Private School Directory
BELLAIRE • MEMORIAL • RIVER OAKS • TANGLEWOOD • WEST UNIVERSITY

Diving into the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics

Click the Buzz Me button to receive email notifications when this writer publishes a new article or a new article in this column is published.
Global Olympic Village

The Global Olympic Village where athletes lived during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, I worked in logistics for NBC Sports. One of my responsibilities was driving a 15-passenger van with the crew to and from the tennis venue located at Stone Mountain, about 30 minutes northeast of Atlanta. Passengers included the director, assistant director, and NBC sportscasters (and tennis legends) Bud Collins and Mary Carillo. I had never driven a van that big! Every morning I prayed that I would remember to take the right freeway. That year, Americans Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport both won the gold. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics (delayed by a year due to the pandemic) kicks off Friday, July 23, 2021. Catch the Opening Ceremony live at 6 a.m. CST or watch the rebroadcast on NBC, 6:30 p.m. CST.  

NBC Crew

Working as a production assistant for NBC Sports during the Atlanta Olympics, writer Karen Vine Fuller (in the red hat) drove the tennis television crew to the Olympic Tennis Venue at Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta. Passengers included NBC tennis sportscasters Bud Collins (front, green shirt) and Mary Carillo (middle, sunglasses, green shirt). 

More than 11,000 of the best athletes from 206 countries will participate in 33 sports: aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, basketball 3×3, boxing, canoeing, road cycling, cycling track, mountain biking, BMX freestyle, BMX racing, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, football, golf, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, handball, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, rugby, sailing, shooting, table tennis, tennis, taekwondo, trampoline, triathlon, volleyball, and weightlifting. After a 12-year hiatus, baseball and softball are back, plus four new events: karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing.

Fired up like the Olympic torch for the 2020 Tokyo games, these gold medal-worthy Buzz spectators shared some favorite Summer Olympic memories.

1996: Atlanta 

Centennial Olympic Park

Audra Dezfulian and mom, Shirley Flanders Horn, walking past construction for the Centennial Olympic Park. Shirley saw the progress over the year because she often walked by on the way to her job at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center. 

Audra Dezfulian and her mom, Shirley Flanders Horn, were living in Atlanta in 1990 the day the International Olympic Committee announced that Atlanta would be the host city for the 1996 Olympics.

Audra, 12 at the time, shared, "TVs were brought into our classrooms so we could watch the news. The teachers and students all started cheering and celebrating. Outside everyone started honking their horns! The whole town was so excited.” 

Shirley was director of catering at the Omni Hotel in the CNN Center near Centennial Park and often saw VIPs like the USA Basketball team, which included Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Atlanta Olympics memorabilia

Some of Shirley Flanders Horn's 1996 Atlanta Olympics memorabilia including items from the Opening Ceremony when she sat next to Katie Couric. 

A friend gave Shirley a ticket to the Opening Ceremony. “My seat was right next to Katie Couric. We said hello but then she was catching up with her kids on a cell phone, which was cutting edge at the time!” She remembers yellow scarves left on every seat; spectators had to wave the scarves during the ceremony. “They even made us have a practice!” 

Audra and her dad attended a free Joan Osborne concert in Centennial Olympic Park. “We arrived four hours early so we could get ‘front row’ seats right behind the USA women's gymnastics team including Kerri Strug on her crutches. It really was a lot of fun to see so many people from all over the world in our city during that special time.”

Talia Nowitz Diamond was 23 when she traveled with her parents and two brothers to visit their cousin in Atlanta who recently had a baby. Talia said it was perfect timing - they had the opportunity to meet their new family member and her uncle got them tickets to see the track and field events plus Closing Ceremony. “Our family immigrated to Houston from South Africa in the late ’70s and we love the USA, but we wore South African colors and had South African flags. It was very exciting to see all the fans represent so many different countries!"

2008: Beijing

Patrick Yip, Vicky Yip,

Patrick and Vicky Yip enjoyed watching the Men's Beach Volleyball. They were also very amused that there were cheerleaders for lots of different sports competitions.

Vicky Yip and her husband, Patrick, were living and working abroad during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. “This was before we had kids, so we had the freedom to make the most of it!” Vicky shared. “We ran around the city with our international friends, cheering at sporting events, attending Olympic parties, and just enjoying the super festive atmosphere during those crazy couple of weeks.”

The couple watched the women’s US soccer team win gold, the Dream Team US Men’s Basketball play in the semi-finals and marveled at Usain Bolt during a track event. Vicky also enjoyed beach volleyball games, indoor volleyball games, swimming events, and a (featherweight) boxing match.

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis being interviewed by some reporters in Beijing. 

“We spotted American celebrities including Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan and track star Carl Lewis,” Vicky dished. “Patrick even saw Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in the men’s room at a Budweiser Olympics party. We were so lucky to have been living in Beijing at that time to fully experience it all and have these fun and special memories.” 

2012: London

Johnson family

Kelsey, Steve, Heather, and Carly Johnson (from left) sporting their stars and stripes at track and field events during the 2012 London Olympics. 

Heather and Steve Johnson and their daughters Kelsey and Carly, now 22 and 20, respectively, were living in London and fondly remember their Olympics experience. “The venues were all amazing,” Heather said. “It was exciting to cheer for both the UK and the US. The Brits obviously outnumbered most spectators, so we mainly dressed in American kit.” The family went to Men’s Basketball, Men’s and Women’s Beach Volleyball and Athletics.

“The energy in town was indescribable. So much patriotism, but also such a feeling of unity. As a spectator you proudly cheered for your home country, but there was never a sense of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ There was nothing but admiration for those incredible athletes and what they represent. You couldn’t help but feel the pride for the winners, regardless of their home country. I think my eyes welled up at every national anthem played!” 

Carly Johnson

All decked out in her Team USA spirit wear (but also cheering for the UK because she lived there) Carly Johnson is all grins as she carefully holds the Olympic torch. 

"It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime event and oh, how grateful our family is to have witnessed it firsthand!" 

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics festivities will continue for 17 days through the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 8. See the full schedule here.  

  • Bud Collins

    Sportscaster Bud Collins looking out from the NBC broadcast booth during the playing of the National Anthem when American tennis player Lindsay Davenport won the gold medal. The athletes, officials and audience were looking at the American flag during the song.

  • Debbie Edwards, Karen Vine Fuller,

    Debbie Edwards and Karen Vine Fuller in front of the diving boards at the Olympic Aquatic Center.

  • U.S. Men's 400 medley relay team

    The U.S. Men's 400 medley relay team broke a world record to win the gold medal. After the medal ceremony, the four members of the relay team held up a banner that said, "Thanks, America for a dream come true!" The roaring audience included former President Jimmy Carter.

  • Carl Lewis

    1996 Atlanta Olympics: Track and field legend Carl Lewis poses for a photo with a fan. Lewis is one of only four Olympic athletes to win 9 gold medals. He won his last gold medal during the Atlanta games. Lewis ran track for the University of Houston and is currently in his 8th season as an Assistant Coach for UH.

  • Karen Vine Fuller's Olympic credentials

    Karen Vine Fuller's Olympic credentials and some Olympic pins (including a Swatch one) on her lanyard.

  • Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

    The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park hosted both the 2012 London Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well as track and field athletics events. Eighty thousand workers helped to build the park. 

  • Women's Beach Volleyball

    The Johnson family enjoyed attending Women's Beach Volleyball games, which were played at the Horse Guards Parade. The US Women's Beach Volleyball team went on to win the gold. The Millennium Wheel (the world's largest Ferris wheel in the world at the time) can be seen in the background. 

  • Patrick Yip

    Patrick Yip and friends cheering on the US Women's Soccer team.

  • Olympic pins

    A collection of Olympic pins from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Shirley Flanders Horn and her daughter, Audra Dezfulian, who was 12 at the time, enjoyed collecting and trading Olympic pins.

  • Shirley Flanders Horn

    Shirley Flanders Horn still has her Olympics credential and lots of fond memories 25 years later. She said, "Living in Atlanta during those six years before the Olympics was magical. The whole town was so excited.” 

  • Carl Lewis

    Carl Lewis being interviewed by some reporters in Beijing. 

  • U.S. Wheelchair Rugby

    A spirited group of Patrick and Vicky's friends loved watching and cheering on the U.S. Wheelchair Rugby team in the Paralympic games and celebrating when the U.S. team won the gold. (Vicky's behind the camera in this photo.)

  • Beijing National Stadium

    Patrick and Vicky Yip and friends Lynn Huang and Chris Luo pose in front of the Beijing National Stadium where the Opening and Closing Ceremony, as well as some sporting events, took place. The stadium was nicknamed the Bird's Nest.

  • 2008 Beijing Olympic ticket

    A 2008 Beijing Olympic ticket to Men's Volleyball between China and Bulgaria. Vicky shared, "We went to a lot of random events - whatever they could get our hands on! It was about $7 USD a ticket!"

  • Bud Collins
  • Debbie Edwards, Karen Vine Fuller,
  • U.S. Men's 400 medley relay team
  • Carl Lewis
  • Karen Vine Fuller's Olympic credentials
  • Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  • Women's Beach Volleyball
  • Patrick Yip
  • Olympic pins
  • Shirley Flanders Horn
  • Carl Lewis
  • U.S. Wheelchair Rugby
  • Beijing National Stadium
  • 2008 Beijing Olympic ticket

Bud Collins

Sportscaster Bud Collins looking out from the NBC broadcast booth during the playing of the National Anthem when American tennis player Lindsay Davenport won the gold medal. The athletes, officials and audience were looking at the American flag during the song.

Debbie Edwards, Karen Vine Fuller,

Debbie Edwards and Karen Vine Fuller in front of the diving boards at the Olympic Aquatic Center.

U.S. Men's 400 medley relay team

The U.S. Men's 400 medley relay team broke a world record to win the gold medal. After the medal ceremony, the four members of the relay team held up a banner that said, "Thanks, America for a dream come true!" The roaring audience included former President Jimmy Carter.

Carl Lewis

1996 Atlanta Olympics: Track and field legend Carl Lewis poses for a photo with a fan. Lewis is one of only four Olympic athletes to win 9 gold medals. He won his last gold medal during the Atlanta games. Lewis ran track for the University of Houston and is currently in his 8th season as an Assistant Coach for UH.

Karen Vine Fuller's Olympic credentials

Karen Vine Fuller's Olympic credentials and some Olympic pins (including a Swatch one) on her lanyard.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park hosted both the 2012 London Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well as track and field athletics events. Eighty thousand workers helped to build the park. 

Women's Beach Volleyball

The Johnson family enjoyed attending Women's Beach Volleyball games, which were played at the Horse Guards Parade. The US Women's Beach Volleyball team went on to win the gold. The Millennium Wheel (the world's largest Ferris wheel in the world at the time) can be seen in the background. 

Patrick Yip

Patrick Yip and friends cheering on the US Women's Soccer team.

Olympic pins

A collection of Olympic pins from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Shirley Flanders Horn and her daughter, Audra Dezfulian, who was 12 at the time, enjoyed collecting and trading Olympic pins.

Shirley Flanders Horn

Shirley Flanders Horn still has her Olympics credential and lots of fond memories 25 years later. She said, "Living in Atlanta during those six years before the Olympics was magical. The whole town was so excited.” 

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis being interviewed by some reporters in Beijing. 

U.S. Wheelchair Rugby

A spirited group of Patrick and Vicky's friends loved watching and cheering on the U.S. Wheelchair Rugby team in the Paralympic games and celebrating when the U.S. team won the gold. (Vicky's behind the camera in this photo.)

Beijing National Stadium

Patrick and Vicky Yip and friends Lynn Huang and Chris Luo pose in front of the Beijing National Stadium where the Opening and Closing Ceremony, as well as some sporting events, took place. The stadium was nicknamed the Bird's Nest.

2008 Beijing Olympic ticket

A 2008 Beijing Olympic ticket to Men's Volleyball between China and Bulgaria. Vicky shared, "We went to a lot of random events - whatever they could get our hands on! It was about $7 USD a ticket!"

To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Or you may post as a guest.