Jewels: It’s harder (and more expensive) to do memorable birthday gifts for Tatjana as she gets older. Now there’s someone special in her life whose birthday happens to be just a couple days before hers to think of too, so I decided to go for gold this year. Olympic gold in London, but with an American team taking the medal to represent both halves of her heritage, and to initiate Aaron into my favorite American sport. It was the next best thing to being there myself, watching it on TV while texting with Tatjana, who agreed to photograph the evening for all of us, and Aaron, her chivalrous boyfriend, has very kindly written about the experience.

Tatjana Rhodes

Tatjana with boyfriend Aaron reporting from the 2012 Olympics

Aaron: An odd but truthful way to begin this article is that I was dreading the Olympics. Living in London I knew that it was going to cause an absolute nightmare with the transport system making it almost impossible to get anywhere without the tubes being a fairly reliable simulation of what it’s like to be a sardine. Let’s not forget the terrorism aspect of it all either, the last bombings in London were the day after we won the Olympic bid. Adverts were popping up at tube stations telling commuters, “let’s face it, sometimes it’s going to be quicker to walk,” so the transport authorities were conceding defeat – not a good sign when the games hadn’t even begun yet. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to it.

Things started to turn around a few months ago when Tatjana’s father informed us that Duran Duran would be performing at the Olympic opening concert in Hyde Park. Being invited to the opening party did boost my enthusiasm somewhat. Then, on the first day we had the good fortune to be living about fifty feet from where the men’s cycling road race took place, so we were able to watch the worlds greatest cyclists blast past us to the tune of thousand’s of screaming people. What an experience! The games had truly arrived, the transport system seemed to be holding up, and the entire city was getting into the swing of things. Even though we went to none of the games, the entire atmosphere was brilliant.

Tatjana Rhodes at her Olympic birthday celebration

Then Tatjana called me up at work, breathlessly excited “I think my mum can get us Olympic tickets!” First off, yes, that is how we spell ‘mom’ in the UK. We invented the language; we can spell it how we like, thank you very much. Secondly, getting Olympic tickets for ANY of the events at this stage is borderline impossible – mainly because they all sold like hot cakes when they were initially put on sale, but by this point the gold medals were being awarded! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Somehow, through God knows how much time, effort and, possibly black magic, Julie Anne manages to nab us some tickets too see the women’s basketball gold medal final between France and the USA. I was really excited. I had even considered watching White Men Can’t Jump to refresh my knowledge of basketball so I could impress Tatjana.

Arriving at London’s 02 arena during the 2012 Olympics

So we arrive at the venue, the 02 arena, which is an amazing place where we’ve seen many concerts together, however, the Olympic event had a completely different atmosphere. Security was very tight like in an airport. We had to go through a metal detector, and any liquids we happened to have on us were taken away.

The atmosphere inside was electric

The atmosphere was electric inside. The entire crowd was roaring and cheering before the game had even begun. Our seats were up in the God’s, but in all honesty I wouldn’t have had it any other way, I love seeing the real size of the crowd at an event, it really added to the scale of things.

The US playing for gold

I’ve seen plenty of football matches live, but watching football is about as exciting as watching chess. Every thirty seconds they pretend to fall over and cry, so the referee will penalize the other team. All the players seem to care about is money, and are generally not great role models. I remember my mother once telling me she didn’t care who won, but it would be nice if it were for the team with the least amount of violent offenders.

Aaron enjoying the gold ticket

Watching this basketball game was so unbelievably different. The teamwork and cooperation between players was amazing to watch, with each player playing for the success of the team, and not their own glory or pay-cheque. They were playing to prove that they were the best to the entire world.

For the first ten minutes of the game, the scores stayed almost level, with France scoring the first basket. However, the Americans simply outclassed the French in every way – from speed and strength, to skill and breathtaking teamwork. To the French teams’ credit, they never gave in. They threw everything they had at the USA, even until the final minute, but they just could not catch them.

The US women’s basketball team being awarded their gold medals

The entire crowd remained on their feet giving both teams a standing ovation to the skill and sportsmanship on display, and it was incredible too see the athletes cry with joy as they received their medals. Although I did find it hilarious that the whole crowd was singing ‘Born in the USA’ when it came on, but very few people knew the words to the American national anthem.

Olympic women’s basketball 2012: US gold, France silver, Australia bronze

I did not know it at the time, but the women’s American basketball team are the first of any team, from any country, in any sport to win five consecutive gold medals! They also won 41 consecutive Olympic games with an average of 34 points over their opponents. They beat France 86/50 to win the gold.

The entire evening was such an experience, that I doubt in my lifetime that there will be many of. Everything was amazing, from the atmosphere, to the venue, the seats and the crowd. Watching the finest Olympic team in history was just an amazing cherry on the top. Thank you for such an incredible night Julie Anne!

Double birthday celebrations for Tatjana and Aaron

Tatjana: Thank you so much for this experience Mum, it’s up there with our African trip. It was amazing to see the US women’s basketball team get the Gold Olympic medal! Definitely a night to remember! 

Jewels: Happy Birthday to both of you, and thank you for sharing the experience with all of us who couldn’t be there. I know I found it fascinating since I’ve never been to an Olympic game before, and even more so to see such a classic American game through your eyes, Aaron. I feel a Sparks game coming on when you two visit next. Many happy, healthy, successful returns of the day – Aaron on August 21st, and Tatjana on August 23rd, and here’s to many more fond memory making birthdays ahead. I love you!

 This post was first published August 14, 2012 during the London Olympics. I felt appropriate to run again since the 2016 Olympics in Rio are in full swing, and I am off to visit Tatjana and Aaron in London for both their birthdays. Let the celebrations begin!
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  • August 14, 2012
    6:59 am

    Welcome Aaron to #TeamPCA ! Sounds like both you and Tatjana had a great time at the game. So wonderful that the USA won gold!!
    Jewels, looks like you scored on getting the tickets! Your magical powers won over the dark side once again. Hope you’re not working too hard and finding some time for yourself. Hugs to you and Daisy!

    • August 16, 2012
      9:27 am

      That “black magic” in reality was just scalpers, and I’ll be eating PBJ’s for months to pay off those nose bleed seats. Totally worth it though to see them both so excited, and creating lifetime memories together.

  • August 14, 2012
    8:43 am

    What a PERFECT gift for them, Jewels!! You’re good – I’d never in a million years be able to figure out such a fitting present.

    Aaron – what a great post, you made us feel like we were there!

    I live 10 minutes away from New York City and I still can’t imagine how chaotic London must have been while all of this was going on.

    But, like you said, you had practically front row seats to some great Olympic sightings!

    • August 16, 2012
      9:30 am

      I’m amazed by how well London seems to have handled the mass onslaught of tourists, and doubt LA would have been nearly as successful (I wasn’t here when the Olympics were here). Aaron is a really good writer, amongst all round great guy – love his dry sense of humor.

  • August 14, 2012
    7:49 am

    Thanks Ruthee – I couldn’t for the life of me think what to get them – then it popped into my head, and you know how determined I can be!

  • August 14, 2012
    11:16 am

    Amazing present and amazing descriptions! Happy birthday! And great job getting those tickets Mama J!

    • August 16, 2012
      9:31 am

      You know how determined we can be for our kids!

  • August 14, 2012
    11:40 am

    Wow, Jewels, I have absolutely zero idea how you worked that magic again but what a fitting present!

    @Aaaron: what a wonderful post and I love your style of writing, keep it up! Since in my part of the world we believe that it brings bad luck to wish someone a happy birthday before the actual day I just won’t, okay?

    @Tatjana: what a perfect birthday present and it’s plain to see that you enjoyed yourself very much! As for the birthday wishes now see my reply to Aaron ;-)

    xx R.

  • August 16, 2012
    9:32 am

    Ooh Ricarda – I never heard of that superstition before, yikes! I hope it’s wrong.

  • August 16, 2012
    10:16 pm

    Beautifully written Aaron! Love your humor…wait, humour (in deference, you DID invent the language, but give us credit across the pond, we butchered it well :)
    What a wonderful birthday gift. Go Mum!
    I’ll be wishing you both a happy one from my own birthday ‘sandwich’ on Aug 22. Jewels, you’ll laugh, Simon was attempting to reverse the birthday surprise I gave him a year ago with the upcoming venue at Foxwoods aug 24, but when I looked at venue, sadly I’m not healed enough to manage theater seats and crutches, tragically thwarting my cunning plan to arrive by little red corvette!!
    Taj, Aaron, so glad you had s brilliant time together. Your post was wonderful!

  • August 18, 2012
    10:02 am

    If I didn’t know better, I’d say my husband helped write this… between the “we invented the language” (which I’ve heard a thousand times) to the bit about the footballers falling over crying, I fear you may be related.

    Fantastic blog post and it did seem like being there for the event. What a great treat for your own special events and in it’s own way, very romantic even with the thousands of others there.

  • August 19, 2012
    10:05 am

    What a fantastic gift! Great write-up from Aaron, and great photos.

  • August 20, 2012
    5:04 am

    Really nice job you done, this is cool to spend all time with each other on his/here birthday.