I finally had the the time to schmooze around Athlete's Village, get myself acclimated and soak in the sights. And what a sight it is!
It was difficult to believe how much it had changed since I had been here, just one month ago. In June, trees were being planted, grass was just popping it's head above the loam and except for the workers, the venue as a whole was a ghost town.
Fast forward four weeks and Athlete's Village is a bustling metropolis. The Athlete's dorms, set up as five quads, each with a center courtyard, are filling up and being decked out with country flags and paraphernalia. Canada has a huge red moose at their doorstep! Banners are draped from rooftops, many are customized with their countries cling wrap for the Plexiglas balconies and at every corner and every public space, huge national flags fly high.
The Athletes walk alone, with teammates and with family and friends. They all are proudly dressed in their team colors. Some are, for all appearances, unaffected by the fact that is The Olympic Games. While others are totally caught up in the moment. They wander the streets (it is a true Village with streets with speed limits and crosswalks!) taking pictures and seeming be in awe of the moment, just like I was.
This is how I met USA diver and metal hopeful, Christina Loukas. I was unabashedly happy, snapping pictures of the huge Olympic Rings on the main green, called Victory Park and heard a very familiar sound behind me…American English! You might think that wouldn't be so noticeable but having been here for a week already, I can honestly say that I haven't run into more than a half a dozen people who were from America.
Waiting until after I took my picture, this large group began assembling themselves under the Rings. The gentleman in the group, whom I correctly assumed was the dad, was the one assigned to take the picture. Wanting to respect the Athlete's privacy but wanting to help an American family, I introduced myself and offered to take a few shots for them. They were thrilled and Christina introduced herself and her entire family.
She said she was from Chicago and that she was a USA 3-meter springboard diver and that today she was showing her family around the Village. They were interested in who I was and what I was doing there. Their reaction was the same as I have found whenever I tell anyone what I do.
Athletes, Games Makers or a spectators on the Tube always seem to say, "Oh my goodness, could I use you!" After we exchanged a few more pleasantries, I wished her luck in her competition on August 3 and promised to keep her in my thoughts and told her to be sure to talk to her coaches and trainers if she needed to take advantage of our services in the Polyclinic!
I am sure this is just the beginning of many tales I will have but for now, it's time to call it a night. My shift begins at 6:15 a.m. tomorrow, which means a 4 a.m. wake up and a 5 a.m. bus to Olympic Park and then a 25 minute walk to Athlete's Village. It's going to be a long but exciting next 15 days!