Ali Wood's Olympic Report - Aug. 11, 2008

Aug. 16, 2008, 1:29 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (Aug. 11, 2008) -- After all the events of the last 72 hours, I am finally getting a chance to reflect on the Opening Ceremonies.  What a night!  After we met Dubyah, who has a very firm handshake and is apparently a big bvb fan and more specifically a big Misty May fan,  we hung out as long as we could in the fencing hall before they sent us over to the National Indoor Stadium for staging. This is where we were to wait with all the other countries until we get called to march in. USA is 140 of about 200 countries as they use the Chinses alphabet, so we are near the end.

This stadium is not air conditioned well, so we were all sweating to death in our wool garb, but boy we look good!  They brought us sack lunches consisting of a piece of bread, cookies, a banana, warm milk, and two Snickers...a bit odd and not very filling considering we had 3 more hours to stand in the heat.

We staged next to the basketball team, so it was cool to see all the NBA guys. They are so much bigger than they look on tv!  It is also cool to see each country's outfit. Some are pretty funny...check out Spain and the red shoes!  Some look cool, and by that I mean airy. We are all jealous of the Tongans.  As expected, Italy and France looked stylish.
Yao Ming came through and was mingling with the USA basketball guys. He makes LeBron look like a shrimp. 

Once we were called up to start our march, we headed out of the Indoor Stadium and out across the parking lot towards the Bird's Nest.  Along the way there were hundreds of volunteers cheering for us and welcoming us to Beijing. This is a very welcome departure from the reception that US athletes often get abroad.

I don't think there are words to describe walking through the tunnel and into a stadium of 90 cheering fans, but I will sum it up like this...WOW!  The infield had to be 95F, our feet hurt,  and we could barely hear ourselves think, but it was amazing.  We kept wondering who and how the cauldron would be lit. It was so high and there were no stairs.  Someone said a javelin thrower was going to throw a lit javelin. Phil was hoping Yao Ming would dunk the flame into the cauldron. I figured they were going to use a zip line of some sort, like Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan.  (Ok, did I just date myself or what?). I wasn't too far off, but the lap around the top of the stadium across the movie screen was awesome.  Not sure how they will top that in London, unless they shoot Sebastian Coe out of a cannon.

After all this we needed some serious sleep. Luckily the first USA matches were scheduled for 6 pm.