With one week in Kazan under our belts, this team has only begun one incredibly journey. Here we stand, or more accurately sit and/or sleep, shortly after the anxiously awaited, long anticipated Opening Ceremonies. Allow me to present to you an inside look...
“U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!” Ah, I can still hear it. The night of July 6th cannot be put into words. I sit here absolutely speechless. “USA” chants were echoed by over 400 USA team members throughout the tunnel entrance, and the excitement and exhilaration was unbelievable. I felt so much pride while preparing to walk with my country into an arena filled with over 50,000 people. Moreover, I will most certainly never forget the orange sparks that elevated from four corners of the stadium to light the torch that was centered overhead, only to send fireworks shooting into the sky. But wait a minute, let’s rewind and take a quick look at what was not obvious to most spectators.
While everything appeared to flow smoothly and effortlessly to the public eye, things proceeded much differently behind the scenes. Let’s just say there was a lot of standing and waiting involved. And then there was more standing. And more waiting. After all, there were over 12,000 athletes lining the perimeter of the stadium for their moment to shine. Among the 170 countries, the United States was one of the last to march, meaning we were one of the countries that waited the longest outside. When our crew first exited the bus, we just followed the USA sign and were not cognizant of what was coming. We soon recognized that our country was, in fact, the tail of a huge snake of athletes that were divided by country. Then the realization struck that the march wouldn’t even begin for… who knows how long. All in all, we waited about two and a half hours. However, those were the best two and a half hours I have ever spent waiting for anything. The time was filled with making new friends, taking lots of pictures, and enjoying the fireworks from outside (which was a wonderful view, by the way). So many laughs and so many photographs. The time was priceless – at least for Sierra Smiley, Emily Loughlin, and myself. Although the anticipation made those hours seem endless, it did very little to dull the excitations. As we reached the tunnel, all that could be heard was the intense blast of the USA chants. All that could be felt was the energy among anxious athletes just moments before stepping over the threshold. All this time had finally landed us at the stadium’s opening.
I’m just going to be so bold as to say that this was the biggest and best crowd I have EVER stepped before. The place was going crazy and all eyes were on us. Furthermore, as we walked around the center pond and came to our seats, Russia made their entrance. Just witnessing the thunderous roar of the entire audience as Russia got announced was jaw-dropping.
My goodness, there are so many details that I could talk about, like the entire crowd doing the wave and watching it circle the arena three times or seeing 50,000 mini-lights in the middle of pure darkness. I do feel it necessary to acknowledge the amazing performances that Russia put on and all of the history that was portrayed, from explorer Ivan Kruzenshtern to the first moon landing. The spectacle was absolutely astounding. To say the least, this night was incredibly blissful and one of the most powerful experiences I have ever experienced.
The night seemed endless and totally worth every second. After listening to the Russian president address the people and watching the torch light with the fireworks show, the crew bussed back home. And here we are more excited than ever for what the next two weeks bring.
That's it for my take on the Opening Ceremonies, so thank you for reading! I hope you keep up with our news and have a great week!