Special to The Province
We've been preparing for the Olympics as a soccer team for almost a year now. Some of us, in our minds, have been preparing for this our whole lives. Yet, it wasn't until we set foot in the athletes village that we truly felt like Olympians. We're finally at the Games, and it's more amazing than I imagined.
We boarded a bus from the airport to the village. On the way, we could see tons of billboards and advertisements for the Games, and you could tell that the team was getting more excited the closer we got to our destination.
It took quite a while to get through what seemed like endless security checkpoints. I, myself, was held up for 30 minutes trying to sort out why the passport number on my accreditation did not match the one in my actual passport. Once they finally decided that it was a simple typo (with the use of a translator and a very helpful Canadian Olympic Committee employee) they finally let me through to join my team.
As we walked into the village, I turned to midfielder Amy Walsh in disbelief and said, "We're at the Olympics."
We were all immediately impressed with the amount of detail that has gone into designing the village. From what we'd heard about previous athletes villages, they had often been compared to dorm life in your freshman year of college. In Beijing, that is not the case. It's safe to say that our expectations have been surpassed. From the intricate Chinese gardens, Koi fish ponds, and numerous waterfalls through out, to the obvious necessities like the poly-clinic, fitness centre and dining hall, it's apparent that a lot of time and effort -- not to mention a very large budget -- has gone into this.
We were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to check into the village when we did. It gave us the chance to explore and become familiar with it before we had to head off to Tianjin and get ready for our first game against Argentina on Aug. 6. We were a bit disappointed in having to check out of the village so soon, because we didn't want to miss out on any of the excitement. But, at the same time, away from all the chaos will allow us to refocus and better prepare.
That's not to say that the Olympic spirit hasn't extended outside of Beijing and into the other venues like Tianjin, though, because it is still very much alive here as well.
We are staying in a great hotel that has been dedicated solely to the four teams in our group (Canada, China, Sweden and Argentina) and four teams on the men's side (U.S., Netherlands, Nigeria and Japan).
It's pretty interesting to be in a hotel occupied only by soccer players. The only downside so far has been that my boots, while they were airing out in the hallway outside of my room, somehow mysteriously disappeared last night. After being assured that housekeeping had not picked them up we are beginning to suspect that maybe they'd been stolen. Who would ever want my stinky cleats is beyond me -- unless it was more about me not having my boots, than who-ever nicked them wanting to actually wear them.
Luckily, I have a backup pair and enough time to break them in over the next two days. So the joke's on you Argentina! -- I mean, or whoever may have taken them. I'm not making any accusations here.
Anyway, our preparations have been pretty relaxed. The team feels good about the way we've been playing lately, and the next few days are all about focusing on the smaller details like set plays, individual technique, and preparing for Argentina.
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Calgary-born striker Kara Lang files this column from China. Women's national soccer team members will be writing throughout the Games at theprovince.com/blogs
© The Vancouver Province 2008