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Kimmie Meissner remembers her Olympics opening ceremony experience

February 12, 2010 |  3:13 pm

With the opening ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympics starting Friday night, I find myself reflecting on the opening ceremonies of my own Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Meissner Even after I had qualified, it was still "the Olympics." They were just a dream, a word thrown around every four years, and there were only a select few who actually ever got to experience it.

Upon arriving in Italy, I was still in the mind-set of them being far off and untouchable, that is until the night of the opening ceremonies. Walking into that Italian arena, an overwhelming feeling of pride filled my heart. The air in the arena was full of energy, and spirits were high. It was completely full of spectators, officials, entertainers and athletes from all countries, and little me, representing the U.S. It just took my breath away and solidified the fact that it was actually happening.

I remember hearing the buzzing crowd outside of the stadium and being dressed in full red, white, and blue Olympic gear. Security and the organizers were telling us to just walk, but all I wanted to do was sprint through the tunnel and locate with my eyes the source of the noise. The feeling was electric, the excitement contagious. Every single one of the U.S. competitors just wanted to charge the passion-filled arena. We could barely control ourselves. It seemed like we were moving in slow motion and sounds became muffled as we marched through the tunnel, that is until we started seeing what was waiting for us. At that moment we broke free and started sprinting, then running, erupting from the tunnel to stare in wonder at the scene before us. Thousands of people all screaming, athletes walking with their heads held high. It was magical, breathtaking, something that was right out of a fairy tale. 

When the initial shock wore off and we were marching, I was overcome with a sense of pride and honor. Pride for myself, pride for the team, but most of all, I felt pride for my country. It’s hard exactly to explain that deep-rooted feeling, but it was overwhelming and drew tears to my eyes. 

We paraded around the entire arena; dressed uniquely, each country announced carried their flag before settling into a spectacular array of colorful entertainment. The lavish ceremony culminated in the lighting of the Olympic torch. In that singular moment, it felt that hope had been lit in my heart as I thought about what the next few weeks had in store.

As our athletes enter the stadium tonight, I know we will all feel that pride and excitement for them. It’s been four years since I’ve experienced them first hand and I’m still in awe about it. One of the biggest reasons was because of the sense of unity that filled that stadium. The world comes together in peace for three unforgettable weeks. Call it the Olympic spirit, but it was almost tangible. In a time where the world is uneasy and tensions are high, the Games bring us all together. For a few amazing weeks, we are all here for the same reason, united with the same goals. 

Good luck, Team USA!

-- Kimmie Meissner

The Times is pleased to have Kimmie Meissner blogging for us during the Olympics. She was a member of the 2006 Olympic team and was the youngest American athlete to compete at those Games. She finished sixth at the Olympics in February 2006 and won the World Championships the following month. 

Photo: Kimmie Meissner. Credit: Scott Wintrow / Getty Images