The Olympics are *almost* here: t-minus twenty-four hours! All fifty-eight countries have arrived at the race course, ranging from the lone single scullers from Ireland, Algeria, or Cameroon, to the full squads from Canada, Great Britain, or Germany. Everyone tries to be courteous and professional while on the race course, but there are still some close calls! (For example: in our effort not to get run down by the Italian men’s double, we nearly stampeded the Iranian women’s single. But no harm done, we all emerged unscathed!)
It’s been exciting to see the transformation of the venue into a race-ready Olympic stadium. Yesterday was the “dress rehearsal” for the hundreds of volunteers, timers, stake-boat holders, announcers, and safety launches… it was fun to watch the teenaged volunteers stage a mock medals ceremony, complete with the inspirational music (from “Chariots of Fire”), honor guard, and national anthems. The starting-line officials were also also rehearsing yesterday, so everyone had the chance to practice a mock “start”, complete with the boat-holders, the official countdown, the lighting system, and the “boot” (a little plastic starting gate that holds our bowball—very cool!). The best part about the start simulations was that the officials didn’t discriminate between boat classes, so we were able to race it up with the Canadian M8+, British M4x, and an assortment of doubles/fours. Fun!
Amanda and I have been busy—even though we’re not officially listed in a boat roster, we still have to be fit and able to race should our team need us. So we’ve been putting in some mileage in a pair, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes pacing our official US pair, occasionally hopping in the eight when someone needs an afternoon off.
Now that racing is around the corner, the Village is bustling with athletes. I first noticed it a few days ago in the dining hall… the evening before, Team USA was King of the Cafeteria—no lines for hot food, plenty of extra dessert, our pick of which table to sit at. The next morning, it was a completely different story! Hundreds of athletes scampering around for their pre-practice breakfast, waiting for the harried catering staff to refill the coffee/ oatmeal/ cornflakes/ bananas, trying to find an empty seat near one of their teammates. The zoo atmosphere only lasted until 6:55am, when the dining hall abruptly emptied as everyone left to catch the 7am bus to the race course (only to repeat itself in the twenty minutes prior to the 8am bus!). Thankfully, everyone has quickly adapted to the increased traffic in the cafeteria, and both the athletes and dining hall staff are working together to keep the chaos to a minimum! *More details to come about the Olympic dining experience, a culinary blog update coming soon!*
One interesting distraction is the colorful and patriotic Olympic apparel worn around the boatyards. A popular favorite is the colorful print on the Ukrainian coaches’ outfits. The British uniforms (designed by Stella McCartney!) are chic, but can’t compare with the fashion-forwardness of the Portuguese double’s green berets! Also interesting—despite the warm temperatures (hottest day so far this year in the UK!), the Egyptian W2x still train in head scarves and long sleeves.
The Opening Ceremonies are tonight (wow!, where has the time gone?!), and as much as I’d LOVE to be in the Olympic Stadium to enjoy the festivities, Team USA is headed to bed early… racing starts tomorrow!!! (You can see the heat draw here)