Two Important Events
August 9, 2016
On Thursday night we held our Team Function – the occasion where we gather as a whole for the first time, take some photos, have some speeches and announce the flag bearer. There was some debate about whether to hold it in a traditional meeting hall (the Chef de Missions’ Hall) or in an outdoor arena, where we had done the induction/orientation for the Rowers.The things working against the arena were uncertainty about the weather (with advanced planning and setting up needed), concerns about disturbing others, and the fact that there is a thin layer of dust on the seating areas that might not suit the black blazer gear being planned for. On the other hand the outdoor atmosphere would be great , the lighting good, and the constraints of a meeting hall could make things very ordinary.
Late afternoon the decision was made to go for the arena and the tasks for setting up got underway – moving seats down, sweeping away as much of the dust as possible, setting up a sound system, and putting the kakahu (cloak for the Flag Bearer) on the clothing dummy ready for the announcement. In the early evening people started to appear in their ‘Number Ones’ and the gear looked very smart. We got some photos underway, and in due course the various dignitaries arrived – the Governor General, Sir Jerry Matapaeri, Lady Janine, and their entourage, and the President and Secretary General of the NZ Olympic Committee.
Procedures were opened by Trevor Shailer, then Rob Waddell spoke, followed by Maike Stanley (NZOC President) and then Sir Jerry. Then the announcement was made for the Flag Bearer/Team Leader – or for the first time two Leaders Pete Burling and Blair Tuke (Sailers). With advance knowledge, planning had taken place to have two cloaks available for the occasion. Following this, we had a performance by a Samba group from Maguera (the Favela Social Project we have been associated with). All together it was a great night.
This occasion led on last night to the Opening Ceremony. Initially I wasn’t going to march, as the number of athletes intending or able to go was going to be small, and the rain of athletes to staff needed to be balanced. However, late in the day I was asked if I wanted to march, so decided to take the opportunity. Those of us going – around 50 in total – got changed into our Opening Ceremony gear, left our Village area at around 5.20pm and walked out to where a massive fleet of buses was lined up ready to transport us to the Stadium.
After quite a walk in order of countries, we eventually got onto the buses and took of for the venue, some 45 minutes away. The bus trip was a bit arduous but we engaged in some chatter and a few travel games to pass the time. When we arrived we went into a holding venue – the Volleyball Stadium – where we were entertained for a time with some banter, over loud music, mexican waves and trying to bounce large beach ball up to the top seating. Then, around 8pm they started to broadcast the main stadium ceremony and pretty soon after the countries were ushered out in sequence to get ready for the walk into the stadium. We followed a winding cordoned off pathway that went backwards and forward (a bit like lines in large airport immigration queue). There were local people lined up along the way who met us with great enthusiasm and humour. We got constant references to the ‘All Blacks’ and calls for a haha and it was all very good-natured and vigorous.
Along the way, there was some subtle (and sometimes not so) manoeuvring by team members to get positioned on the right hand side of the line-up to ensure that they were positioned for the possibility of getting on camera (I say they, but I admit I was doing a bit of the same). At times this meant the we were almost in single file, but as we got closer things narrowed down into the gateway into the stadium and there was a an inevitable spread. It took about 45 minutes of walking to arrive at the tunnel into the Stadium. The excitement rose as we got closer and then we entered the stadium to a lot of noise, energetic volunteers, bright lights and lots of people waving and shouting. It was a little disorienting for a start, but we soon got used to the various mix of noise, movement, lights and energy. There were lots of phones out taking pictures (many selfies) and a real buzz. We did out circuit and then joined other countries in the middle whilst the rest of the countries came in. The Refugee athletes got a really great reception, as, of course, did the Brazilian Team.
We then moved into the various speeches, flag raising and lighting the flame. I and several others cut out before the final stages, knowing that things were running late and that there were early buses available to return us to the Village. I left the stadium at around 11.45pm and was back in my room at around 1am. Altogether it was worth going for, and, most importantly it signified the start of competition tomorrow, There will be a distinct change evident in the morning.