I finally have some time to post some pictures! It has been a busy couple of days and I’m glad to relax in the air conditioning for the afternoon. It is incredibly hot and humid here…I thought I would be ready to handle it, given South Western Ontario’s weather stint over the last month or so, but it is instantly uncomfortable even stepping onto the balcony off of our rooms. It makes warming up a breeze, though!
I feel just about acclimated to the time zone…with the 12 hour difference I didn’t bother changing my watch, even with the existing 24h setting. It’s a strange reminder of home while still being functional here!
Like everything else, the cafeteria is a sight to see! I think there are several dining halls, but habit brings us back to the same one every time, and we have absolutely no impetus for change. From “Mediterranean” to “Asian” to “International” to “Muslim”, plus salad bars, desserts, drinks, and, yes, McDonalds, there’s always something (and by something I mean MANY things) for everyone. For some reason, the Canadian track athletes each received a $70 dollar credit for McDonalds…but without Mcflurries being served I’m not sure mine is going to get much use…
The opening ceremonies yesterday were incredible. The athletes came to the conclusion that we will be slightly jaded come the Olympic ceremonies, when we each qualify in the coming years. The experience began in our rooms with departing time announcements alternating with the 2011 Shenzhen theme song (“come on, come on!” is all I can catch…) resonating through the residence hallways. We gathered outside and were led through lines and lines of idling buses, scrambling onto the several marked “Canada”. The trip to Shenzhen harbour, where the HUGE brand new stadium is located, was long, but several times throughout the ride we were greeted with hundreds of people gathered at intersections and strung along sections of the closed roads. They all waved and cheered, and I was fortunate to get the seat at the back of the bus with the only window that opened and was able to wave my flag and shout back while taking some great video footage.
We arrived under a darkening sky and were led into some tunnels below the stadium. It is probably more accurate to say “channeled” into the tunnels since the path was lined with hundreds and hundreds of volunteers welcoming us, many asking for the Canadian pins hanging on our accreditation lanyards. We popped out into the night and waited on a huge dark ramp facing the stadium. The show began and the whole wall we faced proved to be hollow with about 300 people in led light-lined suits working panels that faced the crowd inside. A crack formed in the middle and the two sections glided apart, fully exposing the lively interior of the beast. The alphabetized list began, always longer than I expect, and the sweaty mass of athletes began to crawl forward, colour blocked sections branching off the main horde one at a time.
We inched forward, tripping over the tracks for the wall sections when we finally reached the threshold. “CANADA” was called and we were let loose to follow our flag bearer, a swimmer from the Yukon, down into the light. Our team flooded the walkway to the stage in the centre of the building amid the incredible noise and blinding lights, and we relished in the energy and enthusiasm reverberating from the packed stands. We filed down to the ground level, past cameras projecting our faces to the big screen on the wall, and were guided to our seats.
The remainder of events is a blur…the completion of the athlete’s parade, speeches, performances, and the lighting of the torch. After the extreme emotional high of entering the stadium and still off a regular sleeping pattern, the track delegation faded hard, many falling asleep on their own laps in the backless seats. After all was said and done, under glittery confetti clouds swirling down from the top of the walls the stands emptied back into the hidden tunnels and the buses swallowed the athletes and coaches back up for the return trip.
What a lovely night!
Workouts are picking up again after a couple of easier days…my legs finally feel like the invisible ankle weights have been taken off! I’m REALLY looking forward to long jump qualifying on Tuesday night…but I must keep on an even keel until then…
Zàijiàn, until next time!!!