My first memories of the Olympics were the Games in Tokyo. However, I was 13 during the 1968 Olympics and that was during a seminal time in the United States due to the upheaval in the country, in terms of what was going on socially in the US. I remember Jim Hines winning the 100m and of course Tommie Smith and John Carlos with their fists in the air. I was just beginning to do the track myself at that time. At the next Games of course the massacre of the Israeli athletes stands out, as does the memory of the American sprinters missing the 100m start time. But I also remember watching John Akii-Bua winning the 400m hurdles in a world record - little did I think four years later I'd be breaking that record myself. He was one of my heroes.
In terms of the Olympics I competed in, the Montreal Games was quite an experience. I ran the 400m hurdles for only the second time in the March of that year and only had four months to get ready for the Olympics. I managed to do it and win gold - although going in as an underdog, without the weight of the world on my shoulders, probably made it easier. In 1980 the USA didn't go to the Olympics but in 1984 we competed in Los Angeles, my home Olympics, and that was great. The LA Coliseum was packed with over 90,000 fans and it was fantastic to compete in front of that many people; probably the largest crowd I ever ran in front of.
A lot of people will give classic answers such as Jesse Owens but I'm going to go for Fanny Blankers-Koen for her performance at the 1948 Games. She won four gold medals the last time the Olympics came to London but had to overcome a lot, especially as a mother of two, living in an era when women's athletics wasn't that big. She's got to be one of the best and overcame quite a bit of adversity.
I've got a lot of friends who have competed different events and when you know people who compete in an event you tend to know more about it and follow it. For instance I'm looking forward to women's volleyball, basketball and swimming. So I do watch events other than track and field.
I don't know a tremendous amount about the GB athletics squad - in the US we don't get to see many international meets on TV so it's hard to keep up - but I do know that the home advantage can cut both ways. Emotionally, competing in front of your hometown is either going to lift you high above the tide or sink you - it'll be one or the other. I hope most of the athletes get the patriotic boost. Most home countries seem to do well - the South Koreans did well, Greece did relatively well, USA certainly did well, the Chinese did well... home advantage is something very real. I expect some extra medals for the British team from athletes they may not have expected to medal.
I did fencing in high school so I will say that. My high school, in Ohio, was one of the best in the state and we had some of the best fencers in the country at my school. Fencing was a standard part of gym class; we had to put on the equipment and take part. I enjoyed it - it was a good opportunity. I didn't quite make the team but every time there was fencing going on I was one of the ones hanging around.