The athletes were instructed to be downstairs by 7. There was a briefing of what to expect, a short list of dos and don'ts and then the march began! Just in case you're not completely aware of what several thousand uniformed athletes standing around in a group looks like here you go:
We were told the walk was approximately 20 minutes but everyone I talked to said it was much longer than that. Our best guess as we weren't timing is about 30-35 minutes. We had lots to occupy us on the journey though: raving fans, enough security to storm the Whitehouse, and of course other athletes from Canada with which to converse with. It did seem foreboding for a short time on the walk. It had rained steadily the day before due to the spillover from the coast being hit with a tropical storm and for a little while it looked like the skies might open up again. Sympathetic volunteers were handing out travel sized panchos as we passed them by but luckily the weather held up.
Close to the end of the walk, 5-10 minutes from the stadium.
Upon arrival at the stadium the athletes were funneled into what looked like a service entrance and since the countries entered the stadium one at a time the wait was quite long before we were even able to enter the building much less make our way onto the floor.
Waiting to enter the stadium!
The wait seemed infinitesimal however when weighed against the incredible energy and overwhelming atmosphere created by our entry into the stadium. Not only was every person in the stadium on their feet cheering but you could FEEL their encouragement and fervor in the air. It was as if the entire stadium had become saturated with positive energy and with every breath you were able to draw more of it into you.
About to walk into the stadium.
This elicited hope, resilience, anticipation, pride, and a myriad of other emotions. The combination and summation of the cornucopia of emotions created by the impassioned atmosphere was plain to see on the athletes faces and presented in one of 2 ways. The former being an overwhelming awe of the situation resulting in a slack-jawed reverence akin to a 7 year old walking into an enormous candy store. The latter being that same 7 year old coming to the realization that he has enough money to buy whatever he wants in the store: an elation that cannot be contained within a cool visage. Legions of athletes, their shining faces painting a portrait happiness personified. The metaphor of a child on Christmas doesn't even do the situation justice because for countless athletes the odyssey has lasted so much longer than a year. This, for many, is a lifetime dream finally realized.
Canadian athletes taking it in. I'm near the bottom right. (Photo property of the Toronto Star).
That is it for now. I'll wrap up the rest of the ceremonies in a post tomorrow. We have one more practice day before the tournament begins but I will keep the updates coming :)