Aug. 8, 2008
It's Friday, and the opening Ceremonies are tonight. Although we have already played our first game of the tournament, today the Games will officially kick off.
Unfortunately, our team will not be able to participate in the event because our first two games are in the city of Tianjin, which is a few hours away from Beijing. Traditionally, the ceremonies go on well into the night, and we've been warned that if we made the trip to Beijing, we wouldn't get back to our hotel here in Tianjin until at least 4:00am. As a team, we decided that as much as we would love to march in with the rest of the Canadian athletes and participate in the opening ceremonies, pulling an all-nighter is clearly not the best way to prepare for a game the next day. Especially since we're playing China, who will definitely have the home field advantage with about 99% of the 70 000-seat stadium full of screaming Chinese fans.
It is a little disappointing to have to miss out on such an integral part of the whole Olympic experience, but in the end we're here to play soccer, and so the decision was an easy one.
As I mentioned already, soccer started before the opening ceremonies. Actually, it's the only sport that competes prior to the official start of the games, with women's soccer played on Wednesday and the men's side having competed in their first group games yesterday.
Being the first event of the Games was pretty exciting, and the fact that we came out with a win was even better! Argentina did put up a good fight, though. I guess you could say they're kind of the dark horse of our group, with very few expecting them to get past the group play. We didn't want to underestimate them going into the game, though, because as many of you know, anything can happen in this sport. They managed to get a goal in the second half and at times unsettled us a bit with their strong possession game, but I think it's safe to say that we dominated most of the game. We ended with a 2-1 result, and now we're looking on to the game against China tomorrow (Saturday).
Staying here in Tianjin has been quite an experience. We may not be in Beijing in the midst of all the main Olympic excitement, but we can still feel the Olympic spirit here too. We're staying in a hotel with the other three women's teams in our group (China, Sweden and Argentina) as well as four of the men's teams (Nigeria, Japan, Holland and the U.S.). Walking past players like Ryan Babel (a member of the Netherlands team who also plays for Liverpool) in the lobby on our way to training every day is a small indication of the kind of elite athletes we're surrounded by here at the Olympics. Along with the pride of representing my country, it's an honor to represent UCLA here too. Bruin Pride has definitely traveled all the way to China from Westwood. It's been pretty cool to see first-hand the big presence UCLA has on the U.S. men's team here with Patrick Ianni, Benny Feilhaber and Marvell Wynne all competing for the U.S. and staying in this hotel too. I wish them the best of luck in their games, and I'm sure they'll do great!
Tonight our team will gather after dinner and watch the opening ceremonies on a big screen projector and then head to bed. We'll need a good night's rest to take on China tomorrow. But we are up to the task and look forward to a competitive game and hopefully, a good result.
We trained this afternoon in preparation for our match against Japan tomorrow. We went out for about an hour and went through a technical warm-up and a walk-through to familiarize ourselves with Japan's style and system of play. The team is upbeat and ready to take the next step towards earning three points in our group.
At every training site, the local support staff has been very helpful and welcoming. There are almost 30 Olympic support personnel at every training session, so we have plenty of assistance when we have to move the cast iron goals around the field! Before we load up to leave, the team will pose for pictures with them and then get on the bus to start "the wave" game. It has become easy entertainment and gets pretty loud and amusing - each side of the bus will see how many people will wave back at them and then scream out a running total. The game is evolving, as there are now bonus points for a blown kiss or a salute. Bottom line - these guys will make anything a competition!
Tonight our GM, Cheryl Bailey, organized a sundae bar for the players and staff so we could sit around and be together for the opening ceremony. We had a big projection screen in our meal room and sat and soaked in the Olympic festivities. Not quite the same as being there, but some of the players dressed up in their Ralph Lauren "opening ceremony" outfits and got into the spirit. It was a spectacular opening, and there was plenty of clapping and oohs and aaahs from the team. As our broadcast was all in Chinese, our liaison Sherry, gave us a loose translation, and we sat and waited till the U.S. team marched in.