Olympians, fans gather at Newseum for Opening Ceremony

Olympic athletes and fans gathered at the Newseum Friday, Feb. 7 to watch the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. (Mike Murillo/WTOP)

WASHINGTON – Former Olympic athletes and fans gathered at the Newseum Friday night to watch the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.

Rower Linda Miller was a competitor in the 2000 summer games in Sydney, Australia. She recalls what it felt like representing Team USA in the opening ceremony: “It’s just this flood of emotion when you walk into that stadium and you hear the crowd, you’re in there with your whole delegation and it’s actually an unmatched experience,” Miller said.

But she says as exciting as it may be, the athletes will keep their head in the game. “They’re gonna be locked in and focused on what they’re trying to achieve, which is to win a gold medal in their sport,” Miller said.

The event was put on by Comcast/NBC Universal.

“It’s an opportunity for Comcast/NBC Universal to invite Washington in, to celebrate the opening of the Olympics, the opening ceremony, really try and get Washington in the Olympic spirit,” said David Cohen, Executive Vice President of Comcast. He says this year is also special because it is first year that online streaming from the games will also be a major part of their offerings. “It’s an amazing technological demonstration of what the future of TV is, except it is here today.”

Sam Stitt from McLean, Va. was on the U.S. rowing team in Beijing in 2008. “Just the experience of the Olympics, the adrenaline, having four years of your life just built up to one event,” he said. He agrees that excitement of the ceremony is palpable but he remembers “they’re so happy to be their representing their county, but once they turn the lights out you go back into race mode.”

Miller says they key for all athletes is to not lose sight of what you came to do, especially with the excitement that the Olympic village has to offer. “There is definitely a lot of partying and you have to kind of keep your focus when you’re still competing,” Miller said.

As the ceremony got underway, members of the crowd held up their American flags, a lot of attendees donned red, white and blue.

Jill Dowell of D.C. was one of those wearing U.S. colors. She was hoping to travel to Sochi and volunteer but that didn’t happen so, she says, “I’m with every athlete and every sponsor in spirit.”

There were discussions among people there about security fears in Russia and the fact that some athletes are asking their families to stay home. That is a decision Miller says she can understand.

“The last thing you want as an elite athlete when you are trying to focus on the most important moment of you life is to be worrying about something like that, worrying about your family,” Miller says.

Stitt also says that is something he would have considered if he went to Sochi “I’m gonna be in a zone where I am not going to worry about you. I don’t want to worry about you,” he says.

NBC Universal sent 3,000 employees to Russia to cover the games and Cohen feels “the Russians have been great hosts, there’s a lot of security, many people feel safe as a result of it.”

All hope that the only “events” at the games are sporting events and most hope watch as U.S. athletes bring home a majority of the gold medals.

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