Going for gold: the Olympic diary of rower James Chapman (Part XI)
I’ve just got back from the AOC’s Australian team reception at the Sofitel Wanda Beijing, where my 42-year-old crewmate, James Tomkins, has just been named as Australia’s Olympic flag-bearer for tonight’s Opening Ceremony at the Bird’s Nest.
It was no surprise given Shark’s record: Beijing is his sixth Olympics, he’s bagged three Olympic gold nuggets since Seoul ’88 and he’s highly revered by not only his fellow rowers, but plenty of other Aussie athletes in the team.
The function was good fun; Natalie Bassingthwaite belted out the National Anthem, Princess Mary and Prince “Aussie Freddie” Frederick of Denmark were mingling, and we got to mix some Olympic stories with the rest of the Aussie team, as well as sharing news on what’s been happening back in Oz.
Earlier in the day, I met PM Kevin Rudd and his wife Therese at the official Australian flag-raising ceremony inside the Olympic village. Kevin ’07 chatted to the rowers for quite a while, but unfortunately I had to dash off for some post-training re-fueling before I could ask him about his time as a diplomat at the Australian Embassy in Beijing in the late 1980’s.
Eating and drinking schedules have been really important, though, as the humidity has been overbearing on some days. For some of our training sessions, we’ve been having ice-baths before rowing, and we’ve even shortened some sessions because of the intensity of the Beijing heat. Ice-baths and Powerade slushies have been a saviour!
The rowing course is awesome. It’s huge! 10 lanes wide! One downside, though, is that the heat haze often reduces visibility down to about 500 metres. And there are volunteers everywhere, always ready to help. It seems if you miss throwing some rubbish in the bin, there’s someone there before you’ve got time to pick it up.
We’re all looking forward to the Opening Ceremony tonight – at 8.08pm on 08/08/08. Easy to remember! We’ve learnt that eight is considered a lucky number in China, and many Asian cultures, as it sounds similar to the word “prosper” or “wealth”. In fact, people will pay a premium for a telephone number with many 8s, or an address or car license plate with that number.
Our first heat is on Sunday afternoon at 5.40pm CST, which is 7.40pm AEST. Can’t wait! Hope you can watch!