Helen’s Travel Corner

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If I didnt have pictures, you wont believe me!

August 11th, 2008 · No Comments

Hello all,

First and foremost, I apologize for not writing sooner! There ‘s so much to tell since I last wrote! But I’ll skip to the good stuff since I’ve got to run to work soon. Both sleep and time are limited here. This is a long one but you’ll see why.

So where was I at during the Opening Ceremonies?

With some friends’ help, I got into the Main Press Center (MPC) in the Olympic Green area. I wasn’t supposed to be there nor do I have the credentials to be there! Jenna, my partner in crime, and I watched the Opening Ceremonies front row in front of a flat screen tv in one of the hotel bar’s two comfy chairs. When the fireworks went off, we’d run outside to see them in person!

I didn’t think things would get better until a friend who was given VIP stickers passed one onto me and the other one was Jenna’s. During the final set of fireworks, Jenna and I went outside and soon discovered the power that these stickers had. We met our first set of guards around the MPC but after flashing our credentials, we were waved in. Fireworks were still going off as we made our way to the Bird’s Nest. The fireworks were spectacular and lit up the entire sky. It sounded like thunder as the colors exploded.

Shortly after they ended, Jenna and I ran into our first crowd of the day. A horde of people were parading past us. Then noticed that Lebron James walked by – I yelled his named and he flashed us a peace sign! It then dawned on us that the people swarming both sides of us were all the ATHLETES leaving the Opening Ceremonies! We were right in the middle of them! Upon this realization we started wishing them all good luck. Some of the athletes with video cameras filmed us! The only other people in this area were journalists trying to snag some stories. They crowded around Kobe as he went by. Jenna and I turned into his personal photographers and were quick to get our pictures with him and his signature! Quickly after, we snapped shots of Yao Ming.

When the crowd got a little more sparse, we redirected our attention to the getting to the Bird’s Nest. We followed the path that the athlete’s came from. At the entrance one guard stopped us and had to wave someone over for a second opinion. They asked us if we were journalists and Jenna confidently said, “yes.” We got the welcome in wave and on we went. We entered into the Bird’s Nest through a corridor that opened directly onto the arena floor! The girl’s in red Chinese dresses who led the athletes wanted pictures taken with us! That was the start of our Olympic Green photo shoot.

As we started heading back to the MPC, we stopped for some pictures outside of the Water Cube which was lit a magnificent blue and then shifted colors periodically. Beyond its gates, it looked vacant. Sine we were there, Jenna wanted to see how magic our VIP pass was. Low and behold the guard unlocked the gate and welcomed us in. Jenna said her favorite line of the night for probably the millionth time to the guard as we pranced in, “I love China,” said in Chinese…it also works magic!

We walked right into the Water Cube like we owned the place. There were loads of guards and security personnel hanging out like it was a rest area for them. We walked by and waved and said “Ni Hao” to everyone! We tried one door to get to the pool but it was locked. So we used the bathroom and then tried another one….it was open and we walked in to the pool area. We were the only two people in the entire room!

We then continued our photo shoot first hopping onto a lifeguard’s chair. At one point, we walked behind a wall and saw the inner side of the membrane wall and could touch it. It was absolutely mind-blowing. We then went to the diving board and hung out for a good 30 minutes. It was the most serene and surreal feeling in the world. We had our feet in the Olympic swimming pool the night of the Opening Ceremonies and the day before the swimming events started! Three people walked towards us but after we shouted “Ni Hao” to them, they turned around and went away. All of the spotlights also turned off except for one which stayed on us! I thought it was nice of them not to leave us in the dark.

On our way to the exit, Jenna test out the Jacuzzi and then we went through the press workroom which was dead silent until we entered. The exit door was open and we walked out but first recapping the night thus far on the Flip Cam.

After the guard let us exit through the gate, we walked by the National Indoor Stadium across the street. I flashed my credentials from across a low gate and the guard ushered us in! One female janitor who was excited to see us navigated the back hallways for us almost until we entered the field of play. This arena wasn’t empty. A crew of workers were cleaning the seats and a couple of people were working with their camera angles. This of course didn’t stop Jenna and I’d photo shoot. We walked up where the uneven rings are and the pommel horse. Jenna then tried to launch herself on the pommel horse! It’s a lot bigger in person. Not long after hilarious attempts, we were finally shoed off that stage area.

We headed back to the MPC after deciding the entrance to the fencing hall looked like too much walking and went to visit Bruce who is a classmate that was working the overnight shift in the photo workroom. With tons of animation, recounted our night’s events with him and he was excited for us. He had the third VIP pass but didn’t get a chance to reap its benefits like Jenna and I did.

It was now probably around 3:00 a.m. and the 24 hours McDonald’s in the MPC couldn’t have sounded more like heaven at that time. We were in line with photographers with Getty Images who had been working all night on trying to capture timeless pictures of the Olympics. They enjoyed Jenna and I’d entertaining company in line to break their stress and smile at our Olympic Green Night Tour.

Jenna had to work at the Photo Lab at 8am so we had the brilliant idea just to spend the night at the MPC and I’d take the shuttle back to campus with Bruce at 8:30 a.m. People camped out in the main Press Conference room so that became the area of choice. Within two minutes we were on the floor because the seats weren’t comfy at all to stretch out in. We were there about 45 minutes until we couldn’t bare the freezing air conditioning any longer. We used the bathroom and then huddled under a heated hands dryer for a while and I’m sure the bathroom cleaners thought we were nuts….and I don’t blame them.

This is around 6 a.m. when we decided our original bar had the most comfortable couches and chairs. We ordered hot tea and fell asleep. At 7 a.m. we were told that we had to sit up! The waiter then asked if we had gone home…why would we do that?

We eventually made our way back to where Jenna had to work a 12 hour shift! And I teamed up with Bruce to head back to campus. I was the only person on the shuttle bus not in uniform!

As I walked out of security to leave the MPC, I felt like Clive Owens from Inside Man when he left the bank. I just got away with the most amazing night ever and I wasn’t even supposed to be there!

More to come…

Much love,

Helen

Sidenotes:

I was at the USA vs. CHINA men’s basketball game…will write about that next

I work the nights at the Main baseball field for the 7pm games. After the games I set up the temporary mixed zone area.

Pictures are taking forever to load but will do what I can

Sorry if I haven’t responded to your email…I will when I get a chance. I really appreciate them and love getting them!

And I didn’t edit this so I can’t be held accountable for obvious grammar and typos J

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