Aug. 18, 2014

Hope this finds everyone well!

Today marked the second day of competition here at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, as well as the first day of off-site CEP activities. On-site at the village there are booths and exhibitions for our athletes to go around to daily, either when they have free time, are on the way to the dining hall, or when they’re just walking around meeting other athletes. Yet there are also three activities that get the athletes off-site and out of the village for a few hours.

One of these activities is an excursion to a school here in Nanjing, where athletes and staff are educated on the eco-friendly practices here in China. They walk through the lowered water plant beds, plant lotus flowers, and get to see some flowers that myself and the other Young Ambassadors planted in March. They then continue on to learn traditional Chinese ink writing. Masters in the craft teach them on Chinese paper, and they can create a written piece to take home. After they all become masters in ink writing, they learn the process of tea growing, cultivating, processing, and ceremony in China.

The second off-site option is an Adventure Treasure Hunt trip. Our athletes are put on teams and go around a national forest here in Nanjing searching for clues to a puzzle. They must collect all puzzle pieces and navigate their way through the forest and back to the activity zone. After that, they go through a series of team building activities, all designed to promote communication and teamwork, and have our athletes interact with individuals from other countries. Language differences, leadership differences and communication differences are only some of the challenges our athletes have to work through to walk on planks successfully, bounce a tennis ball ten times on a drum, gather water bottles without touching certain parts of the ground, and many more activities.

The last off-site trip is to the Nanjing Old City Wall. This is the most historic and sight-seeing trip of all the off-site activities and our athletes participate in traditional Chinese ink printing, fly kites, build bricks to go in the Nanjing Youth Olympic Museum, and get a brief history tour of ancient China. After they go through these stations, participants are able to engage in some hands-on activities and play with Chinese toys, do paper-cutting activities and make various Chinese crafts to take home as souvenirs.

On this first day of off-site activities, I went to the Nanjing Old City Wall along with our track and field athletes, and taekwondo athlete and coach.

Unfortunately there was absolutely no wind to help with flying kites, my favorite activity at the site, but the unanimous favorite activity was brick making. Chinne Okoronkwo, a triple jumper, explained it perfectly when she said: “Brick making was fun. It was really cool to see the wall and that people made and built the bricks by hand. We only made one brick and they made all this.” The bricks our athletes made have their hand print, name and “USA” written on them, and will be put in the Nanjing Olympic Museum that they’re erecting in honor of the Youth Olympic Games.

The athletes had a great time, got to visit an amazing piece of Chinese history, and participate in all the activities. I dare say we accomplished a lot since I saw an athlete or two sleeping on the bus on the way back to the village!

As athletes and teams begin wrapping up their competitions, we’re encouraging them more and more to get out on these activities. They’re a lot of fun, a great way to meet other people, and are all once in a lifetime experiences in China.

Hope you all are well, and talk to you soon!

Jess