow @London2012Plus1 on Twitter!

Why the U.S. Shouldn't Boycott Sochi 2014

Let me preface what I'm about to say with this: I absolutely hate political involvement in the Olympics and don't advocate for any of it. At all. Ever. In any form.

That being said...

What with Russia's anti-gay legislation coming to light, there have been numerous people saying that the U.S. should boycott Sochi 2014 in protest. These range from important LGBT figures to senators to random people on Tumblr. But I have to wonder if these people have done any sort of research at all about what they're trumpeting.

Thankfully (and proving my point), the USOC released a statement about such a boycott.
"If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work. Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict. It did, however, deprive hundreds of American athletes, all whom had completely dedicated themselves to representing our nation at the Olympic Games, of the opportunity of a lifetime. It also deprived millions of Americans of the opportunity to take pride in the achievements of our athletes, and in their dedication and commitment, at a time when we needed it most. While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country’s best interests."

Have you ever done a Google image search for Moscow 1980? Well, I have, and here's what the first page looks like:

No indication that anything was amiss. The Cold War continued for years afterwards. The only thing this boycott accomplished was, like the USOC's statement says, depriving athletes of a goal they'd been working towards their entire lives.

As someone who knows what it feels like to have your goals foiled by government, I couldn't wish this on anyone. I didn't even put in years of training and sacrifice, yet not being able to do the only job I've ever wanted to do only because the British government wouldn't grant me a visa left me a complete emotional mess. I can't even imagine what those athletes must've felt like.

Just as a little side note, Steven Spielberg decided not to direct Beijing 2008's Opening Ceremony in protest over China's human rights issues.

His replacement put on what's widely considered the greatest opening ceremony ever. Awkward.
I think the public forgot about him somewhere within the first 20 seconds of the ceremony. I mean, I'm just saying.

And, if the U.S. had boycotted Berlin 1936, we wouldn't have had Jesse Owens, who is FAR more well-known than any boycott ever could've been.

Boycotts. Don't. Work.

On the flip side, I agree with everyone who says Russia's policies are horrible and backwards and unfathomably awful. I just read an article on Variety that talks about how NBC may or may not handle the situation, and whether or not coverage should draw attention to it. Which brings me to my next point...

Have you ever done a Google image search for Mexico City 1968? Because I have.

Note those handy red arrows I added?

This is what's called a successful protest, folks.

The Olympics is literally the world's biggest stage. Four billion -- billion -- people watch the Opening Ceremony. The black power salute is arguable one of the most iconic photos of all time, and is definitely one of the most iconic sports moments of all time.

I read the autobiography written by John Carlos (the bronze medalist on that infamous podium up there), and he wrote that black athletes were considering boycotting Mexico City 1968 to protest their inferior treatment. Clearly they didn't, and clearly they made the winning decision in terms of bringing attention to their cause.

But that boycott? Uh...

Again, I hate when politics bleed into the Olympics. Please don't think I'm saying that there should be a gay rights protest at Sochi 2014. The guys on that black power podium basically ruined the next few decades of their lives by doing that, and politicized an event that's inherently supposed to be non-political. But honestly, I'd prefer that to a boycott. If individuals want to take a stand, that's their own choice. But governments absolutely should not punish their athletes for something they have no control over.

Basically, boycotts suck. Just say no.

California Dreamin'

Hello from Hermosa Beach!

This is my fourth volleyball post in a row. Aren't you excited?!

Well, whether you are or not, I'm out here in California to cover the 2013 USA Volleyball Beach High Performance Championships (or Beach HPC -- not as good an abbreviation as the BJNC had, but I'll take it). For some reason, I thought this trip would be much more relaxed and easier to handle than my trip to Reno. But two days ago I passed out on the couch in my hotel room at around 9 pm and, upon waking up, stumbled into bed at 11. And I still had trouble waking up at 8 am yesterday. In other words, it's the exact same situation.

Well, ALMOST the exact same situation.
I'm also finishing work so late that, by the time I'm finished, I'm so lazy and tired and hungry that I'm going to McDonald's for dinner because it's a) still open, and b) right down the road. Just in case anyone thinks my internship is glamorous (I'm looking at you, Mylan!).

But, just like in Reno, I'm having an awesome time. My official title for this event is "Media Coordinator" -- this is the first time I'm anything other than "intern" and, let me tell ya, it feels good! A coach also called me an SID yesterday, which was pretty awesome.

I'm also really glad I'm getting to meet everyone at the beach office. USA Volleyball technically handles both beach and indoor, but beach has its own office out here and is sort of its own entity. So now I have a USA Beach Volleyball t-shirt and wristband, have met some of the beach players that I've been writing press releases about and have expanded my writing repertoire a little bit.

I also much prefer this:

over a convention center, even if I spend most of my time under the shade of the USAV tent.

What's been neat for me is that, because this is high performance, a good chunk of the kids competing are on either the national team or in the high performance camps. This means that people in the beach office know most of them and can point me in the direction of good stories. BJNC was so hit or miss, but here I'm more or less guaranteed something interesting, like the team that met on Instagram and the girls that won gold literally days after competing in Russia. I will, however, credit myself with finding out about the match that had a set go to 41-39. Is that not insane?! I also got to interview another delightful Canadian team. :)

Between the tall boys and my too-big USAV clothes, I look like I shrunk in the wash.
I should probably go to bed now, since there's still another day of competition that I need to power through. See you on the other side!

Blog Redesign and BJNC

As you can probably tell, I just gave my blog a much needed makeover. And, not going to lie, I'm madly in love with it.

I've been thinking about renaming my blog for awhile, simply because I've learned about branding since first logging into Blogger back in 2010. It doesn't make sense to have a URL that says one thing and a header that says another. And besides, I think Freedom of Excess pretty much fits my personality to a T!

Since joining the Her Campus Blogger Network, I've been seeing such beautiful blogs and feeling increasingly uneasy about my own. It looked clunky and amateurish because, let's be real, it was. I'm still using a template provided by Blogger, but I'm so much happier with how clean this one looks. And why get someone else to design a logo for me when I can sort of use Photoshop? I was randomly struck by inspiration, oh, an hour ago... and here we are! I might actually break my arm patting myself on the back for this one, because I'm legitimately obsessed with the Mexico City 1968 logo.

Alright, enough tooting my own horn. I need to update about my time at the 2013 USA Volleyball Boys' Junior National Championships (BJNC for short, 'cause I don't have all day!) before I jet off to Hermosa Beach, Calif. to do the exact same thing at the 2013 USA Volleyball Beach Volleyball High Performance Championships. Seriously. (Hope that one has an abbreviation too.)

I credit this photo to luck and Leslee's awesome fancy camera.
But anyway, my first-ever business trip were some of the more exhausting ten days of my life. I was getting to the convention center by 8 a.m. for first serve every morning, and usually not leaving until about 8 p.m. I also happen to be an introvert, so being around thousands of people for twelve hours a day for ten days sapped my energy and left me basically catatonic every night.

The exhaustion aside, the trip was awesome. I was the sole member of the communications staff at the event so I had a lot of responsibility, which was an amazing learning experience to get as a lowly intern! I wrote match recaps for each championship match, plus one feature a day (my favorites are herehere and here -- this last team ended up winning its division! I was so happy!). I was also taking all my own photos.

Really fun. But I'm not quitting my day job -- getting a good photo of a volleyball match is NOT easy!

So, while Reno isn't a city I care to ever visit again, I'll give my trip an A (would've been an A+ if I hadn't finally gotten hit in the side of the head by a volleyball :P).

FIVB World League: I Can Dig It

(Because it's about time I used my favorite volleyball pun. #sorrynotsorry)

Hello from Reno!

USA Volleyball's 2013 Boys' Junior National Championships (it's a mouthful, ain't it?) is well underway, and it's dragging me along with it. But that's a whole slew of stories for another post!

For two nights during my stay, I went downtown to a different events center, where FIVB World League matches were being hosted. The Men's National Team played two matches against Bulgaria, which meant my boss BJ was in town, and she thought it'd be cool for me to see. So she got me a media credential and I watched (er, "worked") both matches from courtside. (In case you couldn't tell, BJ is a really awesome boss.) Basically, I tossed back stray balls and ran stats in between sets and looked around in awe the whole time.

It's honestly a miracle that I didn't take a single volleyball to the face. This was also my first time seeing a national team in any sport, so that was awesome. And a bunch of guys on the team are Olympians, so two thumbs up!

The audience was actually pretty full and incredibly loud (and full of Bulgarians).

I mean, are we in Bulgaria, or...?
And it was such a cool experience to see these guys play. I got to toss a ball to Max Holt and sit in on Matt Anderson's press conference, and I'm entirely in awe of David Lee. His attacks are the awe equivalent of a LeBron James dunk. Literally eye-popping. There's a reason he's a gold medalist and two-time Olympian.

Matt Anderson getting ready to serve!
...And serving.
The U.S. won the first night and lost the second night, which was kind of unfortunate, but every set was really close and well fought out. The Bulgarians are really intimidating. For anyone who understands Miracle references, instead of "Johnson against Mikhailov, Broten against Petrov, Pav against... whoever-ov," we had Anderson against Sokolov, Smith against Salparov, Caldwell against Yosifov... Literally every member of their team had a last name ending in -ov or -ev. So much to the point I actually kept a list.

But the question is, do any of them look like Stan Laurel?
But I think what made me happiest was that a ton of people crowded around the court after the matches ended, and that the U.S. players stayed incredibly late to sign autographs and take pictures with people. They were probably out there for a good 45 minutes after the match, and then I left so it might've been even longer. It's stuff like this and makes me love the under-appreciated sports. The athletes aren't in it for money, they don't have crazy fame and egos, and they truly appreciate the people that came to see them play.

I would say that everyone should go see a match if you get the chance, but they seem to only play in places like Wichita or Tulsa or overseas, so uh... maybe not. But if the opportunity arises, it really is a good time -- probably even if you have to watch from the stands. ;)