HOUSTON - Juan Sanmiguel is one man who doesn't have a problem with people looking in his windows. He's all about setting up elaborate displays. And these days, there's Olympics history behind the glass.
Sanmiguel has been collecting memorabilia since he went to his first Summer Games in 1968 in Mexico City. He has his original ticket stub, souvenirs, and press material from the year leading up to the games. Since then, Sanmiguel has only missed three: Moscow in 1980, Seoul in 1988, and Beijing in 2008. You can find something in his window from almost all the games since Mexico City -- a silver coin from the 1984 in Los Angeles, a ticket stub from Montreal in 1976, and a bronze bowl commemorating the Olympic Stadium in Seoul.
Sanmiguel has some rare pieces too, including a plate from Moscow in 1980. That year, the U.S. boycotted the games because the Russians invaded Afghanistan. Yet, an American athlete was still pictured on the commemorative souvenir. Sanmiguel also has what might have become the Olympic pin of Texas, submitted with Houston's failed bid to host the 2016 games. Sanmiguel still loves the design, mostly because the the symbol of the torch resembles a jalapeno pepper.
One of Sanmiguel's most memorable games was in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. But it was rooted back here in Houston. Sanmiguel built a 39-year career as an art teacher for the Houston Independent School District. Retired now, he got to watch a former student, boxer Rocky Juarez, fight for a silver medal in Sydney. And Sanmiguel had the honor of posing with it around his neck for a picture.
Sanmiguel is ready for London now. His packet of tickets arrived in the mail a week before the start of the games. It included passes to public transportation, event tickets to Olympic Stadium, and, let's call it the Golden Ticket -- one for closing ceremonies. Sanmiguel joked that waiting for the tickets in the mail was like waiting for a child to be born. And this Olympic journey is the most expensive yet, said Sanmiguel.
"I never felt that it was a lot of money until this one. It's like a new car," he said, laughing. The ticket packet that came in the mail alone is worth close to $5,000. If you add in hotel, flights, and food, the total is closer to $13,000.
You could call it an expensive London vacation, but Sanmiguel doesn't see it that way.
"I don't go just for vacation," he said. "I go to learn."
And this go' round, he's flying solo. "I like to meet people," he said. "Usually when you're by yourself, you meet more people than when you're [with] two, three, four, or five."
His favorite sports are track and field, swimming, and cycling, although he doesn't root for any single athlete. But more than the sports, Sanmiguel is there for the experience, not just to witness history again but to be part of it.
"Next to the athletes," he said, "we want to be seen and heard [too]." Sanmiguel leaves Aug. 6 and, with a stop in Paris, expects to be back in Houston by Aug. 23.
- The Olympic Boycott: http://history.state.gov/milestones/1977-1980/Olympic
- Rocky Juarez: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Juarez
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