I had the chills, the kind that run up and down your spine, and my heart was beating so hard in my chest it was hard to breathe as we walked into opening ceremonies at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. A screaming crowd of 50,000 people shook me. On the way to the stadium Puerto Rico put on quite the show with drumming, dancing and singing all the way to the stadium. It was exhilarating to be surrounded by people with such a joy for the moment they were in. All the way to the stadium, people cheering for the 6,000 athletes from 42 delegations surrounded the walkways.
Once we entered the stadium, we were greeted by a roar from the crowd that was so loud that the ground we were standing on would vibrate. It was the most tremendous feeling. We sat in the bottom of the stadium as the presentation commenced. There were shows put on by Latin American pop artists and the most amazing dancing that was a combination of dancing on the ground and dancing of people suspended in the air.
Beneath every seat in the stadium, there was a flashlight with a color specific to the seating area. In my favorite performance, a futuristic dance crew took the stage with six or so people suspended in the air with giant tubes that hung down from them to the ground of the stadium. When the tubes lit up to your corresponding color, you were to shine your flashlight. The lights accompanied by techno music and the finale of fireworks that covered the whole sky above the stadium blew my mind. The crowd and athletes worked in unison to create the most amazing and fun show I had ever seen.
At the close of the ceremony, a series of videos played showing the torch for the Pan Am Games run throughout Mexico. The video showed at times one or two people running, but more often than not there was one person running with the torch surrounded by 20 to 200 people along side of them. At the commencement of the entire evening, the torch was run into the stadium. Believe it or not, the second person to have the torch was an elderly man who was…an EQUESTRIAN!
Finally, the torch was run up to the stage where the fire was lit. I thought that was awesome, but then more flames shot up from the floor to the ceiling to torches surrounding the entire upper deck of the stadium. The flames were so hot they heated the entire stadium; we could even feel the heat from the flames on the ground. These flames, in turn, went out until the Pan American Games torch was lit on top of the entire stadium. The chills that ran through my spine pulsed with excitement and exhilaration.
The evening’s theme highlighted the importance of the Pan American Games, which I was reminded of as we exited the stadium. We walked in as individual teams, but left the stadium all mixed together. The Pan American Games were created to bring unity to the Americas, to find common ground with others and help create a more peaceful place on Earth. Even though we walked in as individual countries, we all received the same warm welcome of cheering. And as we left, we left as a unit of athletes here with the same purposes: to compete, to make history, and to unite with others we may otherwise never know.
I still cannot believe I am getting the chance to do this, but today really showed me even more of what these Games are truly about. I feel honored to be here and to have gotten to experience that performance. It gave me a new perspective on the competition in front of me.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
Ginger and Lauren
P.S. Ginger is doing well. We jumped today, and she was perfect. Tomorrow we will dressage school, and on Sunday we will gallop.