A discus, a javelin, and a bikini

When one is invited to attend one’s first Olympic event, I suppose one has a preconception of some archetype, maybe something really classic and Greek like running, hucking a spear or jumping over something really tall and wide. For me, the wannabe medalist, it would have been a rowing race; like watching paint dry for the average person, but I have a serious issue with the popular sports that involve costumes and judging. Gymnastics, figure skating …. the stuff my wife likes. Me? Either one crosses the finish line first, lifts the most weight, or they don’t. Having the French judge give a 6.6 and the Russian a 7.1 seems, well, judgmental.

Anyway, I digress before I even get started: a pregression.

So this morning I go to my first Olympic Event in my first Olympic Games. Beach volleyball. When I awake the sky is its usual white foggy heatsponge, no sunscreen needed for the beach, but when I get to the cab stand I see it is also raining. Raining hard. And because my mission is to sit with a partner of my company, a guy I want to meet because he too is a sculler, I forge on and figure showing up is the least I can do, even if it is all the way on the other side of the city from where I am staying.

On arrival, I clear security – very efficient, very smooth. Get wanded over. Save a guy’s forgotten wallet. And walk into this:

Where I am handed a big plastic poncho which, when donned, turns into a perfect condensation trap and hence makes me an instant loser in the wet t-shirt contest. Sweat-o-matic.

I find my seat, but no business partner (smart man slept in), so I sit down, and see before my very eyes, Lenovo’s Olympic official Champion Athletes, the USA Women’s Beach Volley Team. I had no idea. They were finishing up a clinic they were giving to the Japanese team, so I did not see much of what our President saw when he was at the venue the other day.

(thx to Thos. Crampton for the pointer)

I get to see the final two points. Misty May-Trainor and Kerri Walsh hug in victory, and leave the stadium. It’s raining so bad, my camera is at risk. The lens is fogged up. I’ve got sweat (or is it rain?) rolling down the end of my nose into the camera. “Don’t be a negative dour dickhead,” I tell myself. “You are at the Olympics. So what if it isn’t sunny and they aren’t serving beer? There will always be Fenway.”

Ah, but then it all gets better. First, I didn’t know the Chinese men – who are evidently very good – were playing. That explained the extremely high percentage of boisterous Chinese spectators flapping Chinese flags. Their opponents? Well, put it this way, if you’re from a landlocked country what’s the beach volleyball scene gonna be like? Austria. Poor guys. They put on a valiant effort.

But, it gets better. Bikini girls. This is exactly what Baron Pierre de Coubertin had in mind when he revived the concept of the Olympics in 18-something or other. I understand the Beach Volleyball event at the 1920 post-World War I Paris Games were held out at the Bagatelle Gardens, or was it Versailles? I dunno. There’s a reason why it is such a classic and popular sport. This is why.

So, combine that with the DJ from Club Xenon, playing a techno version of the late John Denver’s “Country Road” and assorted get-psyched-sports-classic-rock-and-roll-riffs every other point, a rain storm, and a crowd of really excited people and well …. Let’s go to video:

I had a very enjoyable morning. The game was well played by great athletes. The dancers made me really respect the bazillion details that went into staging this spectacle. Seriously. Think about it. Someone had to recruit, dress, train, coach, organize, transport, and encourage a dozen young women to dance barefoot in sand. And stock plastic ponchos in case it rained. And hire that DJ from the strip club. The logistics of this whole affair are the real mystery. If there was one person I would not want to be today, it would be the dude in London who has to follow Beijing’s act in 2012.

I submit London’s only play is to go really retro. Like Chariot’s of Fire. Ten events. Everyone competes in wool t-shirts. Rowers use wooden oars. Barefisted boxing. Naked wrestling coated in olive oil. Make it like a Olympic Renaissance Faire.

But keep the bikini girls.

Jane Barrett at USA Today blogs that Beach Volleyball may be the perfect Olympic sport. She may be right.

Josiah Ng on walking into the Opening Ceremonies

Josiah Ng is a Lenovo Athlete blogger and a track cyclist (I sent him a picture of my fixie — the Snotrocket — and he thought that was  cool though his fcycle costs about a gazillion dollars and wins Olympic medals and mine is a salvaged garage survivor).

He’s blogging and wrote this post about what it felt like to march in with the Malaysian contingent on Friday night. While the rest of us marveled from the stands and the television, he did it from the track and the floor:

“The most exciting part would be when we first walked out into the stadium in front of a hundred thousand screaming people.  I can’t explain the feeling but I had goosebumps all over me. We were the 10th country out of 204 to walk out. The first country was Greece and the last was China. The roar from the crowd was deafening  as the Chinese contingent was announced. Towering over everyone was Yao Ming, their flag bearer.

By the end of the night, we had stood for over 5 hours so our feet were screaming pain. On top of that everyone was sweating through their clothes because of the heat and humidity. I’m just glad we didn’t have to wear suits like some of the countries. They were literally drenched in sweat. But at the end it was all worth it.

The experience of attending an opening ceremony as an Olympic athlete is absolutely priceless!  I’ll never forget last night. One funny thing that I saw as we were exiting the stadium was an American woman crying.  She was weeping of emotion and said this “we’ll never see anything like that ever again.”  I guess that should paint a picture of how beautiful the ceremony was!”

How cool is that? What a lucky guy to have that to remember.