Tickets for the Winfrey's tapings are usually available only by phone and nearly impossible to get, so fans were itching for the 2,000 seats up for grabs for Wednesday's taping.
"We do love Oprah," said 20-year-old Loyola University student Grace Sutherland, who left her apartment at 4 a.m. to wait in line. "But the Olympic athletes, they are real role models. This is the America we like to see."
Jeanne Kaspar, 40, of Naperville, Ill., said that although the Olympians are inspiring, Winfrey's accomplishments will resonate long after the athletes' successes are forgotten.
"Oprah shattered the glass ceiling for women," Kaspar said. "She's shown a woman can run companies, can lead philanthropic organizations, can do really anything."
Organizers began passing out tickets at noon Saturday.
For those unable to get tickets Saturday, approximately 7,000 festival-style lawn seats would be available Wednesday, said Monica Cebula, special events coordinator for Millennium Park. Another 2,000 seats have been set aside for the Olympians' families and friends.
Winfrey's Harpo Productions said the show is a "welcome home celebration" for the athletes and a chance to feature Chicago in the city's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Chicago is a finalist for the 2016 games along with Tokyo; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Madrid, Spain. The International Olympic Committee will choose the 2016 host next year.