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River Falls woman attends Olympic games

River Falls resident Carole Mottaz attended one of the track and field events at the Olympics, she also got to see and touch the Olympic torch when it passed through Guernsey, England, where she was visiting family. Shown with her is Olympic sportsman and torch bearer Pete Neausire, selected for his renown in encouraging kids to get involved in sports. Submitted photo

LONDON - Carole Mottaz says her first visit to the Olympics won't be her last.

"It was fantastic," she raved by telephone Sunday, Aug. 5,describing the feeling inside the stadium as "absolutely electric" during her 4 ½-hour visit.

The place holds 80,000 people, and she said not many seats were empty.

She attended track-and-field events Friday, Aug. 3, that included several different competitions. She saw women's events: Heptathlon 100-meter hurdles and high jump, triple jump and 400-meter race.

Mottaz also watched men's events: Shot put, hammer throw, 400-meter hurdles and 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Mottaz makes her home in rural River Falls. She retired a few years ago from a longtime career as a teacher and administrator in the River Falls School District.

The resident was born in the UK but is a dual citizen of it and the United States, so she got to see and cheer for both teams' athletes.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to have such a good sportsmanship event in your home country," she said.

She and her niece saw well-known English track-and-field star Jessica Ennis start one of her races "right in front of them." Ennis went on to earn a gold medal for the heptathlon.

Olympic goers also supported then marveled at history-making U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, who won his 18th gold medal.

Though many British and other athletes created a local buzz, Mottaz said the general spirit of encouragement throughout the stadium impressed her. The big crowd cheered and applauded loudly for all the athletes.

She said that spirit only intensified for the people finishing the race last -- many of them were achieving a personal record.

"It was good sportsmanship at its best," Mottaz said.

After the track-and-field events, the pair walked around the Olympic Park with an estimated 200,000 other spectators. They declared it quite a facility.

Travel-abroad stop

Mottaz said she normally travels to England once a year to visit friends and family.

UK residents could apply for a lottery of multiple rounds to get Olympic tickets-- she and her niece got them in the second round.

Mottaz said the lottery process required a credit card up front, and the applicant had to indicate the times and dates of their preferred events, as well as number of tickets they wanted.

Lottery registrants then might or might not receive and pay for the maximum number of tickets requested.

The way Mottaz understands it, each country gets an allotment of tickets, with unused lots of them re-entering the mix throughout sales. She talked to many people who wanted tickets but couldn't get them.

Mottaz shares that her tickets cost about $100 each, but she talked to people who paid as little as $45 and as much as $1,500.

Several Web sources show the wide variance of ticket prices, which seem to depend on the event, its time of day and whether it is a qualifying or final round.

Early on the morning of their events, Mottaz and her niece made their way to the "tube" train, which was filled mostly with other people headed to the Olympics, including a neighbor and another family friend -- plus an unfortunate few headed to work.

Touching torch stories

One of Mottaz's relatives works as an attorney in Guernsey, a tiny channel island on the pre-determined route of the Olympic torch.

The family learned when it would be coming through and went there that day, along with about 15,000 other people.

The sheer size of the crowd made local headlines, said Mottaz. As the crowd milled around, she approached the young man holding the torch and simply asked: "May I please have my picture taken with your torch?"

She said it was exciting to see and touch the familiar symbol. She also became intrigued and amazed by the human-interest stories of all the extraordinary people chosen to carry the torch.

Some 80 torchbearers each carry the torch for a leg of its long journey. The man she met carrying it in Guernsey, Pete Neausire, trains young people in basketball, encourages them to do sports, rows competitively and represents Guernsey on a volleyball team.

Torchbearers carry the flame relay-style starting from Olympia, creating a link between past and present by beginning where the ancient games took place.

An Olympic website says the purity of the flame is maintained by how it is lit --only with sunlight. The torch burns until it reaches the stadium, where it is used to light the "monumental cauldron" that burns throughout the Olympic Games.

Mottaz returns to River Falls this week with lots of special memories and says even the weather was great.

"The only shower lasted about five minutes," she said. "Oh well. No one seemed to care."