It is officially two days into the Olympic games. With the opening ceremony just two days behind us you can feel the competitive spirit brewing. Game faces are on and we are all ready to experience the greatness of the games. Most of you all had the opportunity of watching the opening ceremony but I want to give you the behind the scenes look into the ceremony from my eyes.
That day, Friday, July 27th the village started to shut down early in preparation for the ceremony. The practice tracks closed between 12pm and 1pm creating a mass practice session for all countries trying to get their tune up sessions in before shut down. After a quick track session and massage it was time to relax and prep for the ceremony. We were not told much but knew that showtime was between 9pm and 10pm. 8pm the girls started to scramble; hair, makeup, fixing outfits, tying head ties and choosing shoes. I had the smallest piece of the “papery fabric” material used for our head tie and boy was it a process to style it in a reasonable fashion for the walk. Being duly warned by past olympians about the excessive walking and standing, comfortable shoes were a must. After all, I am here to compete and though the opening ceremony is an event to remember, we wouldn’t want to jeopardize performance with avoidable irritations. With that, I laced up my trainers, hoping the length of my skirt would cover up my fashion faux pas.
Suited up in our traditional green and white dress it was time to go down, meet up with the rest of Team Nigeria and take our proper place in line. Snap! Flash! Wait, get my camera too! You better facebook this after! was all you heard for the following 30 minutes or so. Excited to be in unison for once, it was picture time with our fellow countrymen and women. Chants of Ni-ge-ri-a! Ni-ge-ri-a! filled the air outside of the Nigerian NOC office while we waited our turn to march.
We started the athlete march towards the stadium. The feeling was electric. Lined around us were tons of fans, supporters, kids chanting Nigeria, screaming for our autographs and begging for our flags and pictures. Truly a humbling experience to see the joy on the faces of children excited to have my signature. In my eyes I was just a normal girl chasing a childhood dream but to them I was someone special, an olympian.
Finally at the mouth of the stadium, lights, camera, action! In the front row, third from the left I marched into the stadium. Illuminated with blue flourescent lights we danced in, waving our flags, looking for the cameras and me looking at my shoe laces which of course had loosened. Walking counterclockwise around the stadium we made our way on to the stage. While watching the other countries march into the stadium on the jumbotrons my teammate Naomi and I were on a mission to snap as many photos and exchange pins with all the countries we could. However, we weren’t the only ones with this mission. Every where we turned, “can we take a picture with you?” It had to be the head tie I thought. We were turning heads…literally.
In came the USA. Being born and raised in the US this was a special moment for me. Many of my college friends were sprinkled throughout the American team and off course the big stars, NBA stars. As you expected they were bombarded from every direction with requests for pictures and I too had to get involved. 🙂 Once all the athletes were in we too watched the rest of the ceremony, the boat ride with the torch carried in by David Beckham and the final lighting of the torch. Overwhemled with joy and excitement the fireworks pushed me over the top. The ceremony was over but the feeling lived on.
We made the frigid trek back in a mass exodus to the dining hall. As you can expect the 24 hour McDonald’s was PACKED but I managed to get a McFlurry and some fries. Not the best meal at 2am in the morning, but it was my last day of indulgence before the final push into competition. The buzz of all the athletes chatting and eating was electric. If you lacking the adrenaline rush the games brought, at that moment you had it. Once back at the room we all uploaded our photos and compared who we were able to steal away for a photo-op.
Waiting until 3:30am when I was finally spotted on tv by friends and family back home in the US I was on an emotional high. The time has come, and we are ready. Ready to take on the world and display our talents on the world stage.
Finally laying my head down at 5am it hit me. I, Idara Otu am an Olympian.
Let the games begin!