Friday, August 15, 2008
At the Olympics Part 1
Arrived in Beijing with a real sense of anticipation. Everywhere you look it is immediately obvious how hard China is trying and how much these games mean to their national pride. I flew into the brand new Terminal 3. We went through immigration quickly and efficiently and got on a train to baggage reclaim. Richard Willis said to "I am in trouble - I told my host to pick me up at Terminal 3". I replied "Your okay. we are still in Terminal 3". It's a big terminal.
I made my way to Terminal 2 to look for Stephen who arrived from Amsterdam a couple of hours later. While I was waiting I introduced myself to Jorge who turned out to be the Chef de Mission of the Peru Team. I don't think he had met many people in China who had been in Peru. Peru have only won 4 medals in their Olympic history. (1 Gold and 3 Silver). Having a little dream I was thinking wouldn't it be fantastic if a former street boy could compete at the Olympics. That would be a good front page story for The Vine Trust. The guy beside him is one of 70,000 volunteers working in Beijing as helpers. All dressed in identical uniforms, all committed to helping at every opportunity, no matter how good or bad their English is.
We found our hotel who had muddled our reservation and discovered 3 of our tickets seemed to have been sent to Belgium instead of Beijing. At this point we were starting to get bit "tired and emotional" especially since no one at the hotel spoke much English. They were very friendly and helpful though. We managed to get tickets to watch GB v NZ at Hockey and also Japan v Argentina. It is bizarre, the tickets are all sold but the stadiums are not. The ticketing has really been poorly managed and it is tragic that people who want tickets cannot get in when their are empty seats.
Someone seeing my flag and hearing my accent commented on my divided loyalties. They were not divided at all. I was whole heartedly supporting NZ! This created a few tensions with Stephen - I don't think we have ever been supporting different teams before. The Blacksticks lost a close game 2-1 which effectively closed out any semi-final hopes. I felt for the girls running round on their warm up. Some were in tears and could barely wave to the supporters. It is hard when your dreams die. At that moment I felt one of the most Kiwi I have ever done. It was a strange feeling mourning a GB victory. We get back to the hotel and log onto the internet. Stephen wants to check on British progress and I want to see how the Kiwis are doing. I guess my loyalties and emotions are at least confused.
Yesterday we went to the track cycling. It took quite a while to get there but we had figured out how to use the subway and the sun was shining so we felt a lot better. New Zealand had a couple of individual sprinters who qualified but the main event was the Mens Team Sprint. No Kiwi interest in this event so single minded support for GB. The velodrome, like all the venues is fantastic. We were in the second row and right at a start/finish line.
We saw Hayden Roulston from NZ post a great time in Mens Individual Pursuit qualifying. In the last pair which came straight after Bradley Wiggins of GB broke the Olympic Record. The Mens Team Sprint featured Chris Hoy from Scotland who visited the boys school in Edinburgh. We were thrilled when they beat France in the final.
We got to speak to Chris family after the final and it was great meeting such down to earth Scottish parents. His mum had bought him his first bike at a jumble sale in Trinity. His dad was getting texts of congratulations he had about 40 and was saying these are costing me 40p a minute. Chris is in contention for 2 more golds here so there may be a heavy bill waiting his dad in Edinburgh. He said "Chris wrote in his diary when he was 13 that he wanted to win an Olympic Medal and now he has done it at two games". It was obvious how a supportive family makes such a vital contribution to sporting success and to keeping perspective on yourself and your achievements.
We also got to congratulate Jamie Staff who gave up a glittering BMX career to chase a boyhood dream of Olympic Gold. You could hear how happy and how relieved he was to have won. It was great to see a Gold Medal up close.
Nicole Cook who won gold in the women's road race was watching a few rows behind us. So we said hello to her as well. Chris Boardman who won Gold in 1992 also came past and Stephen got him to sign his book.
I left the Velodrome really happy, with the autographs of 4 Olympic Champions past and present on my ticket. Chris Hoy, Jamie Staff, Nicole Cook and Chris Boardman. We were there for an hour afterwards and were among the last to leave. It was a pretty special day. We felt privileged to experience so much.
I also made some new friends! We are off to the Rowing today to see 7 finals decided. There is strong British and Kiwi interest in most of the finals. Sad that Craig's heroine Emma Twigg didn't make the final. Wearing my All Black shirt today in the hope of seeing some NZ medals.