BEIJING (Aug. 9, 2008) – Last night were Opening Ceremonies and I was fortunate to be able to proudly march in with team USA. It was an eventful and exciting evening...
Team USA walked to the transportation mall at 5:30pm all gussied up in our Ralph Lauren outfits. I personally thought the delegation looked classy, although it was a bit toasty with those coats on. We boarded buses that were designated especially for us and that took us straight to the fencing venue where we had an appointment to be greeted by President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and former President George Sr.! They took the time to take photos with every team and with many individuals as well. I got a personal photo with Laura Bush. She was as nice and gracious as you would expect her to be.
They provided everyone with snacks and drinks while we waited and showed live footage of the festivities from the stadium. At roughly 8:30 USA was called to start marching over to the stadium. That march probably took over half an hour and the path was lined with thousands of spectators and volunteers. The decibel level would rise when they would spot Kobe or one of the other celebs marching with us.
One of the most exciting moments is when you are in the tunnel about to enter the stadium of 91,000 and hearing the echoes of our delegation chanting "U-S-A!" We made our way around the track and waved to the crowd, especially those with USA flags! Hugh McCutcheon (head coach), Marv Dunphy (consultant coach) took advantage of the early exit opportunity they provide after marching around for those who want to head back without staying for the entire ceremony. I know that sounds awful, but we play tomorrow and there's work to be done. Those who stayed probably did not get back to the village until after 1am.
Walking to the buses I chatted with Lindsey Davenport, who we in the volleyball community wish had chosen volleyball over tennis! She comes from a volleyball family. Marv and I had a conversation with Reggie Smith, former major leaguer with the Dodgers and member of their great teams of the late 70s and early 80s of which I was a huge fan as a boy growing up in So. Cal. Marv and I got a photo with Coach K before marching. Yao looks like he's from another planet marching in with his delegation. I was walking behind Dirk Nowitzky yesterday in the village and he (and those like him) can't take ten steps without someone asking for an autograph or wanting a photo taken with them.
We didn't get to watch much of Opening Ceremonies, but I think you'll like what you see!