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Inside the Olympic Village – Opening Ceremony

Gary Gardner, Director of Cross Country and Track
& Field at UMass Lowell, will blog periodically from the London
2012 Olympic Games as he and former River Hawk standout Ruben Sanca (’09, MBA ’10) are representing Sanca’s native Cape Verde in the 5,000. The two can also be followed via @Sanca617 and @UMLTrackCoach, as well as UMass Lowell’s Olympic Page.

July 28: The Opening Ceremony

Wow! How do I start this edition of the blog?

This is the morning after the opening ceremony and I woke up to cheers
from Olympic Park in an open bedroom window and the goose bumps
and adrenaline returned so this is a perfect time to capture my
feelings.

 
When
this whole process started I wasn’t sure, 1. if I was able to march in
the opening ceremony and, 2. If I wanted to march. Once I found out I
was able to march I wanted to make sure I wasn’t impeding on the true
stars of the Olympics the athletes. After discussing it with the team,
since there are only three Cape Verde athletes at the Olympics, they
were happy to have everyone march with them. That’s when the excitement
really started to build.
 
Last
night was quite simply one of the best experiences of my life. It all
started at 8:45 p.m. local time when the team (all seven of us) met in
front of our village apartment and headed to our designated meeting
spot. Each individual team has a specific time and spot to meet to
start the march to the stadium. The distance from our complex to
the stadium is under a one-mile walk. The stadium is actually closer,
but a river separates the village from the stadium at the closest
 points.  Our time to meet and head over was 9:08 and the London
workers didn’t let you leave until that exact time. We started our trek
with volunteers handing us water and snacks since we would be on our
feet for a good 3-4 hours. Not ideal if you had to compete today and
many of the swimmers and cyclists didn’t take part to rest for this
mornings competitions. We marched through the park with all the London
workers cheering, which was very cool. Then we turned the corner out of
the village and it was like a bomb went off.
 
The
entire walk to the stadium was lined six or seven people deep on both
sides and they were going crazy. They wanted pictures with you,
autographs, high fives and just cheered the entire walk. The walk
itself took over 90 minutes but it went by so fast. Ruben must of
signed hundreds of autographs at one point I was even signing
autographs. You truly felt like the star of the event. Each country had
a section of fans from a local school, so when we finally made it to
Cape Verde section I was the first one on the fence yelling to the
other members of the team. I was yelling back at the fans, signing
autographs, getting pictures done…it was great.
 
After
we got by the Cape Verde section, we were finally getting close to
the tunnel and the butterflies started. Just before going into the
stadium, Canada, the team in front of Cape Verde, started singing their
national anthem – that was really neat. Then it was our turn we marched
out in a line across the track and then you heard Cape
Verde annouced and the stadium cheers went up. I think the small teams
get a huge amount of support and we are certainly one of the smallest
teams here. The march on the track was great waving at the crowd and
everyone just being loud and truly happy. When we got to the point when
we had to enter the infield I was ready for another lap.
 
The
time on the infield waiting was a good opportunity to just soak in the
entire atmosphere of the Olympic Games and, truly in my wildest dreams,
I didn’t imagine ever being in that position. Ruben was all over the
infield posing for pictures getting autographs. The last team in was
Great Britain and the place got so loud and the workers on the infield
were very emotional which was awesome to witness.
 
We
were very lucky – on the infield, our team was placed right next to the
flame. I was able to capture some great pictures of the flame from
about 12 feet away. The lighting was very cool and we were able to see
all the events leading to the lighting of the torch on the big screens
in the stadium. The night ended with Paul McCartney and singing a song
I remember my mother and father listening to when I was very young,
which gave me a very special connection.
 
After
the singing we hiked back to the village and with all the excitement we
were not able to sleep so we went to eat again. The dining hall,
including McDonalds, is open 24 hours a day and everything in the
village is free so we went and got some snacks and just went over the
entire experience. This morning, the excitement of the entire event
still hasn’t worn off. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I
feel like I am getting the most out of it right now. Tonight, Ruben and
I are going to watch swimming. I have so much more to share but Ruben
just got up and time for some training.
 
Last
night, I received so many texts, emails and calls from people who were
watching for us on NBC. Ruben and I were in our room at 3 a.m. when it
was shown in the states, and everything started beeping and vibrating.
It kept us up for a little longer, but that support and pictures people
took from the ceremony on TV  mean a tremendous amount to Ruben and I,
so thank you very much.

Off to practice. I may have to slow Ruben down this morning if his adrenaline level is like mine!

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