Report #2 - Welcoming the Delegation from Guinea-Bissau

Everyone needs to have goals, especially if your at the Olympics. I don’t have a chance to win any medals, so I need different goals. One of my goals for this Games was to go to Opening Ceremonies. I missed the Opening Ceremonies in Sydney because our event was at 10 a.m. the next morning and I knew I was going to have to get up early.

In Sydney, I had been sitting in the office about an hour before the Ceremonies were scheduled to start when Bob Condron, our fearless leader here at the USOC office, ran in with free tickets to the Opening Ceremonies and begged us to take them. People who work for the USOC are apparently not allowed to attend the Opening Ceremonies. I don’t know why. However, the press officers are allowed to attend since we do not technically work for the USOC. Anyway, it broke my heart that I could go in Sydney.

So the big Friday arrived in Athens. I asked Bob early in the day if he thought we might be able to get tickets. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. I was sad, but didn’t panic yet. Sure enough, a few hours later Bob informed me that Randy Walker, the press officer for tennis, had some Opening Ceremonies tickets that his team leader was trying to get rid of. The team leader had paid 750 euros. I offered 100 and he agreed. I then started a trend as people who had acted like they were too cool for the Opening Ceremonies suddenly decided they wanted to attend.

The Opening Ceremonies took place at the main Olympic stadium, the one that caused all the controversy because of its glass roof. It is an amazing and beautiful structure. The seating is very narrow though and I would hate to have to leave quickly because there aren’t a lot of aisles.

The Opening Ceremonies were beautiful and a little strange, which was OK. I’m not sure why Bjork was there singing about jellyfish, but there she was. And what was up with the lady carrying the head?

But one thing a lot of people agree upon is that the athlete march takes too long, and it’s only getting longer. This year there were 202 countries marching – the most ever. Many were so small that they had only a flag bearer and a couple other people, probably coaches, marching. Countries like Gabon, Lesotho and Palau provide a great geography lesson, but they also make the parade a lot longer. Larger teams like Greece, Italy and Germany made it all take much longer as they stopped to pose for photographs and get the crowd to cheer.

The U.S. athletes were asked to leave the athlete village at 4:30. They started lining up when they got to the stadium. The ceremony started at 8:30 p.m. They started marching in around 9:30 p.m. They got done around 11:30 p.m. The ceremony ended about 45 minutes later. That is way too long for many of those athletes to be on their feet. The triathletes did not weren’t even in Greece yet and so they could not participate. But even if they had been here, they probably shouldn’t have marched.

People who have gone to the Winter Games say the ceremony is much shorter because there are fewer countries and fewer athletes. After the athletes march, they can go sit in the stands. At the Summer Games, they have to stand in the infield while a giant tarp is passed over them turning them into a giant jellyfish.

One answer might be to have the athletes come in, march around, and then leave right away. Another would be to provide some sort of seating.

In the end, I’m so glad I was able to go, even though it was 3 a.m. by the time I made it back to the ship.