Today has been the most incredible day. I started bright and early with a 6:30 am workout in the hotel fitness center. Rachael and I had breakfast with Evan Lysacek and then he went off to practice and we went on to the Olympic village by private van. Our driver, Mike Cunningham, took us on a tour of downtown and we saw thousands of people lined up on the street trying to catch a glimpse of the torch passing through. They were smiling and waving and cheering. Excitement was in the air for sure! The special driving lanes for the official transportation vehicles of the Olympic Games made our van ride somewhat easier.
Once we arrived at the village it was just like going through airport security except everyone that helped us through the orientation was so friendly. Many people recognized Rachael as we were getting acquainted with the village and they wished her luck. Such is the spirit of the Olympics that the local Canadian volunteers would be wishing her well when their home country favorite Joannie Rochette is one of Rachael's main competitors.
Our assistant team leader Richard Dalley gave us a quick tour of the village. There was lots of oohing and aahing from Rachael. In fact, sharing this exciting experience with Rachael has been nothing but enjoyable.
I am sharing a two bedroom condo with Frank Carroll, Jim Peterson and Lyndon Johnston. We, too, have already shared many laughs. From everything I have been told by Frank (who has been to nine previous Olympics) and Igor Shpilband (who has been to three) the coaches are getting a major upgrade in the gear we received yesterday and how we are being treated. In 2006, coaches stayed in the village for the first time, but the housing was marginal. This time, the housing is luxury condos. Both Frank and Igor will also be the first two US figure skating coaches to ever walk in the opening ceremonies. They were chosen because they both have coached Olympic medalists. I bumped into Priscilla Hill in the food tent, who is coaching here for Austria, and she gets to walk, too. So does Marina Zueva, who is registered as a coach for Canada, as well as Walter Rizzo, my coaching friend from Italy. Igor tells me all of the coaches from Russia get to walk, too. What I learned very quickly is that when you represent the US as a coach, walking in the opening ceremonies is a privilege you earn.
If you watched the opening ceremonies on TV, I am sure you were as impressed as I was. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I was fortunate that I got to sit next to Rachael's parents and enjoy this special moment with them. Galina Zmievskaya (who has been to five previous Olympics) said she would finally get to enjoy her first opening ceremonies as a spectator because the walking part is not that much fun since it is usually very cold and you stand around for about 3 hours. It just goes to show you that there can be a positive outlook to every situation. Besides Jim, Lyndon and Galina, Yaroslava Nechchaeva and Yuri Chesnichenko, the coaches of Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, also enjoyed the opening ceremonies with us from the stands.
Fun fact of the day: McDonald's is one of the official sponsors of the Olympics and there is a McDonald's restaurant in the food tent. They have a special triple axel sauce to go along with the chicken nuggets. (It is actually the spicy szechwan sauce renamed as a marketing ploy.) Have your skaters check it out if they need some help learning a triple axel. It just might help! LOL jk
Question of the Day: What is the press to athlete ratio for this Olympic Games?
Answer to the Question of the Day: This was the first opening ceremony that was held indoors. This proved to be a good decision since it was raining outside.
P.S. The death of 21 year-old luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from Georgia reminds us all that participating in any sport is a risk and not something we should ever take for granted. It was fitting that the opening ceremony was dedicated to him. Incidentally, he is only the fourth Olympic athlete to ever die at an Olympic Games. The other three also died during training. No athlete has ever died while competing.