As London, England prepares to mark the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics in a lavish ceremony tonight, it’s hard to believe that four have already passed since Disney fans celebrated the victories of the USA Swimming team. Direct from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games where he won a record eight Gold Medals, world champion swimmer Michael Phelps celebrated his unprecedented achievement with a homecoming parade in his honor at Walt Disney World Resort. Four years earlier, after the 2004 Athens Games, Phelps and fellow USA Swimming teammates also visited Orlando in celebration of their accomplishments.
On Aug. 29, 2008, after completing his record-setting wins in Beijing and making quick stops in Portugal and London, Michael Phelps was paraded down Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom theme park in a star-spangled salute amidst confetti and thousands of flag-waving fans. Twenty-three years old at the time, he rode through the park alongside Mickey Mouse, eager to get a ride on Splash Mountain.
Immediately following the motorcade appearance, I had a chance to speak with Phelps about his time in Beijing, theme park food, and his favorite parts of Disney’s theme parks:
Looking back further, Phelps, along with teammates, were also honored in Disney parades at both Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Park in California following the 2004 Summer Games. At Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park on Aug. 31, 2008, a trio of gold medal winners from USA Swimming made Walt Disney World their first stop following championship performances in Athens.
Lenny Krayzelburg, Ian Crocker, and Michael Phelps took the time to meet with fans and say hi to Disney characters.
Later the athletes took the plunge on Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.
The trio also led a camp for young swimming hopefuls from the YMCA’s Y-Team Orlando and were about to begin a national tour called “Disney’s Swim with the Stars,” presented by Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, featuring community outreach programs and swimming celebration shows.
As a result of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Phelps currently owns the record for most Gold Medals in a single event (8) and for a career (14), but even fresh from those Games during his Magic Kingdom appearance, he was already looking ahead to this year’s 2012 Summer Games in London. His first event, the 400-meter Individual Medley, will take place tomorrow morning, in a showdown with fellow American swimmer Ryan Lochte, whom I spotted in 2008 hanging out with Phelps at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The pair, along with the rest of the USA Swimming team, will compete in a variety of events throughout the 2012 Games.
(Photos courtesy Disney, Video created in partnership with Orlando Attractions Magazine)