While the rest of my family is sleeping and enjoying the comfort of their beds at 1am I am sat wide awake amongst all of my bags aware that it still feels like 9pm in Beijing and, based on my sleeping pattern in the last 10 days, I should expect to be twiddling my thumbs for another 6 or 7 hours before I can get a bit of R.E.M. - there is always a huge downside to overseas travel!
As for my Olympic experience, it is difficult to describe exactly what it has all been like, and though I have tried in my blogs to be as accurate as possible, it's still not quite the same! Needless to say, it is an experience that I will never forget and after the closing ceremony I felt totally ready to commit myself fully and completely toward success in London, for the joy of competition at such a level, but also because I want to be a part of the Olympic bubble again!
The Closing Ceremony was insane to be a part of. While the Opening was very organised, with numbers, orders and uniforms, the Closing ceremony is more a case of turn up, move around and then run into the stadium when someone says "go". We were packed into team buses and dropped off outside the National Stadium and pretty much left to our own devices from there. It was all rather surprising because for the majority of our time in the village and at the venues there were volunteers everywhere ushering you into different places, restricting access, checking passes etc etc and you pretty much couldn't pick your nose without someone paying attention and making a mental note of it for later, but it seems that either they just got sick of waiting on us hand and foot or they were instructed just to be there as general guides but let the athletes relax and enjoy themselves. We waited around for a fair amount of time before we were let loose on the stadium and so by the time we got in we had a lot of stored energy that just needed to be used - and so it was! Dancing, singing, jumping, moving - all popular activities and ones that we had a lot of fun doing! We were all very impressed with the choreography of everything once again, and it was soooo cool to be right in the middle of all the action.
After the closing ceremony a bit of P.O.D. set in - that's Post Olympic Depression. Most of the bigger countries left the following day so the village all of a sudden felt remarkably empty and bare. And of course we were having to get all of our things packed and ready to go so we didn't have last minute rushes at 8am Tuesday morning, or at least minimise the possibility of such rushes occurring at the eleventh hour. All of a sudden I felt kind of ready to come home, and was even, dare I say it, missing my family and life in NZ! The NZ support staff had organised a team function for that evening as a way for us all to relax and chill out before the final journey home, and what we thought would be quite a low-key affair turned into a giant party lasting 7 hours outside our apartment block! We had the formal things to begin with; the pictures of the medallists together, congratulations and thank-you's, and then we were left to enjoy ourselves as a team. Food and drinks were provided to anyone that wanted them and the guitars were brought out for a couple of hours of sing-alongs, including the playing of the team-song that was written especially for the Beijing Olympic campaign and Dave Dobbyn's "loyal" which pretty much became the team anthem after he played it at the Flag-bearer announcement. We had a few karaoke songs, some singing from the basketball girls and our canoe slalom girl Luuka Jones and swimming's very own Orinoco breaking it down with some beat-box. Then Hockey's Dave Kosoof took over as DJ for the night playing dance songs, old classics and new tunes to keep us all on our feet and the dancefloor, which was really just the courtyard area outside our apartments. There were loads of NZ songs that everyone sang along too and reminded us how amazing it is to be kiwi, and we even had athletes from other team's coming to join in and revel in our team's awesomeness! We were definitely proud to be from New Zealand.
As for the flight home, it was boring, cramped and tedious - as most 13 hour over-night flights are! But on the bright side, the food was really good and we got given a can of L&P, and a packet of pineapple lumps and minties, so thank-you Air New Zealand! We also were treated to a Haka by the baggage handlers on the tarmac as we came into our gate which was so cool!
Getting through baggage collection and security was a bit of a mission because all of our bags were pretty much the same and we had to wait for all the medalists to go through first to meet the media and then trying to get out of arrivals was practically an Olympic sport itself! But succeed we did, and everyone was glad to see family and friends there to greet them and welcome us home. It was a surreal experience to see so many people there to support our Olympic medalists and team as a whole.
And so the journey of the Beijing 2008 Olympics finishes. What was a simple idea 2 years ago has now blossomed into the most defining period of my life, and has given me an incredible insight into what it takes to be the best at international and Olympic level. I am more certain now than I have ever been that I want to make it to the medal podium in London, and if the experience there is going to be anything like Beijing, then four years of blood, sweat and tears is going to be a price worth paying for the honor.
I would like to also express my thanks to those of you who are still reading this. I know my reports may be a little bit long and verbose at times and I promise I'm working on it! But to those who have sent your words of support and love to me and my family over the last 6 weeks, it is very much appreciated and I wish that at some point I will be able to tell you all in person how much it meant to me to know that I was being looked out for and thought of.