The Games of the 30th Olympiad are in the books.
London is the seventh Olympics I've covered. I've come to regard the Olympics as a global family home evening. It's got an opening, a closing, competitions, treats and occasionally, a few disputes which have to be appealed to judges (my wife or I).
The Deseret News kept a log of the LDS athletes in the London Olympics, which I followed throughout the Games. Tumua Anae is backup goalie with the U.S. water polo team earned a gold medal. Her uncles were teammates of mine at BYU.
I didn't get to see any of the LDS athletes in competition.
But I did see many of the LDS journalists, executives and officials who help run and cover the Olympics. The list is quite impressive. Todd Harris is a 1990 BYU grad who is NBC's play-by-play man for cycling. Also, I've become good friends with 1984 gold medalist, Peter Vidmar, who is working as an analyst for NBC radio in addition to being the head of USA Gymnastics. We first met four years ago in the Beijing ex-Pat branch and met up again a few weeks ago in the Hyde Park Ward. There is Brent Bishop, a friend and BYU alum who has worked several Olympics in the ticket office.
While shooting a story near the Tower of London, I ran into another BYU alum, Steve Carlston, General Manager of KNBC-TV in Los Angles, who was with his wife Loni. Steve's station and mine in Philly, are among 10 local stations owned by Comcast, NBC's parent company, in mostly major markets - LA, Philly, NYC, Chicago, Miami, etc. Steve was hired last October after running KUTV-TV in Salt Lake for a couple of years.
If you watched any of the Olympic coverage, it's likely the venue you were watching is run by Scott Williams, who is responsible for 26 of the 30 venues, including Horse Guard Parade, sight of Beach Volleyball, Excel Arena, boxing, gymnastics, weightlifting and of the iconic Wembley Stadium, soccer. Scott operated LaVell Edwards Stadium and the Marriott Center when both were brand new and into the late 80's when he was hired away by Larry Miller to run the brand new Delta Center. The Williams' still live in Provo/Orem but have been globetrotting the last few years running Olympic venues in Vancouver and London.
Typically, I meet these LDS Olympic ex-pats at church on Sundays, in this case, the Hyde Park Ward. Sometimes, I stumble into one in the hallways of the International Broadcast Center, always a ginormous building that houses every country's broadcast facilities and studios. Such was the case, when I ran into a young man named Drew - didn't get his last name. He's from American Fork, returned missionary, just graduated from Southern Utah and recently married. He was hired by the Olympic Broadcasting Service as a photographer.
Undoubtedly what will make London special for me was the presence of my youngest son, Trey. He returned home from the England London Mission last summer and resumed his studies at BYU.
When he learned dad was going to London, he immediately seized on the opportunity to accompany me. He came a week before my arrival and visited friends and parts of the UK he could not see as a missionary. Then we were roommates for two glorious weeks.
Each night after I finished my work, we visited people he taught and helped convert. We spoke together at a zone conference with some of his former companions in attendance and in a stake fireside. It was gratifying to see and meet people whose lives he helped and who clearly made an impact on his life. We attended events and saw sights of this amazing city with so much history that's intertwined with ours. London is sacred ground for Trey.
Beside my time with Trey, my other choice experience happened with Andy Rosenberg, NBC's top director. Andy is the network's point man in the control room with it's most prized sporting events — Wimbledon, NBA finals, and the marquee events of the Olympics: swimming, gymnastics, track and field.
Andy is Jewish and a convert to the church. He met his wife, Shari, when she interned for NBC at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He returned to New York and investigated the Church and the rest is history. When I first met Andy, he was serving in a bishopric in his Connecticut ward.
In Athens, I'd meet Andy every Sunday morning for services before we both hurried to our events. On our final Sunday, the little branch in downtown Athens was filled with athletes as most of their events were finished. They came in track suits with their countries stamped across the back. Volleyball players from Brazil, track athletes from the U.S., Venezuela, South America, etc.
When the opening hymn was announced as "We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet," Andy and I opened the hymnal only to find we couldn't make heads or tails of the Greek alphabet. We simply closed the hymn and sung in English. Soon, it occurred to us, that the athletes and others in the international congregation, were also doing the same thing - singing a familiar LDS hymn in their native tongues. At the song's conclusion, the prayer was offered by an Iranian convert in Farsi.8 comments on this story
Here we were in Athens, Greece with my Jewish friend singing in English as others around us sang in their native languages followed by a benediction offered by a Arab in Farsi.
I think the Olympics have God's fingerprints all over them. At its core, it promotes world peace and is there another event of its kind that brings nations together in the way and manner the Games uniquely does?
Few things are as breathtaking as the super-human feats we've seen in the last two weeks - Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Mo Farah.
Truly inspiring. Like a good FHE.