July 30, 2012
BERKELEY - Mikayla Lyles, a junior guard for Cal's women's basketball team, is traveling through Europe this summer as part of a UC-led academic tour. She spent time in Germany and central Europe before winding up in London for the Olympic Games and has already attended a pair of soccer matches. In a special CalBears.com feature, she answers a few questions about her experience.
CalBears.com: What are you doing in Europe this summer?
Mikayla Lyles: I came to Europe this summer on an abroad trip that was affiliated with the UC system. To be more specific, it was a UC faculty-led program that took a group of nine students to different parts of Europe studying a specific subject. Originally, I had planned to spend my entire summer in London. However, that portion of the program ended up being cut. As a second choice, I chose to travel around Germany while also visiting Prague and Vienna, studying Jews in German-speaking countries. Though it was not a subject-matter I ever really imagined learning about, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed every minute of the program. We started in Frankfurt, then to Cologne, Worms, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and back to Berlin - all in a matter of four weeks. We went to multiple museums and memorial sites, learning about Jewish history from the medieval period and working towards the Nazi regime.
CalBears.com: Tell us about your experience living in London leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games:
ML: I first got to London about five days before the Games, and though I was not there long, I can say that the atmosphere leading up to the Games was pretty incredible. Everywhere you turned there was an Olympic-affiliated flag, sign, picture, etc. The subway systems were lined with the London Olympic symbol, and the biggest attractions in the city carried the rings that towered the city. When I initially got off of the train at St. Pancras, I was pleasantly surprised to see the rings hanging in the train station.
With the city buzzing with pre-Olympic hype, I went to see Hyde Park and the Olympic Park before the games got underway. The amount of people surrounding the attractions made the Olympics look as if it was already a part of the city. The people of London were extremely proud and excited for the Games to get underway, and it was evident that they were ready to put on a show for the rest of the world. I think one of the greatest experiences of "Olympic Fever," as I like to call it, was waiting in line for my Olympic tickets. There were people in front of me that were from New Zealand receiving tickets, people behind me from London, other people from the States - the array of the world was literally sitting in line. It was a perfect example of what the Olympics bring together and a sneak preview of what London was going to be able to captivate in the Olympics - unity.
CalBears.com: What was it like to go to your first Olympic event?
ML: I wrote a little bit about this in my blog, but attending my first Olympic event [soccer] was surreal. Since there is nothing else like the Olympics in the world, the experience was incomparable. From the moment I picked up my tickets to the moment I got to the stadium, it wasn't just like going to any other sporting event. You were entering into a one-of-a-kind experience. Where can you find people from all over the world in one place peacefully (for the most part, other than maybe a bad call) cheering for their teams, but also cheering for the success of sports and what is has come to symbolize? The Olympics has the ability to highlight sports as one of the greatest forms of unity in the world. More specifically, I was just grinning from start to finish at the soccer event because of being able to witness something that only takes place every four years.
The Olympics are something that every kid dreams about when they start playing sports, and whether you are actually playing in one or just a spectator, there is no doubt that you will be introduced to irreplaceable memories. The games themselves - Japan vs. Canada and South Africa vs. Sweden - were exciting. Though there was a clear winner in both, I was watching the defending World Cup Champions in Japan. It was also great to see that South Africa, along with Cameroon, became the second and third African countries to have a soccer team qualify for the Olympics. Not only was I a part of history in being in the city up to Olympic time, I was also witnessing Olympic history, and that is something as young adult that you can't really find any words to merit its worth. My basketball team always talks about being a part of a bigger picture, and attending this event and being a part of the Olympic experience is truly being a part of a bigger picture.