Jessica Chandler, assistant director of athletics-compliance at UMSL, experienced the London Olympics firsthand this summer. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Chandler)

When it comes to answering the question “What did you do on your summer vacation?”, Jessie Chandler might have the best answer. While millions across the world watched the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London from the comfort of their couches, Chandler, the assistant director of athletics-compliance at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was experiencing the spectacle firsthand.

Chandler’s journey to the Olympics began nearly seven years ago when it was announced that London had been awarded the 2012 games.

“One of my best friends is originally from outside of London and I have always dreamed of going to the Olympics, but never thought it would be feasible,” Chandler said. “However, when London was named the site of the 2012 Olympics, I knew it was the opportune time, especially since we had a place to stay, which would take out a huge expense of the trip.”

After determining that she would in fact head across the pond for the 2012 Olympics, the task of getting tickets to events was next.

“Getting tickets is a lottery and quite the process,” Chandler said. “When you sign up, you select the sports you want, but of course, you don’t always get those. You can select as many as you want, you just have to be prepared that you are immediately charged for whatever sports you are chosen for.”

Chandler requested tickets for eight different events, including gymnastics, soccer and beach volleyball. However, the only tickets she received at first were for diving. Initially a bit disappointed, she said there ended up being another opportunity to bid on tickets, and the second time around turned out to work in her favor.

“There’s a month after the initial bidding process where people can turn their tickets back in and then you have the opportunity to bid again,” she said. “This time we were able to get beach volleyball and men’s indoor volleyball. We also had my friend’s family in Great Britain submit a request for tickets, and they were able to get us men’s soccer (tickets), so we felt pretty fortunate.”

Chandler departed for London on July 20 and spent the next 16 days enjoying the atmosphere of the host city and the Olympic games themselves.

“It was unbelievable to be there and to see everything,” she said. “People from all over the world were decked out from head to toe in their country’s gear. Some people really got into it and were just so excited to be a part of it that it was hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere.”

Chandler was fortunate to see USA play in three of events she went to, including beach volleyball, men’s indoor volleyball and diving. But even at men’s soccer, where USA was not competing, it wasn’t hard to get involved in the action.

“At any sporting event you go to, people are excited to be there, but it felt a little bit different at the Olympics because in most cases, you are watching two teams you might not have any interest in,” she said. “For instance, when we went to men’s soccer, the first game we saw was Senegal versus Uruguay. There were people sitting down the row from us from Senegal, so that’s who we cheered for. It wasn’t that we really cared who won, but it was fun to just join the crowd around us in cheering them on.”

Of the events she went to, Chandler said beach volleyball was her favorite to watch.

“The game is fast paced and it makes for a great atmosphere. We also had great tickets and got to see four different matches, including two women’s and two men’s,” she said.

Among those matches were USA’s Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal on the men’s side and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings – three-time gold medalists on the women’s side.

She was also fortunate to see one medal event, which came in diving with the men’s synchronized three-meter springboard. China won that competition, with the American duo of Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen taking the bronze medal.

“It was really neat to see an actual medal ceremony and to see the athletes awarded their medals to hear the national anthem being played while the flags are being raised,” she said.

In experiencing an event like the Olympics firsthand, it is hard for Chandler to pinpoint her favorite thing about being in London for the 2012 games.

“As someone who loves athletics and loves going to sporting events, it was just a great experience to be in a place that was so sports-oriented. The atmosphere created by all the fans that were there and that were so proud of their country is almost indescribable,” she said. “Even just seeing the city of London and how they decorated it and welcomed all the visitors was fascinating. One of the neatest images I have – and the one I was looking forward to seeing the most – was the Olympic rings hanging from Tower Bridge.”

Overall, it’s an experience Chandler will never forget and something she can cross off her bucket list.

“That second week of the Olympics, after I was back home and watching it on TV, especially beach volleyball and diving, it hit me even more that I really got to experience the Olympics in person,” she said. “It’s just so neat to look back on this and think that I was actually there and that this is something I’ve wanted to do since I was little.”

Mary Ann Mitchell

Mary Ann Mitchell

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