Quite the day here in London, the first official day of the Paralympics. I woke late this morning after a late night at opening ceremonies, and nipped down to the coffee cart in front of our building to clear my bleary eyes. I’m watching the coverage of the games on Channel 4, the broadcaster that is devoting blanket coverage of the games here in Britain. The coverage immediately went out to the Velodrome and women’s track cycling, where the qualifying heats of the 3k individual pursuit were underway. First holy crap! moment of the day: Phil Ligget – the voice of cycling, who commentated throughout the Olympics and can be heard every July calling the Tour de France – was excitedly calling out times as Sarah Storey smashed her own world record in the event. Phil Ligget! Covering the Paralympics! Second holy crap! moment of the day: the unfortunate rider on the other side of Ms. Storey’s world record was Jen Schuble, an athlete that we often see at our home base, the Lakeshore Foundation. She put up a good enough effort for 5th place, but Storey looked in a class of her own. Third holy crap! moment of the day: as the racers fly around the banked track the camera cuts to those familiar faces from London, William and Kate, cheering on their countrywoman.
Speaking of holy crap! moments, the opening ceremonies were last night. Things started out tame enough, with lots of waiting, queuing, rolling a short distance, and waiting again. Clad in our blazers, beret’s, and cream-colored lowers, we spent 2 hours marching through a chilly evening the short distance to the Paralympic Stadium. Most of the journey it was just a lot of hurry up and wait but as we got close to the stadium I could feel me energy start to ramp up and as we started down the ramp into the stadium you could hear the crowd inside. I was rolling next to Chuck, Joe, and Derrick, three guys for whom this was their first Paralympics. I could see the uncontrollable smiles spread over their faces, looking around wide eyed and the feeling was contagious. There’s really no way to describe what it’s like to emerge in front of a raucous crowd of 80,000. I’ll just say that there’s nothing quite like it.
Once around the stadium and I snagged a front row seat, next to the rest of our rugby team, to watch the show. Just to my left, Chuck kept muttering: “there are no word for this, no words,” as his eyes scanned the crowd. For those of you who didn’t see the ceremonies they pulled out all the stops. Sir Ian McKellen (better known to those of us in the US as Gandalf/Magneto) provided much of the acting. There was lot’s of singing, uplifting, and speechifying, Sebastian Coe introduced the games, the Queen opened them, and Steven Hawking kicked off a dance party. It was quite the night.
The games have started, it’s officially go time.