PyeongChang 2018: Winter Olympics
We purposely went small here. Too many border tensions between North and South Korea. So a core group of us (23 people) embarked on our northern Asia journey. Dumplings, fried chicken, Soju (Korean liquor), and lots of beer paved the way. This was a really unique Olympics for us as the small city of Gangneung and mountain villages of Pyeongchang had us running into Olympians at the tail end of their time there. Seemed like everywhere we turned there was a U.S. medalist happy to say hello and show off their well deserved medals! Hockey, speed skating, skiing, and international houses helped round out this very memorable time on the other side of the world.
Rio 2016: Summer Olympics
We were fortunate enough to visit Rio in 2014 for the World Cup, so we renewed our relationship with our favorite hostel in Ipanema for this go around. We hovered around the same numbers for London (approximately 80). Just a few blocks from the beaches of Ipanema and Copa Cabana, it was a blast. Groups came and went to events and sites every day, knowing that our pink palace was a great place to congregate in the mornings and evenings. Late nights and event-filled days made eight nights fly by. So great to see the theme of the “Olympic Journey” starting to snowball, seeing others stake their claim to never missing an Olympics again!
Sochi 2014: Winter Olympics
Talk about taking this big crew out of their comfort zone! Sochi, Russia was a trek. Such an interesting place with palm trees and a Mediterranean influence. Some dropped out for fear of terrorism, but all the others held their ground, as we always do, because the Olympics are one of the safer places to enjoy yourself these days. We’d never seen an Olympic village like this one. The billions of dollars showed! Tons of hockey of course, and lots of time up at the Austria Haus, the gateway to all of the mountain events. Great food, beautiful city, and a few of us even entered the “Black Sea Polar Bear Swim Club”!
London 2012: Summer Olympics
This was the first LARGE group we took to a Summer Olympics. The year before had us in North America with 74 of us. London had us with our largest group ever at 85! The week kicked off with a booze cruise along the Thames River and the fun continued from there. Whether it was beach volleyball outside of the Buckingham Palace, or roaming the streets of Camden Town, it was awesome.
Vancouver 2010: Winter Olympics
In 2010 we cracked the Olympic code. With the Olympics being hosted in North America and an English speaking country, it was easy to get a head start on lodging (two and a half years to be exact). We worked with bulk housing and paid for accommodations in full more than two years out. But this time we didn’t bring 10 people. We brought 81! Because there’s strength in numbers and people will deal with you when you’re attempting to rent out their entire building. Unless you are a sponsor, the French ski team, or are more connected than Shawn Johnson, people just don’t want to deal with you.
We’ll always attempt to synch people up when it comes to finding the right tickets to our core groups choice but we also understand that people come to see different things. Between the group, we saw almost every single event being showcased while we were there. Some saw the US men’s hockey team beat Canada 5-3. Others experienced bobsledding and Lindsay Vonn in the giant slalom. The lucky ones got women’s ice skating short program and the brave endured a few hours of curling. Twelve of us saw Apollo Ohno literally leap over two of his flailing competitors and one hockey finatic caught eight games throughout the week.
No matter what path any of these 81 participants took, they’ll all attest this was a tough week to beat.
Beijing 2008: Summer Olympics
In 2008 we got smarter. 10 of us rented an apartment in Beijing. Granted, it was nowhere near the Olympic venues but at least we had beds, space, and a place that wasn’t too far from everything going on in the city.
This was unlike the other Olympic adventures in so many different ways. This wasn’t North America and this wasn’t Europe. This was a China and it was half way around the world. This was a communist country that had come to embrace the Olympics and the rest of the world. History was in the making.
Soccer games, boxing, track and field, weightlifting, beach volleyball, and archery were all on the list. We also stumbled on some women’s gold medal gymnastic tickets while in Beijing. Anything is possible when sponsors are holding onto hundreds of complimentary seats per venue.
If there’s one thing we’d realized more than ever, it’s that there’s no way you’ll see half as many sports as you might think in one week. London will be our third summer games and we’ve yet to see diving, swimming, basketball, fencing, ping pong, badminton, wrestling, wrestling, judo, whitewater kayaking, and on and on.
Torino 2006: Winter Olympics
In 2006 we got even more event tickets and eight of us made our way to Torino, Italy. When we looked up options for lodging a year in advance, there were a few rooms left at the Best Western in Torino. They were $600 US dollars per night for two single beds. Not the double beds you could squeeze two into – SINGLE BEDS! We opted to rent two RV’s and slum it in the RV campground outside of Torino.
Everything else fell into place after the RV’s were parked in the campground. Although a few of us had experienced SLC in 2002, we never got to a winter Olympic event. Not this time. We made up for that with multiple hockey games (USA vs. Sweden, USA vs. Russia, and Czech Republic vs. Canada), men’s aerial finals, and even curling.
This was also the first year we brought eight guys. It was clear that the more people we could get on board the merrier.
Athens 2004: Summer Olympics
In 2004 we got serious. Four of us traveled to Athens with plenty of event tickets. But the same problem from 2002 haunted us. In 2002 we were one of ten crashing on someone’s condominium floor. Now we found our own two rooms in a hostel. The only problem was that even a year in advance, the only lodging available was a 90 minute boat ride from the port in Athens. Three hours a day was devoted to getting back into the city.
The daily logistics of this adventure were tiresome but they were worth every minute. We saw the US indoor men’s volleyball team beat the home country Greece in the quarterfinals, our US women’s soccer team take the gold against Brazil in double overtime, and 2 full days of track and field. We also had quite the cultural experience at Tae Kwon Do. The spectators were ten times more colorful and fun to watch than the athletes themselves.
To top off the Olympic week, we decided to do some island hopping through Greece. After stops in Mykonos, Ios, Santorini, and Crete, it was time to head home.