Michelle and Charlie's Around the World Trip 2004-2005 travel blog


with friends



at the stadium waiting for the Marathon to start

Go Meb, go!!!

stadium from the flor level

Michelle with the Greek runner

Not quite a Hilton, but getting comfy at the airport

Yet again the ferry arrived at 5AM, 3 hours before the beginning of the Taekwondo that we had tickets for. So we went to the airport to put the backpack into storage. Going back to the stadium an American family was contemplating if the half empty bus was big enough for them. They were right to have doubts because when they put all their luggage on board it filled the middle seatless section up to 5 feet high. This happened much to the dismay of other passengers whose luggage ended up in the bottom of the pile.

You may ask, why tae kwon do? We were only there to see the marathon finish, but to buy the inexpensive marathon final tickets we had to buy something from a given set of more expensive, non-finals other tickets. We picked the Tae kwon do big girls semi finals [He means "big girls" because it was the over 67 Kilograms and over category. In person they didn't look that big which was disappointing - Michelle].

We were a little late to get to the stadium and the girls were already at kicking each other. The stadium was mostly empty at this point although the best entertainment was provided by the audience. We had the most fun during a Chinese/Japanese match, when both nations were represented by a very enthusiastic block of rooters who were wearing very similar clothes and rooted as one big choir. By the time the game became a bit too repetitive [aka boring - Michelle] it was the boys turn, which brought a change of pace. At some point the so far mostly empty stadium filled completely up. Turned out because the Greek competitor was up in the 80 kg+ category. We felt very bad for his opponent- he was a good 3 inches shorter and from the moment they stepped ahead till they were gone the all-Greek audience was erupting like an over ambitious volcano. The seats and the whole stadium was shaking under us: "Ellas, Ellas!!!!!" Yes, the Greek guy won by like 12-2.

Next we rushed to Syntagma Square where we met my good friend, Rebecca and her husband, Mitch. Rebecca who is a Greek American, was volunteering at the Olympics, but found time before her shift started to meet us. She and Mitch are very funny and very nice people, so we had great time with them. [While we were in the square we also got interviewed by a TV crew, so maybe we were on Greek TV that night, especially because I was sure to play up how impressed I was with the organization and the city - Michelle]. Then we went to the stadium for the marathon finish. Hoping to get good seats we got there 2.5 hours before the start. Sadly the gates did not open until 1 hour out from the event, so we were melting in the heat under the sun with all the early bird wanna bees. It was good though, so that we could appreciate better how hard the run was for the guys. Eventually we got into the stadium and easily found seats right over the finish line with a good view of the two huge screens where we could follow the events. The stadium is great. It has seen some updates, but basically it is still the same marble stadium that was used in ancient times, as well as for the first modern Olympic games. The atmosphere was great and we loved every minute of being there. Heck if nothing else, but so uncharacteristically for Europe there was no smoking allowed there. So we followed the race on the screen, with an early break away, who faded behind the rest soon, then the Brazilian guy taking a still early lead and in a super gutsy way holding on to it. Than the crazy guy pushing him out of the course to be soon passed by the Italian runner and by Meb. At the rate he was fading at they would have caught him. Even without the attack we loved him for the gutsy and hard run, but the events made him a huge favorite. Meanwhile we were also incredibly excited to see Meb doing well and getting closer and closer to the first position. Perhaps he was not born in the US, but he lived there since age 10 and his success is a hope for a revival of American marathon success. [for non runners, while the number of people who finish a marathon has gone up exponentially in the last number of years, the finish times actually got a lot slower than they used to be decades ago. The last US Olympics medal before these games was from 20 years ago]. Anyway, it was already dark when the Italian runner entered the stadium, soon followed by Meb. When the Brazilian runner entered the audience really erupted, just as when the Greek runners came in about 6 min later. We were waiting there until the last runner, a Slovak finished with 2:52. He and the last few finishers got just as enthusiastic reception as the first finishers. When they announced that the medal ceremony will be at the closings of the games and that the closing ceremony not only the few seconds of the medal ceremony will be showed on the screens most viewers left. We had nowhere to go, so we waited. They were right, they did not show a sec more than the medal ceremony. Nevertheless is was great to stay there. We even had a chance to go down and take a picture of Michelle on the running circle. After walking out in the dark we saw a small group, incl. a guy who did not walk quite right and was wearing a Greek uniform. It was the Greek runner. We went to congratulate him. He was super friendly- we got a picture of him with Michelle.

When we were taking the bus to the airport in a distance we could see the fireworks of the closing ceremony over the main stadium. At the airport after some looking around we found a great little hole between two offices and behind a column, where we rolled out the mats and the sleeping bags and with the earplugs we got a good night sleep. Well, as good as one can expect at an airport. Next morning while scrambling across the airport to our flight we saw much of the Hungarian Olympic team, people whom we were following on TV a week earlier from Hungary.

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