Thursday, 24 July 2014

O What a Night!

There had been a lot of “discussion” about our Opening Ceremony outfits in the run up to the Games – to the extent that some athletes felt rather unsupported by the general public, but I was really excited to be taking part in the Ceremony, as it is something I have only ever seen on TV in the past.
Initially, it seemed that there would be an awful lot of hanging around that day, but actually it became rather a rush to actually make the 2pm bus up to the village (the short press conference that morning dragged out over about 3 hours, so we only made it back to Irvine for lunch at 1:30pm). I’m not sure if it says something about how often I wear dresses, but I was getting onto the bus when I realised that I’d left my dress hanging up in our room – hence another headlong run back through the hotel!!
Perfect for carb-loading!
A 2pm bus did seem rather early for an evening ceremony, but it did take the best part of an hour to get up to Dalmarnock (where the Village was), and it turned out that the bus had to arrive at the “transport mall” in a pre-booked slot. Still, it meant that we could check out the various coffee/barista facilities on offer, and I had the chance to spend some time getting to know Hayley better, as we’ve only really met at races before.
We were given a timetable of “5pm dinner, 6pm change, 7pm photos, 8:45 line up to parade” but we interpreted that slightly liberally, as the main dining room has food available 24 hours a day, so a set dinnertime is rather meaningless. Ross was finishing his carb-depleting and joining me in carb-loading so we spent a while in the dining hall getting stuck-in, with Hayley being slightly envious of us (as she wasn’t starting her carb-load until the next day).
Athletics Team

Marathon team

We were sharing the Athletics portion of Scotland Street with the shooters who had come down from Carnoustie for the Opening, so had to get changed 5 to a room, but this only added to the exciting party atmosphere. It was great to see everyone dressed up - other nations obviously thought the same thing as they all hung out of their accommodation taking pictures as we lined up for our formal sport-specific  photos. While other sports were being snapped, Ross and I nipped up to  “Casual Dining”  to check out the smoothies they made up for us (I nearly came a cropper with mine when we were all told to fling our hands in the air for the overall Team Scotland picture afterwards!!).

As the host nation, we had to parade in at the back, so although it meant a lot of time just standing around at the end of Scotland Street in the village, it did mean that we watched many other nations walk past us to the exit of the village. Some people looked like airline stewards/stewardesses – smart but rather nondescript. I preferred some of the bright flowing costumes of the African nations, or the green showercap (!) headgear of Sierra Leone....and there’s the traditional overgrown schoolboy look (blazers, kneelength shorts, long socks and smart shoes) of Bermuda!!
Libby had been at the rehearsal 2 days earlier so had warned us that it would run late, but we did seem to line up for an awfully long time (which caused me a lot of foot/heel pain by the end of the night/the next day). I think it took us about 90 mins to walk half a mile, but as we were behind Wales in the queue, there was a lot of singing banter (Hayley practically learnt all the words to Flower of Scotland by the time we made it to Celtic Park due to the number of time we sang it!).

The Red Arrows
Waving the flag as we sang
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see most of the ceremony as the Athletes’ Parade is near the end, but it sounded good from what we could hear – and I was recording it at home to watch in a couple of weeks. There were a couple of screens near the Emirates Arena so we saw a few nations parade in. The sun set, lights came on, the red arrows flew overhead, the temperature cooled (so we were all actually quite glad to have our tartan jimonos), and the excitement built. People started jostling around to get to the front (it’s not often that endurance runners find themselves ahead of relay runners), and then suddenly we were handed coloured lights to put on our fingers! Singing with everyone, lights in the air, watching Euan wave the flag facing us really brought out the emotions in everyone. I find it hard to describe the feelings I had, but I’ll not forget them!
We were held back at the top of the ramp into the Stadium to avoid the “crowds going wild” for Scotland and taking away from Wales’ moment of glory, and it made you feel rather nervous as we could see how full it was – everywhere you looked was a sea of faces! Then we were off......what can I say?.......
Walking, waving, smiling, giggling with Hayley and Ross – so much to look at, senses and emotions overloaded, so happy and proud...
Look at their faces as he fails to open the baton!
As Team Athletics, we were meant to be “walking in and walking out” to get the bus back to Irvine, but I had been allowed to stay until the end of the ceremony (I pleaded my case as Libby was taking the Athlete’s Pledge at the end, and so I wanted to stay and watch my roomie – and it made sense for us to travel back together afterwards). What a night – listening to speeches, standing on my chair, singing away, and trying not to laugh when they couldn’t open the baton to get the Queen’s message out. We had been showered in confetti when we walked into the stadium, and were again at the end as everyone got up and danced – but this time, the confetti was all good luck wishes from schoolchildren all over Scotland – what a lovely touch!!
Afterwards I linked up with Libby and Mikhail (it turned out that I was the best guide for leading them through crowds of athletes – being a marathon runner has it’s advantages – sorry Mikhail) to get a lift back to Irvine (via the foodhall in the village clearly!!). We actually only got back half an hour after the others on the 2am.....but what a day to remember forever!!!!

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