Good trip...we are in Athens!
Saturday, September 13, 2004
We are here in Athens!
We left Colorado Springs early Thursday morning, September 11 and drove to the Denver airport. We arrived late afternoon in Washington D.C. and went through a day of processing Thursday night and Friday. We then flew from Washington D.C. to Athens on a charter flight at 8:30 pm Friday night, September 12th.
In Washington D.C. we stayed at a hotel near the airport where most of the Paralympic teams met to be distributed clothing, go through training and receive information about the Olympic Village, travel process, ethical duties representing the United States.
It took over two hours to get all of our U.S. Olympic clothing. Talking about swag...my goodness! We received so much USA Olympic gear that we sent some home. Actually, they gave us a large box to send items home (other clothes, etc.).
We have the same clothes and gear (including open and closing ceremony clothes) that the U.S. athletes had for the Olympics. Everyone probably remembers the beret hats (poor boys) from opening ceremonies. We received four or five different sweat type suits, shorts, jackets, shoes (3 pair), hats, shirts, etc. That is in addition to our cycling gear - same that the USA able-bodied Olympic team wore.
At processing, we also got sized for Olympic rings (free). We will also receive a commemorative watch. We went through medical verification (of disability and medical history), and took pictures.
Our cycling team was "Team Camo" as we dressed in our camouflage shirts. Our teammate Glenn, who rides with Jason Bryn, convinced several volunteers that we were really the Paralympic Shooting Team. Quite the hoot! Glenn is great at keeping things fun and lively...real good to distract us all from tension and stress.
Our U.S. Paralympic team (U.S. "delegation" as it is called) is made up of 235 athletes, the most of all 143 countries. Some of that is because of team placing in the world. For example, our cycling team is the number one ranked team in the world based on world cup competition since the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games. The U.S. was granted 15 team slots while other countries earned 12, 9 and 6 team spots. With coaches, staff, medical we have 450 from the U.S. China is second with 190 athletes.
All the athletes are wearing team/country gear, so it is fun to check out the colors and clothes of the other countries. There are countries some of us have not even heard of!
The plane ride over wasn't so bad - 10 hours. We departed at 8:45 p.m. Friday night. It took awhile to get everyone loaded, with all the wheelchairs, etc. So, we sat on the plane for more than 2 hours before departing. We arrived at 6:45 a.m. (EST), which was 1:45 Saturday afternoon in Athens. To adjust to the time zone, we were instructed to stay awake on the plane as much as we could. To acclimate, we then stayed up and went to bed around 10:30 that night Athens time.
Once we arrived at the Athens airport, things went pretty smoothly. We got through customs, on a bus and to the Olympic Village within an hour of landing! It is amazing how well organized all this is. We are very well taken care of.
We then were directed to our housing area. The Olympic Village is huge. It is a community in and of itself. It is so big that there are buses going up and down the streets transporting people to different locations throughout the village (cafeteria, housing, International zone, transportation shuttles to offsite venues for training, competition sites, etc.)
Our bags and bike cases, equipment arrived about 4 hours after we were in the village. So, we ate first. Then we unpacked clothes and then built bikes that first day...into late in the evening. Our housing is like condos. It will be turned into low income housing after we leave. Each housing facility is two stories with two condo type units on each floor. Each unit has a main room (which will later be turned into a kitchen) with four small rooms (10 x 10) and two bathrooms. Each unit has a balcony. Our entire team is in the same condo unit. There is a basement garage that we use to store bikes and serves as our mechanics' work room.
The International Zone has music in the evening, internet station (50 computers with free internet access), post office, photo shop, hair salon (first haircut free), music store, cafe.
The cafeteria is huge. It is in a humongous tent type thing. It is big enough for 5,000 of us!
This morning we did a 1.5 hour shake down ride through and around the Olympic Village on our road bikes. Was fun! Is windy here right now. 15-20 mph winds - so challenging on the up hill section in head wind. We went to the velodrome this afternoon for a shake down ride on our track bikes. We love the track. Wow is it cool. 250 meter track. Small compared to Frisco and Colorado Springs. Wood track...very nice. Has an indoor feel with the roof, but it is not indoors, but a ventilated roof. The roof keeps it relatively cool. The wind still comes in, but not bad. There is a lot of spectator seating. Two jumbo stadium TV's - one on each end. Very nice! Team was pretty excited with it.
Okay...that is it for now. Expect to do journal entries daily now that we have our bearings down and developing a training and daily routine.
Opening Ceremony is September 17. Eric and Matt will be attending Opening Ceremonies! However, many cyclists from our team will not be attending the Opening Ceremonies since they will be racing the next day. The Ceremony is in the evening and some of the athletes will not get back to the Olympic Village until 1:00 - 2:00 a.m. We have seen many advertisements on TV stations to sell tickets. In fact, just heard that Opening Ceremony is sold out!
- journal entry from Matt, Eric, and tandem teammates Jason and Glenn
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