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On Saturday night, I finally got to go inside the Olympic Stadium. Although I had attended previous events on my own, for this session of track & field, I was joined by my friend Anna Hughes, a Brit who I met many years ago when we were both students at Southern Connecticut State University.
The Olympic Stadium seats 80,000, and while it is a permanent stadium, part of it is temporary and will be dismantled after the games. When I entered the stadium, I couldn't help but picture everything that happened during the opening ceremony, and seeing the Olympic Cauldron was definitely cool.
We were extremely excited for the night, and we had excellent seats, only 15 rows from the track, We knew going in that both Team USA and Team GB had the potential of taking home some medals on this night. Among the crowd also hoping to see some success for Team GB were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – Will & Kate – who were joined by Prime Minister David Cameron. When it was all said and done, we'd see our respective countries win three medals each, but it was Team GB whose medals were all gold.
Being so close to such an array of talented athletes was a genuine thrill. On the women's side, I saw the USA's Carmelita Jeter take a silver medal in the 100 meters. The race started very close to where we were sitting, and the explosive power that the runners displayed was nothing short of amazing.
The most exciting moment on the women's side, though, belonged to Team GB, as we saw Jessica Ennis win the final event of the heptathlon, the 800 meters, securing the gold medal. This medal ceremony was the last event of the evening, and hearing the majority of the attendees singing "God Save the Queen" as the Union Jack was raised was very moving.
The other great moments for Team GB included Team USA. While GB's Greg Rutherford took the gold in the long jump, Team USA's Will Claye took the bronze and was clearly thrilled with his result. The last race of the night was the men's 10,000 meters, and this was definitely my favorite event. There were 29 men competing, and it was plain to see that every one of them is a great athlete. The excitement grew as the race was closely contested until the very end, and the roar of the crowd during the final lap is something I won't soon forget. The stadium erupted as GB's Mo Farah crossed the finish line first, closely followed by the USA's Galen Rupp, his training partner. After the race, they circled the stadium together to greet the crowd, both still seeming to hardly believe the result.
After that final race, while waiting for the medal ceremonies for Women's Discus and the Women's Heptathlon, the crowd remained excited, and sang along as The Beatles' "All You Need is Love" blared from the loudspeakers. When we all finally started to exit the stadium, the mood of the GB fans was infectious. Although a crowd of 80,000 – not to mention thousands of people leaving other venues – all trying to leave an area at once, mostly heading toward public transportation, might create some impatience and frustration, there was nothing but smiles on this night.
Although I wished I'd seen an American win a gold medal, I was extremely pleased to see Team USA win three medals. Without a doubt, it was a special experience to have been with a British friend, in a mostly British crowd, as Team GB experienced what they're calling "the greatest hour in the history of British athletics." This was a night of Olympic history that will be long remembered, and I still find it hard to believe that I can say, "I was there!"
Jennifer Norcross is an English and history teacher at Stonington High School. She tries to take advantage of her summers off for interesting travel and will be visiting friends and attending several events at the Games.