summer-of-nostalgia

From Ali to Nadia to the Dream Team, everyone has a favorite summer Olympic memory

July 27, 2012 at 9:32 AM ET

Omar Torres / AFP - Getty Images file /
Muhammed Ali lights the Olympic cauldron in 1996.

As the London Olympics begin, making new golden memories every day, it's time to look back on the Games of past years. We asked our staff and our Facebook readers to share their favorite memories of the Games.

Muhammad Ali lights the Olympic cauldron

My favorite summer Olympic memory doesn't involve anyone competing or winning a medal. It came in Atlanta in 1996, when boxer Muhammad Ali, down but not out thanks to Parkinson's disease, lit the Olympic cauldron. Ali's participation was kept secret right up until the opening ceremonies-- could such a secret even be kept today, in our Internet savvy-Twitter hungry world? An actor stood in for Ali in rehearsal, leaving even those who knew of his involvement to wonder if he'd physically be able to put his torch to the contraption that would shoot the flame up to the cauldron. His hands shook, but with all the determination that made him the boxing legend he is, he made the connection, and the flame raced upwards and showed the world that the Games had begun. But more than that, it showed there were some things that were bigger than a gold medal, and that Ali was still the Greatest.    --Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Finally catching The Dream Team

Watching the Dream Team eviscerate the men’s basketball competition at the Barcelona Olympics was required viewing for this 15-year-old in the summer of 1992. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and the rest of the NBA’s elite players on one team? That was must-see TV. Or not. My parents insisted on taking three boys on a five-week, 3,500-mile road trip from Wyoming, to the Pacific Northwest, up to Canada and back home, replete with family bonding, random hotels and campsites, and untold hours on the road, staring at various landscapes (or whatever Stephen King book I’d brought). Sure, we saw the ocean, Pike Place Market, rode a ferry and walked on a glacier. But I was missing history! Even then, I knew this collection of players was never going to happen again. We saw snippets of the action on TV, but it seemed CBC was uninterested in showing NBA legends (read: Americans) own the Games. It wasn’t until we hit Great Falls, Mont. – blessed Great Falls and its spotty TV reception – on the trip home before I could fully marvel at the Dream Team. They were worth it.   --Mike Miller

Standing in the spot where Michael Phelps made history

I’ve watched the Olympics since I was a kid. Like much of America in the summer of 2008, I tuned in for a chance to see Team USA’s Michael Phelps swim his way to his 8th gold medal of the Beijing Games, breaking Mark Spitz’s 1972 record for most gold medals in a single Games. This past spring, I had an opportunity to visit Beijing and took my family to the Water Cube, part of which has been transformed into an indoor water park, complete with water slides, a lazy river and a wave pool. But the Olympic pool remains, and as I paused at the spot where Phelps made history, I wanted to jump in and swim a few laps myself. If Phelps wins just three more medals in the London Games, he will be the most decorated Olympian of all time. “It’s not about going out and swimming 15 events. It’s about going out and capping off a career.” Phelps recently told TODAY. Michael Phelps, America will be watching.    --Joy Jernigan

Dara Torres shows you're never too old

I hold a secret desire to be in the Olympics. I’m still figuring out which sport, and now that I’m pushing 40, my choices are somewhat limited. (Table tennis? Curling?) But age didn’t stop five-time Olympian Dara Torres, who at age 41 won three silver medals in swimming at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. “Don’t put an age limit on your dreams,” she told NBC News after earning her 12th career Olympic medal. Her accomplishments certainly inspired me to hit the pool a bit more. Although at 45 – 45! – she didn’t make the U.S. Olympic team this year (finishing less than a tenth of a second behind one of the qualifiers), she’s an inspiration to us would-be Olympians everywhere.   --J.J.

Nadia was perfect

Definitely watching Nadia Comaneci score perfect 10's in the '76 Olympics, she was about my age and she was a MACHINE! I cheered her on every step of the way, even though she wasn't on team USA, I never missed the coverage of her on TV, and I will be watching all the gymnastics this summer as well!    --Mary Wilson Truckor, via Facebook

Dream team at McDonald's

I was lucky enough to be stationed in Spain during the '92 Summer Games. A group of friends and I drove from Torrejon to Barcelona to catch whatever events we could and I was lucky enough to see the men's volleyball team play. Later that evening, while sitting in a McDonald's, we bumped into Charles Barkley from the "Dream Team" who was meeting someone there.  --Doug Peacock, via Facebook

I love L.A.

Attending the opening ceremonies for the '84 Olympics at the Coliseum. All the pianos playing "Ode To Joy," the wild west show and Rafer Johnson climbing to the top of the peristyle to light the torch -- an amazing show. It made me proud to be an American and an Angeleno!    --Patrick Reynolds, via Facebook

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