Thursday, February 11, 2010

Crazy first 24 hours in the Athlete Village

Things have been non-stop since I set foot off the plane in Vancouver yesterday. Once we arrived, there were officials and volunteers everywhere! We even had our very own ‘Olympics’ customs area to go through. No waiting in enourmous queues to get my passport stamped!

Once we had all our bags (I had 11 in total; over 250kg), I exited the airport and we were immediately swarmed by media and rando’s after autographs. How do they even know who I am? Bizarre! Someone asked for a photograph and an autograph. I have to admit it was kind of strange at first! We were transported by a volunteer to the Olympics Village in downtown Vancouver. Oh my! Words can’t even describe how incredible it was to enter the Village.

The security here is extremely tight. On entry to the village, every bag had to be scanned. Plus we are required to walk through a metal detector and have a pat down.

Once we made it to our accommodation (the building adorned with the huge boxing kangaroo that had taken a liking to the media recently), I unloaded my bags and decided to explore the village. By this time it was already 10:30pm, but I was on such a high that there was no way I was sleeping!

(Athlete accommodation; Australian's proud to show off our team mascot)

(A warm welcome from the Vancouver mascots)

Of course, first stop was the food hall. It is absolutely amazing; open 24 hours and filled with every type of dish imaginable. It is buffet style, with a huge array of cuisines available; Asian, pasta and pizza; Mediterranean, Oriental, Grill, etc. The list goes on! I had a hard time deciding whether to go for dinner number two, or a yummy desert of ice cream and freshly baked apple crumble… I went for both!

(The food hall)

 We also explored the gym, which is open 24 hours. The athlete lounge is also a great place to hang out, equipped with comfy bean bags, two pool tables, four Playstation Wii’s (for that tennis practise we all need!), and a classy bar filled with ‘Vitamin Water’.

(Only a small section of the enourmous gym)

 This morning I had uniform distribution. I was kitted up with two very-full suitcases of clothing; ski jackets, sports jackets, hats, shoes, gloves, pants, shorts, formal wear, competition wear, raincoats etc. I don’t think I could wear every garment over the next 2 weeks even if I wore something different every day! We all look rockin’ in the Karbon and Sportscraft gear (thanks guys!). Matt Shervington and the Foxtel crew were there to take an interview and some video footage.

(Trying on our "Ninja Turtle" style race jerseys with Matt Shervington)

(Carting home our uniform)

 After carting home another two suitcases to add to the 11 already in my room, we had lunch and then explored the Village Merchandise shop. Of course I didn’t already have enough stuff, so I decided to get a few souvenirs for myself and the fam.

In the afternoon I was transported to the Media Centre, which is outside of the Village and in town. After passing through at least four security checkpoints (including a full car search), I met with Alice Wheeler, Media Manager of the AOC. Here I took part in the “Chat with a Champ” program. The program started in 2008, and is designed to encourage interaction between athletes and young primary school children all around Australia. I spent the next 90 minutes chatting to three primary school classes from Australia, ranging from grade 3 to grade 7. It was very cute; they were all dressed up in Australia gear, faces painted and wearing green and gold! They each asked questions; mostly about my sport, what it’s like to be an Olympian, why I love the sport etc. There were some obscure, yet hilarious questions in the mix from some of the younger kids. For example, “Do you have any friends?”, “How many silver medals have you won?” (not Gold?), “Do you have any kids?”, “Do you have a social life?”, “What is your favourite colour?” It was all very adorable, and overall a great experience. Those schools will be receiving a boxing kangaroo flag, signed by me, and some Olympic merchandise.

(A sea of heads in the Media Centre)

After such a long and busy day, I’m excited to get into bed! Another big day lies ahead tomorrow. A 9am press conference at the media centre, the flag raising ceremony at 4pm and then an official Australian team reception at 6pm. Plus I have to find time to squeeze in a gym session. After all, I am here to compete and I can’t lose site of that! But why not soak up the atmosphere at the same time?!