Drew Ginn: farewell to Beijing

Drew Ginn was the athlete I went to first, the blogging gold medal winning rower from Australia, who, with his partner and childhood friend Duncan Free were going to repeat their success in past Games with a gold at Shunyi. Drew personified the kind of athlete that I wanted in the Voices of the Summer Olympics program, an avid blogger, photographer, vlogger. An athlete who understood del.icio.us, who knew how to present a story and build connections with fans. I tracked him down and one night late last winter we spoke on Skype. He was a little wary — rowers don’t get a lot of sponsors — but after some explanation he said, “I’m in.”

And so we were started, with a great paradigm of an athlete to show to other recruits as a model to follow.

Last night Drew sadly watched the closing ceremonies from the Athlete Village, incapacitated by a back injury, the bane of elite oarsmen. He’s facing surgery. He’s facing retirement. His final posts from the Games are a bittersweet reminder of the sacrifice and glory of competition at the very top of the scale. I wanted to post this to say “thanks Drew”; thanks for kicking off one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever been associated with. And to the other 99 athletes, words fail me. You delivered an insider’s view of the Games that has never before been made available. I don’t think the Games will ever be the same again.

“This has been the most amazing experience. The games, our performance, others performances, the support, the expectations, the conditions, wonderful reactions, failure, crushing moments, elation, and family and friends. The list goes on and on but from where I have sat it has blown me away and even with the pain of my back now become an increasing concern as to my longer term health, I am still buzzing and excited and about everything that I have seen and been part of. In fact it is as if I can not type fast enough.”

Drew Ginn.

Closing ceremony? I drank beer & went to dinner instead …

No fireworks and fan dancers for me. No way. I ate large with my buddies and caught the end of the show on TV. I’ll buy the DVD and watch it this winter when it’s nasty outside. Tomorrow is a day off! Going to go find some serious Chinese olympic garb (rowing shirts, baseball jerseys), load up on souveniers for the gang, maybe check out some sights with the camera, then hit the big staff party blow out (invitation says it goes until 2).

I can’t believe this is done. Longest three weeks of my life hands down. Need to find something to fill the gap the Olympics filled for the past 20 months of my life.  The next chapter is going to be an interesting one I think.

USA for the win — basketball and thus the Games end

I copped a last-second ticket to the gold medal game between Spain and the USA, jumped into the VIP van with one of the wealthiest men in India, (bet him 100 rmb the US would conduct a basketball clinic to the tune of a 35 point spread, a bet I lost and which proves I remain the planet’s biggest sports dork). The game was back at Wukesong Stadium (site of yesterday’s gold medal baseball game), and in no time I was walking in the sunshine amongst some rapper types and their ladies.

Nice stadium, classic Lenovo seats — mid-court and up in the first loge. Surrounded by frantic fans of Spain, with a good contingent of loud USA-chanters right behind me.

The game? Ummm….. Basketball after Larry Bird is lost on me.  It’s every man for himself, lots of travelling, and no precision teamwork. The old Bird-Parrish-McHale-Johnson teams of the early 80s …. that’s what I like to watch. But, enough bitching. I was at the last event of these Games and digging it.

Spain came out strong, never permitted the USA Dream Team to walk away with it, and actually led for a good portion of the first quarter. Spanish fans were insane, but for the first time in the past two weeks I actually heard some good old fashioned American fan spirit. This is our Game, so shut up and watch how it’s played.

The crowd was the action — as Fester puts it, leave the action photos to the pros with the Bazooka lenses and focus on people. People are the most interesting thing, and sure enough, that was indeed the case today.

I gave up a chance at a closing ceremony ticket. No sports there, I can see fireworks off of Oyster Harbors on the Fourth of July, and there’s a slim chance Zhang Yimou is going to top his opener (famous last words, I owe the dude from India a hundred yuan because the final margin was like ten points, not 35). I rather get a great dinner at the Xian place Mike Mann showed me last Sunday (I’ve since been back and am on my way there now), could Tsingtaos, some “fried rib” (best f$%%&ing thing I’ve ever eaten), “beef on fire” Guizou-style fried rice …..

I’ll watch the action from the bar on the roof of the Hyatt, check out the fireworks over Tienanmen … then call it a night and the end of these Games. I am ready for a swim on the point of Dead Neck, some rug wrestling with the dogs, and a deep breath of Cape Cod air!