I can only thing of one word to describe this day and that is definitely WOW! So far there have been two real stand out days with regards to our event tickets. The first was the day we saw Nastia win the Women’s Individual Overall Gold and the second was today, our first day of Equestrian events.
I think I’ve lost all sense of time during this vacation, because right now I’m not sure I could tell you what day of the week it is and I have no sense of what time it here vs. the actual time back home, so when I write I want to be careful not to write about something you will hear about tonight during Prime Time. In other words, I don’t want to tell you who won the Super Bowl before it happens in your space-time continuum.
Today we woke up at 4 AM to make our 7:45 AM international flight to Hong Kong. I have decided that I love Asia and I want to explore more of it. Our flight to Hong Kong was about 4 hours on Cathay Pacific. We arrived in Hong Kong just before noon and took the Airport Express train to Hong Kong Island and then a shuttle bus to our hotel. Hong Kong looks like a state of the art central business district and a Caribbean Island combined. The mountains seem to shoot out of the beautiful blue waters in the same way that the skyscrapers do.
After checking in to our hotel we went to a burger place in the mall for lunch. My sister has lived in China for two years and was craving a real American Hamburger. And we found a pretty good one for her in Hong Kong. After lunch we came back to the hotel and while my family took a quick nap, I caught up on my writing while Cathy (my sister) worked on our itinerary for tomorrow. Pretty soon it was 5 PM and it was time to head to the Equestrian venue for our 7:15 PM event.
The one disadvantage we have in Hong Kong is that we have lost our language specialist. In China they speak Mandarin, but in Hong Kong, while English is more prevalent, their main language is Cantonese. The written characters are the same or similar, but the spoken language is very different. So all instructions to our cab drivers must be in written form.
Since there were five of us, it was cheaper to catch a cab to our venue rather than take the subway. Per the instructions from the IOC, we arrived (via cab) at the parking area where we loaded up on double-decker buses, which then transported us directly to the stadium for the Jumping Competition. My girls, who rarely even get to ride a school bus, were more than excited by the opportunity to ride “upstairs” on the bus.
The jumping competition was hot and steamy and the girls were a bit exhausted from our 4 AM morning wake up. The first portion of the competition was the 3rd round of Individual Qualifiers. The events are in the evenings here because it is so hot that it is only time it is bearable for the horse to come out of their luxury, air-conditioned stables.
The second half of the competition was the team jumping competition. For this competition we had the privilege of seeing four US riders jump for a team medal. Throughout this competition, three countries – the US, Canada and Great Britain went back and forth in the standings. While Craig and Cathy were enjoying getting some great pictures, the girls were hot and tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. But the US was too close and the last rider was a US rider. I really wanted to see if they could pull off the Gold.
As the last rider for the US pulled off a penalty free run, I was sure we were going to watch Team USA take home the Gold. But as we have learned in this Olympics, things are not always that clear cut. As they posted the scores, the officials announced that there would be a “Jump Off” between the US and Canada for the Gold Medal. This involved redoing the jumping gates and having all four jumpers for each country re-jump. It was a pretty amazing experience and while we gathered together and screamed and waived our flags with a bunch of other crazy Americans (some with Red, White and Blue wigs on), we watched the US Jumpers pulled off three flawless performances to win the Gold.
One of the things that has not lost its sense of awe and wonder for me is to be a part of the masses when our National Anthem is played. I can get so lost in the meaning of the song and the lives that were (and are still being) sacrificed so that we can be part of a country as great as the United States of America.
When they announced the US team, we pulled out our large American flag to waive it and support our team, but it was late and the girls were pretty tired, so after 10 minutes or so, I had to enlist a little help holding the flag from another American behind me. As we got to the point in the ceremony where they were raising the flags and playing the Star-Spangled Banner, I went to put down the flag we were holding so that I could put my hand over my heart. When I went to thank her for helping me hold our flag she responded:
“Don’t put it down now! We’ve got to keep supporting them!”
It was a great end to a great evening.