The expectation is palpable as the Olympics makes the final preparations. As part of my pass I get transport from the hotel to all venues, and it is great to see the drivers having to use a map on thus first day, where they will be fed up of the routes by the end of the month!
I woke to bright sunshine a bit earlier than preferred because Adam, my IOC friend and roommate, had a breakfast meeting.
After breakfast I met up with Adam’s parents and set off to explore the park.
Rather than start in the cars we walked the 15mins to the Olympic Park. The bright sunshine with snow on the mountains made for a pleasant walk round. It was actually warmer than the day I was in London for the summer games!
The stadiums look impressive and the roads, as you would expect for the cost, are good! The only immediate negative is the amount if barriers: everywhere, even once you are in the park. Some of them are to restrict access today because if the Opening Ceremony, but surely not all of them?
I managed to accidentally, yes that is possible with my pass, wander into the Broadcast Centre! An impressive set up and I intend to visit properly later, but a local SIM card was my objective so I headed out. On the way out I bumped into Claire Balding, almost literally!!
We had to be ready for the Opening Ceremony reception quite early, so I came back to the hotel to change into some of the Olympic branded kit we have been given.
My interest in sport has never been high, although I have always enjoyed attending events when I have been. The Opening Ceremony, though, is perhaps the highlight of a games for me. Also you can tell a lot about a country from it’s art, and I think that was true of this. I felt at some points they were trying a bit too hard to be ‘acceptable’ to a Western audience. Just before the televised part they had a Military Police Choir singing ‘Get Lucky’; it just seemed strange.
The atmosphere was interesting. The show was good, but the crowd was not especially enthusiastic. That is until the Russian team appeared! I remember from previous Olympics, but especially London, that we cheer and celebrate everyone- not here, it seems.
I enjoyed the big floating displays, and particularly the ballroom scene from War and Peace. The spinning doves was also effective, I think.
The welcome has been warm and generous by everyone I have met, but I did wonder where the IOC President heard of the Russian’s reputation for hospitality that he mentioned in his speech! I do, however, think he struck a good balance between accepting the effort and welcome the country offers whilst still including some challenging words on some of the political attitudes.
Whilst I admire the desire I find the expectation that a sporting event can bring World Peace is a bit over-reaching, but there is no doubt that there is a unique common peaceful expectation in the air, so it is a good platform to pray that this would extend to the political arena too.
Derek Spain is a guy I met in Vancouver in 2010 where he was a chaplain in the Olympic Village. He published a prayer on his blog for these games, which I think is great.