August 5, 2016
Over the past few days we have been having fairly regular arrivals, including a number of quite large teams. Yesterday we welcomed the Men’s 7s Team in, the Swimmers, and the very large cycling Team. It is evident that the same is happening for the range of countries, with people flowing everywhere. The Dining room is quite hectic, and most times queuing is out of the question – if you stand in a queue it will move very slowly as people just seem to move in where they can and no etiquette is evident. Once you realise that, then you need to behave similarly, but it takes a bit of a mental shift to push in without feeling awkward.
The gym is also very busy and it is hard to get access to equipment. There are people running, cycling, lifting, lunging, stretching, jumping, sparring, hoisting, pushing, pulling, shouting, grunting, sweating and not much smiling going on. I remember this phase from previous Games, where there is a gradual build up of tension and focused activity, but it tends to reduce as competition gets underway and people are out at venues or doing periodised recovery work.
There are a number of Russian athletes and support staff about. A large group arrived in mass once the IOC had given the clearance on those able to verify their drug testing status. Given the situation, it is noticeable that they are moving about in quite large groups – presumably a sense of strength in numbers against any harsh comments or reactions.
There is also the occasional surprise as some sporting icons appear from nowhere and typically pass on by. People like Raphael Nadal, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, the Williams sisters and many other lesser known but still recognisable stars. People are often asking for photos and buzzing round them like flies. At times they agree to have photos taken, but often, and understandably, they do not. They might ignore, put their hand up to indicate stay away, or just keep moving on without engaging at all. We have had some examples of our excited team members who manage to get a photo, several who have seen well-known figures, and a few who have been treated with indifference or rejection when they ask for a photo, It must be very hard for such figures and little wonder that some stay out of the Village or keep themselves closeted away. Our own Sonny-Bill Williams is getting a similar but lesser response, especially from countries where rugby, league and boxing are well supported. We have the Irish Team in our building and Sonny has been doing some training with their boxers as a way of adding some variety to the usual rugby training.
I have been having an increasing number of people wanting to talk about matters, which helps create a feeling of making a contribution . As expected, this is often the case with the less well supported sports who do not get much input from providers in the lead up to the Games, but also, having got to know most of the athletes over previous Commonwealth and Olympic Games, it is easier to have casual conversations that lead into performance-related discussions. Typically this dynamic will build in the coming days and run on through.
At the moment preparations are happening for out Team function, which is happening tonight. There will be a number of dignitaries, like the Governor General and his wife, some NZ Embassy People, and various NZ Olympic Committee personnel. After various speeches, the Flag Bearer will be announced. There are a number of likely possibilities, and some of the decision relates to who is in the Village already and would be planning to march in the Opening Ceremony tomorrow night. The person(s) who will receive the honour is/are a good choice and has/have been a high profile athlete with great success over quite a period. There will be a slight twist of intrigue in the announcement as well (as hinted at above).
Sport Psychs in Abundance
My colleague, David Galbraith (Sport Psychologist) arrived into the Village yesterday and it was good to have an additional member add to our contributions. As he has had quite major involvement with the Women’s Football Team in the lead-up period, he has travelled today to spend a couple of days with that Team in Northern Brazil. Unfortunately they lost their first game against the US (2-0), although that was somewhat expected, given the different rankings. However, the next game against Colombia is quite crucial for them, so having David there will add something to their efforts. Today, I also helped to assist in the arrival of another NZ sport psychologist (Campbell Thompson) who has received a Prime Minister’s scholarship to be able to come across and observe the Olympic environment. He will be staying outside the Village (as will David for a number of days), but will be able to come in on a day pass (9am-9pm) each day. Campbell will be here for about 12 days. It will be good to have us here together, although we will need to be careful that we do not be too overwhelming in numbers so that people scurry off when we approach. We will need to work out how best to function so that we can remain unobtrusive.
In the same vein there was a gathering of international sport psychologists at lunch today. Pete Harbrel, a US psychologist who has been to NZ a few times sent out word to his international network to suggest we get together – we have done the same at previous Games. So, we met at the Casual Dining area (an outdoor venue) and got to find out who was here and a bit more about each of our country’s stance to people and services in this field. We had representative from Australia, the US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Singapore, Austria, and a few others as well. It seems that Canada has the biggest contingent (11), but there was also wide coverage across the various nations.