Monday, February 15, 2010

Highs and Lows. Olympic opening ceremony and tragic fatal luge accident...

Things have been crazy around the village over the past two days! So much to report on!

So on the morning of the 11th, we started bright and early with a 9am press conference. Ben Mates, Scott James (both snowboard halfpipe), Scott Kneller and myself were escorted to the Media Centre where we were met by Mike Tancred, head of media for AOC. We each lined up along the table and were fired questions about the Games by media, mostly from Australia.

(My seat at the press conference at the Media Centre)

 In the afternoon, we had the official flag raising ceremony in the village. This welcoming ceremony was for Australia, Iceland, Norway, Ethiopia and Finland. The energy amongst the athletes was buzzing. Everyone was very excited to make their official mark in the village, and to celebrate the coming together of the entire Aussie team. The celebration ended with music and dancing.

(Steph Hickey, Joh Shaw and myself - the three Buller Race Club girls on the team)

(Canadian actress Sandra Oh from Grey's Anatomy, host of the ceremony)

(Steph, Torah, Scotty and myself with one of the Olympic mascots)
 When the Aussie flag was raised and the anthem played, it was a very special moment.

(The Aussie flag being raised besides the Olympic flag)

 Next on the agenda was the Australian team reception. All the athletes were taken on a tug boat on the river, and were greeted by over 200 people carrying flags, signs, boxing kangaroos… It was amazing to see that we had so much support. Apparently a facebook group had started in Vancouver to support Australian Olympians. These people who came to cheer us on were the same people who protested the pulling down of the boxing kangaroo flag in the village. It’s great to see how much support we have here in Vancouver. Canadian’s love Australians! For me, it’s second best to having an Olympic Games at home!

(Myself and the Aussie team mascot that is now so famous in Vancouver, BK)

 The reception was a fantastic night. We were greeted by friends, family, media, sports commentators… basically the whole of the Australian Olympics family; over 300 people. Each athlete on the team was formally introduced, and we were presented with framed Olympic Games pockets.

(Joh and I wish Australian swimming champs Giaan Rooney and Grant Hackett. They will be commentating on the Games for channel 9)

 Today I woke up with the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Day; yet this day doesn’t come around every year. Today was the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games!
Walking out into a crowd of 60,600 is probably the highlight of my life. The roar as we marched out into BC stadium was incredible. A chill went down my spine and I got goose bumps. To think that all of these people (plus millions more around the World) were watching and supporting us was an amazing feeling. I felt so proud to be marching in the Green and Gold for Australia. This moment is something I have been dreaming about for my whole life; and I think it is definitely one of the highlights of the Games for most athletes. It is something only a select few people get to experience and be apart of, so I feel very privileged.

(US snowboard superstar Shawn White and I before the Opening Ceremony)

(Backstage before the Aussies are about to March into the opening ceremony)

 Following the high also came a sombre low as the Georgian Team marched out, wearing thick black bands around their right arm. That afternoon we were all given some horrible news. There had been a fatal accident up on the Whistler sliding track. One of the members of the Georgian Olympic Team, 21 year old Nodar Kumaritashvili, had a horrific crash in the luge, crashing on the last corner and hitting one of the pylons. He passed away 2 hours after the crash after medical staff did everything they could to resuscitate him. It was heart-breaking for the entire Olympic family; staff, officials, volunteers, coaches, and in particular athletes… An athlete had passed away from an extremely unfortunate event, leaving a feeling of sadness in every single person in the stadium. To honour Nodar, the Australian Team marched proud with black arm bands. During the ceremony (which was also dedicated to Nodar), we acknowledged the young Olympian with one minute’s silence. The enourmous stadium of over 60,600 was completely silent as we honoured him.

(RIP Nodar Kumaritashvili, 1988-2010)

The ceremony was breathtaking to watch, with amazing visual effects, sound and music. It was so exciting to be sitting with my teammates, watching the official opening of the Games, and the lighting of the torch. Something I will never forget…

(Bright-eyed after the march into BC place. About to take our seats to enjoy the show...)

(The lighting of the torch by Canadian Hockey legend Wayne Gretzski)

(Excited to bump into Arnold Shwartzneger in the Olymic Village)