London Called and I Answered!!!
What an awesome adventure I just took upon. I am so blessed to have had this great opportunity and having my goal fulfilled. Thanks to my wonderful mother-in-law Brenda who provided me with the best 50th birthday present...so memorable..
What the Olympics means to me is:
A gathering of the best athletes in the world who have trained tirelessly for many years to make it to this pinnacle of their sporting career.
A gathering of fans who love to cheer on their country's athletes and in those 16 days of sporting glory, see the best of the us...the joys, the heartbreak, the human heart in action.
A gathering of volunteers who want to be a part of such a grand scale event. This was on my bucket list and I am happy to cross it off, but only long enough to add back again.
The new friends I have made, the old teammates I reacquainted with again, the retired Olympians I got to congratulate for all their efforts and the new Olympians I had the pleasure to shake their hand and let them know that we are all so proud of them...medal or not..
As athletes we are very hard on ourselves, always striving for that perfection..it is only with the wisdom of age and the passing of time that you realize how special these moments are.
As fans, I encourage you to get involved...be a volunteer for your local sporting team or local tournament...who knows where the road may lead you. We all cannont be Olympians and Olympians cannot get there with you.
Day 16 - The last day of the Olympics...so sad.. After 2 weeks, I finally was able to get into the indoor volleyball arena. The crowd was packed with Brazillians & Russian fans..LOUD...what a fantastic match as the sleeping bear was woken up and came from match point down in the 3rd to beat them in 5!! Good thing as the seat I was in was £150 and i was feeling bad for those that paid good money for a mediocre first half of the game.
Watching the closing ceremonies on TV like i have watched most of the games, of course with Britain doing so well all we saw was the British!!
Quiet few days, getting last minute sight seeing done...pictures are posted under London pictures for what I have been up to...
Sunday - I am going to the Men's VB Gold match, I was humbled to get a ticket from Randy Starkman's brother - by divine intervention!!! thanks Randy!!
Friday - worked at COH night shift after waking up for the day shift. spent afternoon watching tv at the BBC Olympics. In the evening, COH celebrated the silver medals won by the 8's rowing. I was able to assist them as they signed 60 jackets, 20 flags, 6 huge Molson Bottles for charity.
Saturday August 4 - Traveled out to Windsor Castle (2.5 hrs by tube/bus) to see if the Queen was greeting visitors as she goes there for the weekend. SPECTACULAR!!! see the pics in the London Pictures section.
Day 9 - Sunday - worked the day...tired...lots of standing. I have been able to help out Isabelle Charest (speedskater) as we greet the athletes, so I was able to congratulate Brent Hayden (bronze) & Ryan Cochrane (silver) on their medals and assist them as they signed jackets & flags.
Went out for dinner to a famous Pakastani/Indian restaurant 'Takkays' .
I was the friendly Canadian today as I helped out another Londoner this morning in the pouring rain by letting her share my umbrella. Ironic. On the way home at night, this young girl wanted to sit beside me so I engaged in a conversation with her and gave her a Canada pin.
I shared a cool moment on the tube as we popped out aboveground, the guy across from me was watching the 100m replay on his iphone. I was trying to look at the reflection thru the window but couldn't see anything. So I asked if that was the final and he said yes, do you want to see it? So I sat beside him and we watched Bolt win. Where was Bell, true Olympic Spirit moment!!!
Only foreigners talk on the tube. Londoners read, i
Did door duty for Prince Harry today for his 30minute visit. details to come, pictures posted.
The building was essentially 'secured' and I was 'guardduty' for one of the main doors in the house. Choose to be outside and it paid off as Harry walked thru the empty corridor within a couple of feet of me. he was too busy listening to Sylvie Bernier (assisant Chef de Mission) to say hello, but we made eye contact briefly!! Again as he left the room, he passed within feet. He spoke to the medallists in the room and didn't venture to far from his 'schedule'. He was there and cheered when the women's 8 rowers won silver medal.
With my vb peeps as we scored some tickets for beach volleyball, hottest ticket in town!
So an update on the last few days...
Sunday - Spent the afternoon in Convent Garden market...can you believe no rose painters!"!!, may have to come here n sell my paintware!!..
I worked the evening shift today and it was cut short as my former teammate Bonnie & her husband Brad Kilb came for a visit to COH. I was able to spend a couple of hours as an Olympian in COH and socialize with them!! This basically means that I can turn my badge over and show my 'picture' as official status. Bonnie was explaining her job as the Technical Official for indoor volleyball. Very proper and strict. They have to wear official uniforms (including skirt, scarf and hat) as they get on the bus to travel to arena, change once they get there, and put uniform back on when leave the arena. For this small inconvenience they were able to go to the opening & closing ceremonies!!! (check Bonnie Macrae-Kilb if you are on FB for her pictures). They are doing the stats, which means one person in the group of 3 is the caller and the other 2 need to enter (player number/ degree of move, result of action) all while looking ahead always and trying to hear over the earpiece in the midst of all the noise. Volleyball both indoor & beach have the best atmosphere and it is always great to hear of first timers watching for the first time, they are hooked!!! One of the 'celebs' that came thru COH tonight was Sex and the City's Samantha, Kim Catrall. Bonnie and i took a pic with her and will post once I get it. Took the tube home at night which I felt very safe.
Monday - back on the day shift so early morning and doing what everyone else does on the tube, sleep!!... Good thing I always get a seat as I am at the end of the line. The morning shift was a little slower, so I sat and watched the beach volleyball match (CAN vs NOR men) with Jolan Storch (COC legal counsel & former vb player) and Sylvie Bigras. I was posted at the door leading to the washroom so i had a glimpse of all the exciting & nervous family and friends of the athletes.
Today was the first medal celebration for the bronze synchro diving medal at the COH. There is a 500 person capacity with 150 of that made up of staff & catering. Unfortunately with all the media coming in to cover the event, the first shift of volunteers had to leave early so that room was allowed for the extra flow of media. So I missed seeing that first ceremony. Being in Trafalgar Square means also that the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are beside COH. I walked thru the Portrait gallery and saw beautiful paintings of the Tudor era.. spectacular.. Tired from standing most of the day so headed home and watched the BBC most of the evening.
Tuesday - Had a day off from COH, so put on my tourist hat and went to visit the Queen. The day was cool and threatening rain (actually rained but I was inside for tea & scones, so missed it all). You can check my day in the pictures section.
I have been here for a week already and have not experienced any lineups that aren't reasonable, no cramming on the tubes as I always get a seat and no lineups in the normal tourist areas...with 4 million Londoners exiting the city, it is great for us tourists!!.. As you can see in the front of Buckingham Palace hardly anyone around.
Did coffee & shopping at the Queen's store all day long!!!
Day 4 - First full day of the Olympic games was spent working at the my post, front steps of the new Canada House that PM Harper just opened back in June. I was a 'Walmart ' greeter as i was screening guests for the corporate lunches taken place today. My job entails watching Trafalgar square, ironically nothing Olympic-like going on there; chatting to all the London-Canadians who want to come and party with fellow Canadians, unfortunately the COH is not open to the public and waving to the tourists on top of the double-decker tour buses as they driveby.
Met the Canadian Tenors again and chatted with them about the Opening Ceremonies that they were lucky to attend last night. A fellow volunteer was asked to escort them to the Stadium (since she is a Quebecer living in London). Ironically she had no idea who they were...i quickly explained who they are and what they do. So she had a fantastic evening, walking them down to the water to grab a ride to the stadium. Took a ride on a boat/barge belonging to Circque Soleil owner, Gil, complete with champagne. Gil dared the Tenors to sing the National Anthem on the tube. So when they were on the tube (the continuous one) they took the dare and sang a rousing rendition of O Canada and then God Save the Queen. I will try to post here if I can, if not, it is on FB.
Goal today was to watch Binstock/Reader beachvb first game...so find a pub for a pint (you can actually drink outside the pub). We headed over to Maple Leaf Pub and watched the games there.... so on to tomorrow....
It is one hour before the start of the Opening Ceremonies and I am here with my hosts Tom, Yolanda and their friend Ron waiting to watch on TV the big opening on BBC. I did want to recap the last few days of my journey for my non-FB followers (those on FB will be given a review from what I have been posting on my Diane Ratnik - Volleyball Facebook page).
So back to Monday night leaving TO for Heathrow. Ironically I was stuck on the tarmac for 1hr due to the lighting storm in TO. I thought this was my transition for the London rain. 7.5hrs later landing in beautiful sunny and hot London on Tuesday morning. I was prepared for the horror stories of the long waits going thru customs, possibly 1-3hrs. To my surprise, we got our bags right away and essentially walked right up to the first available officer, no wait at all. I hoped on the tube and took the hour long train ride to Cockfoster's Station to meet up with my host family. Again, no horror story on the tube, no crowds at all.
I met my host family a wonderful couple living in London for the past 20 years but originally from Etobicoke & Guelph. I have settled in comfortably with them and made myself at home!! I had my first 'tea' as we spent the afternoon getting acquainted along with another volunteer Jenn (my sightseeing buddy).
WED July 25: Day 1 in London - i traveled on my own towards Trafalgar Square (TS)and the site of Canada Olympic House (COH). After the longest escalator ride of my life, I popped out at Leicester Square one of the theater districts of London. i had been here almost 30 years ago, but seeing it now, older & wiser, this city is spectacular!! Walking thru TS looking for COH, I was greeted with blue skies and the glorious red maple leaf flag atop the beautiful Canada House. I met up with Jenn and we did some bag-stuffing for a couple of hours with some other volunteers. Since this would be the first day we could do some sightseeing we bought a double decker bus tour pass and hopped on to our first bus. We actually enjoyed our tour guide and stayed on the same bus for 2.5hrs!!!! Wow London is fantastic and so much to see and take in...it is overwhelming. Will definitely need to come back and do some more intricate tours. We also traveled on a boat cruise on the Thames River, so cool.
THURS July 26 Day 2 in London - Today was our orientation meeting from 12-3pm when all the volunteers gathered to get briefed on the protocol and duties that we will need to perform in COH. The lunch was fabulous and later in the evening I was introduced to the Executive Chef, who is from the Chateau Frontenac!!!
After tea in the 'Crypt' Museum, my hosts and I headed over thru TS to 10 Downing Street to see the Torch relay run by. We 'qued' with the rest of the massive crowd on White Hall street just steps from the beautiful Horse Guard Parade Venue were beach volleyball is to be played, to see the spectacle go by. Olympic fever is starting to grip the Londoners and I didn't find any naysayers around.
In the evening I was able to put on my 'non-competing' Olympian attire and attend the HBC/Media Reception, the first official function at COH. It was great to see many ole friends from volleyball there as they are in various functions with COC. Not being in the 'big arena' for a decade, i felt right at home and didn't miss a beat!!
L-R: Sylvie Bigras, Mary Henderson
Day 3 - Fri July 27 - First day of volunteer duty!! What a first big day it was as this was the official opening of COH. I was greeting guests at the main door as they came to attend the reception hosted by the GG of Canada with special guests Michelle Jean and the Canadian Tenors. Unfortunately I am not able to use my camera while on-duty so will have to have pics in my mind's eye. On my post as the guests were leaving, I was privy to an impromptu Happy Birthday sung to a guest by the tenors in the grand foyer, so cool. Ended early today and on the tube ride did my first official trade in the huge industry of 'pin trading' - got a rare pin already. Headed back 'home' to watch the closing ceremonies on the comfort of the couch.
OMG!!!! Really there is nothing more to say than that!!!
Oh My God: I can't believe I will be flying out tomorrow ;
Oh My God: I can't believe my dream set Jan 1/12 is coming to fruition;
Oh My God: I can't believe that I am part of the Olympics again;
Oh My God: I can't wait to see what unfolds in the next month
Oh My God: THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
For those that have known me outside of the volleyball world, you know that I am pretty calm, cool and not very excitable. Even those inside the vb world, may know me as calm, cool and not very excitable.. Well, I gotta tell you that I have been all that up until today!!
It is one thing to make a dream on a vision board, or write a goal on a piece of paper or just daydream about a desire in your life. Now, it is a totally different when that one thing is just a finger tip away.
I AM EXCITED, JOYOUS, NERVOUS AND FEELING LIKE A KID AGAIN!!!
MY GOAL IS TO BE A "YES WOMAN" and see what where that takes me!!!
As an athlete for many years, the coaches would set goals for us and plan out our 4-year cycle with qualifying for the Olympics as the main goal every quad. It is amazing looking back how short 4 years is and how long it can be.
When I first made the goal of wanting to be in the Olympics I was 13 watching the 1976 Montreal Olympics. When I was a freshman at University of Michigan in 1981 (picture above), my goal was to one day be on the national team (not knowing this was the team that tries to qualify for the Olympics). One year later, as a rookie on the national team, our far-away goal was to make it to LA.
As of June 1984, we had still not qualified for the LA Games. There was a remote chance that due to the Communist Eastern Bloc boycott (a different world back then) we may be one of the 3 teams selected to replace Russia, East Germany and Cuba. During lunch one day in Germany on a training week, Coach Lorne Sawula walked in and announced to the team, that YES we are one of the teams going - replacing Cuba.
I looked at Tracy Mills and that moment is engraved in my mind to this day. I had an out of body experience, chills and all with the realization that my dream set 9 years earlier was coming true. Truly unforgettable!!! What a powerful feeling to have experienced. The Opening Ceremonies was the absolute Thrill of a Lifetime!!
For the 1996 Atlanta Games, we achieved the dream by beating Dominican Republic at the Continental Cup in Winnipeg. As a 34 year old athlete (old at that time, again different era), I was realizing that there is no age barrier to accomplishing goals and pursuing dreams.
In Atlanta, I savoured every moment. Took it all in.. gone was the wide-eyed innocence & ignorance of youth as I was in 1984, but knowing that many had tried this long road and had not made it to the finish line, and I was having a second chance, I was going to capture it all.
Remember, in 96, internet was just getting mainstream. Ironically, I had a "blog" going back then. I had each gal fill out a daily sheet of questions of what happened that day. We faxed it back to Winnipeg to our team dentist who would then put it on the internet for a few others to follow. hmmm wonder if those notes are still in cyberspace....
Now in London, I get to fulfill a dream again - To be a part of the Olympics which has been embedded in my psyche for most of my life. I get to assist this year's athletes and their families and make it their most memorable moment.
I woke up early this morning with my mind already in London!!! I have the "butterflies" in my stomach and the OMG!! feeling just as I did as an athlete. I can feel the energy of excitement and nerves that all the participants get as they inch closer to their goal.
My goal is to bring the excitement of the Games to you for an insider's point of view. I hope I can do that......
til I write from London!!!!
OMG - Dream Big!! because one day your dreams will come true!!
So, it looks like I may be on a somewhat impossible mission while in London for my ole teammate Sue Dunton, from the 83 FISU Games team. You see our team "thing" was the punk sunglasses that year and no one wore them better (or more often) than Sue.
Recently at our team reunion in Ottawa, I inquired if Sue ever got her sunglasses back after the "official photos"?? You would think Prince Chuck would have enough pairs that surely he could see how reluctant Sue was to give them up in the first place.
So I will do my best, seeing that I am right down the street from Chuck's mother's house to see if I can make my friend happy again. 30 years is a long time not to return an item!!