|Editor's note: Gevvie Stone has agreed to post updates throughout her Olympic debut in London. Stone is a native of Newton, Mass.|
My Dad (also plays the role of my coach) and I arrived early last Saturday morning (very early East Coast time) at Heathrow. Immediately upon walking out of the jetway, my Dad and I are approached by two very friendly British men wearing bright pink "London 2012 Volunteer" polos and carrying a sign saying "USA". They guide us through the airport, around the edges of the jam-packed passport control hall with lines that could easily take two hours (I've been in them before) to our special Olympics passport control lanes (two lanes for two people when we arrived) to baggage claim (our luggage had beaten us) and finally to the Olympic welcome desk. As the men's eight's flight was very delayed, we were the only two on a coach bus to the rowing satellite village in Egham (about half an hour northwest of London, a few miles closer to the city than Windsor Castle). I felt incredibly pampered!
As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were greeted by another volunteer who helped us get our credentials (after we went through airport style security). The credentials are VERY important, relatively large badges that are our ID's for the rest of the Games. Then, we stepped on another bus to get to the "south bubble". The satellite village is two "bubbles" (one for entering and going through security and one where we live, eat, etc.) because it's on a university campus and they had to allow part of the campus to continue operating while we're here so that isn't a "secure" zone. If you take a bus from one "secure" zone to another, you don't have to go through security when you arrive, making your life much simpler. The ride from one bubble to the other is about three minutes.
In the "south bubble", I was shown my room, and my bed was topped with an Olympics quilt as a welcoming gift (pictured at right). I get to take it home with me! I had about five minutes to refresh after the red-eye before rushing off to a quick breakfast. Then, my Dad, Andreas (the boatman), and I were off to USA team processing!
If I haven't stressed it enough already, I want to emphasize: there are many volunteers everywhere on Olympics territory, and they are all super-friendly and super-helpful. It makes the experience much easier--so that the only stress is focused on competition--and that much more enjoyable.
Anyway, team processing was a really fun, "shopping" (because everything is free) scavenger hunt. Upon arrival, the greeters give you a checklist of all the things to accomplish: RL opening and closing ceremony fittings, Nike/RL gear gifting, head shot, ring fitting, watch, Oakley, P&G, shipping, medical forms, USADA. Our list was one short b/c USADA hadn't arrived yet. Darn.
1) RL: I went to processing w/ the men's eight and their coaches. The girls rowing team went through when they arrived, and rowing was the only team to arrive Friday morning. So, I was the only girl going through processing Friday midday. At Ralph Lauren fittings, this meant I had three amazingly nice and fun RL employees fawning over me in a fitting room the size of a school classroom. They buttoned my buttons, they cuffed my sleeves just so, they put my hats on for me to get the proper look, etc.
2) RL & Nike: I step into a school gym and am handed two large duffels (think LLBean bags size Large) packed to the brim, a backpack, and a big cardboard box. One RL duffel and backpack (full of RL attire) and one Nike duffel. The cardboard box is for sending clothes home. There's almost no way anyone could wear it all in two weeks, and it would be very expensive to fly home with three bags (four in my case b/c of my rigger). I packed a little over half what I was given into the box. It'll be like Christmas all over again in late September!
I spent about 90 minutes trying on clothing to make sure I had the right size in everything and because it's really fun to try on new clothes. The staff enjoyed my walking out to show them an outfit every now and then because they only see the clothes in boxes and folded, not on people. Usually teams stick to the fitting rooms as they have each other for feedback on what they like, how things fit, etc. Quick summaries of the gear highlights:
RL: lots of red, white & blue; lots of collars; some "vintage" look stuff; sunglasses!; zip up sweatshirts; sweet backpack
Nike: lots of black, gray and neon yellow; four pairs of sneakers; some very comfy long sleeves; three "podium outfits"; a bunch of comfy yoga pants; a few great lightweight jackets
Oh, and lots of T-shirts in both!
3) Headshot: Pretty self-explanatory (though not ideal after a red-eye and pulling on and off shirts for over an hour)
4) Everyone who competes at the Olympics gets an Olympic ring. Think high school ring with the Olympic Rings as the center of the design. Then, one side has your sport icon with your name above it and the other has 2012. I didn't know about the rings ahead of time. That was an amazing surprise.
5) And a free watch by Hamilton!
6) Oakley: Oakley customized about eight sweet new shades for the Olympic Team. There were three super-awesome women's designs. I wanted them all. I had a TOUGH time making up my mind. I ended up choosing the aviators. I love them.
6) P&G: Another fantastic goody...a messenger bag filled with full size toiletries: shampoo/conditioner, toothbrush, tampons, mouthwash, etc. Luckily, I was warned ahead of time and didn't pack much of that stuff. What a trip saver!
7) Shipping: That big brown box heads to Newton
8) Medical Forms
9) USADA: N/A
Complete! I could then sit down and eat lunch. (I was very hungry by 2:30pm.)
After processing, back to the satellite village. This time in a mini coach bus with the men's eight. The driver took us right through the middle of the city, and we got to see Buckingham Palace, the Museum of Natural History, and other classic London city sights. There are signs of the Olympics almost everywhere: on billboards, on street signs indicating the special "Olympic car lane", banners hanging off street lights, etc. It's crazy. In the best way possible.
Great to see the women's team back at the village. There's a really positive attitude among the Team USA rowing group. It's wonderful to be part of such a team. Smiles, lingering at meals, laughing, etc. Also, some cheering for the South African rowing team (who were also in the dining hall at dinner time) because one of them made BBC evening news for his Olympic Rings helmet--think green construction helmet with pipe cleaner Olympic Rings sprouting out of a stalk glued to the top.
And then I had a few hours before bed to revel in the day, take it all in and imprint it on my memory. Go USA!