The first part of Team USA arrived this morning in London and we are bunking in at the satellite rowing/canoe/kayak village (W4X, W8+, W2-, W2X, M2- and LM4-). It’s been a long 24 hours since we rolled out of Princeton yesterday afternoon, and we have accomplished a lot in that time. The W1X and M8+ will be joining us in a few days, but it will be some time yet before the M4- and M4X will arrive.
The flight over was not my best go at trans-Atlantic travel, and I didn’t get as much rest as I would have liked–especially knowing how busy today was going to be with more commuting, waiting around and processing at the main Village. Nevertheless, I did make it through all of today without napping (more than I can say for most of the Team) and am just now getting ready to head to bed, feeling pretty good about that.
The satellite village is still very quiet–only a few scattered rowing athletes about, despite the German, Australian and Swiss banners all already hanging proudly in their respective dormitory wings. USRowing has a building wing just to ourselves, and each athlete/staff has their own room with en suite bath and double bed. Pretty posh setup for us and I am already unpacked and all wired up with every possible multimedia device (I brought three cameras, two phones, my iPad and my MacBook Pro) which means I am practically in heaven since I also have a nice big window to look out of while I’m working at the desk in my room.
I got a UK cell number up and running which is also a major feat and something I was worried was not actually going to happen given how long it took to get connected to the network this morning AND how long we took poring over the SIM vending machine at the airport trying to decide what features we wanted and how much we wanted to pay. I will miss being an iPhone user over the next three weeks but am happy to have access to a full-featured mobile smart phone while I’m here.
Hopefully despite all of that I will be able to keep myself out of trouble since my last Tweet from the US about baggage fees at the United desk got me in to some hot water with USRowing and the US Olympic Committee. Just to be clear, although we did have to pay $100 upfront for our bags at check in, the US Olympic Committee will be reimbursing athletes for those fees at some point. I didn’t mean for my observation to come across as criticism of one of the USOC’s most important sponsors, United Airlines.
Speaking of sponsors, most of today was spent traveling to, engaging in, and returning from, Team Processing. This was handled very differently than it was four years ago for Beijing, the biggest difference being that the ’08 processing took place in the US, and this time we processed in London. I was so excited for processing–partially for myself, since getting outfitted by Nike and Ralph Lauren is a great experience–but also to watch my teammates who are first-time Olympians go through the system and take it all in. I had a blast processing for Beijing… today wasn’t quite as much fun as that.
The gear: AMAZING. The concepts put together by Nike and RL are a full spectrum of classy, fun, edgy and elegant and there is definitely something for everyone on Team USA in the gear package. I absolutely LOVE it. However, due to time constraints, things got a little hectic and rushed toward the end of the afternoon, and some of us didn’t get a lot of time to finish up the sizing/fitting process. When it came time to choose items to keep in London and items to ship back to the USA (there’s a LOT of gear to try and keep it all with you at the Games), I ended up panic-packing, and didn’t make the best judgment calls on what to pack and what to keep. Between trying to pack my own things, and trying to help my teammates separate and pack their things, I screwed up, and I ended up with only a few sweat shirts, track jackets, and three t-shirts and tanks. How I managed that, I’m not sure. But I was devastated when I got back to my room and unloaded my bag. Logistically I’m now running on a skeleton crew that is not at all representative of the full scale of the 2012 US Olympic kit. I’m really, really sad and can’t believe I did this to myself. Being out at the satellite village, it is unlikely that I will have the opportunity to get any of the other items back with me, which is really disappointing.
Overall, the system for gear outfitting was a little confusing, chaotic and with the time constraints we had it just wasn’t possible to relax or enjoy the experience of trying things on and getting to know the Olympic gear. It was hard for me to watch my teammates scrambling around frantically–misplacing things, jamming things in to bags and panicking instead of being able to enjoy their Olympic processing experience. It was one of my favorite parts about going to Beijing in 2008, and this was just very different. I wish we would have had more time to make sure we got everything right in order to leave with everything we needed to look and feel great during our time in London, but it just didn’t work out that way.
Even still–I should not neglect to mention how AWESOME the USOC staff were at processing today–they handled all of our high-maintenance requests with ease and made us feel very much welcome and at home in London. We would not have made it through today without them and I am very grateful that they were there to take care of us. THANK YOU to everyone who helped me today!
The good news: even though the clothes are nice, we aren’t here for that. We’re here to race. And all of the gear that I need to do that is packed safely here in my room with me. That’s the most important thing, and we will hit the water at Eton Dorney for the first time tomorrow morning to do what we came here to do: row. Now, I have to get some rest because today was the definition of a long day.
Long Live the Dream,