For those of you who watched on television, I'm sure the Opening Ceremonies lived up to your expectations. To try to adequately describe the spectacle would be fruitless, particularly since you probably saw more than I did. Instead, here is a timetable of the day's events as they happened, hopefully containing some things that the TV missed.
6:30 a.m.: We are jolted from our sleep in the athlete's village as our apartment intercom system comes to life at full volume and begins instructing us on our daily tasks. A recorded female voice, slight Oriental accent, impersonal and monotone, instructs us it is time to rise and get ready as it is imperative to board the buses at precisely 8:50. The message is simultaneously broadcast on huge speakers throughout the village. Everyone is awake. "Big Brother" seems to be alive and well and living in Seoul, Korea.6:45: "Big Brother" gives me a second wake-up call. The same message is repeated, first in Korean, then English, then French. This is beginning to get obnoxious but I'm back asleep in two minutes.
7:00: The village is again rocked by our accented "Big Brother." Apparently some of my teammates are becoming irritated. At the end of the recorded message a string of obscenities are shouted from several windows with the hope of discouraging further announcements.
7:40: Unable to sleep because of the constant recorded messages, and the accompanying protestations, I get up and take a shower.
7:42: I discover the cause of the clogged shower drain. Several rocks and pieces of plastic are wedged in the drain. After removing them the water drains. I win a minor battle.
7:45: In the middle of a full lather the last of the hot water disappears. Maybe I should have listened to "Big Brother" and gotten up earlier.
8:50: We board the buses in the Olympic Village. I'm wearing the U.S. Opening Ceremony uniform - a wrinkled blue blazer, a wrinkled red tie and a wrinkled pair of white pants. I had hung the clothes in the bathroom hoping the steam would help but cold water makes no steam. I'm not alone in my "wrinkled look."
9:30: We unload from buses and wait in a holding field adjacent to the stadium. As we walk by crowds of people Jeff Atkinson, a 1,500-meter runner, asks the bewildered crowd if anyone wants his complimentary ticket to the ceremonies. Someone finally almost reluctantly takes the ticket.
9:40: A flying insect almost enters Atkinson's gaping mouth when he learns that moments after he gave his ticket away a U.S. teammate sold her hard-to-come-by ticket to the same crowd for $900.
9:42: Athletes gather by their country's respective flags. After looking at everyone's uniforms it appears that Swaziland should win the award for most unique costume with their tribal outfits of loincloths, beads, walking canes and bare feet. The U.S. wins the wrinkled award and the Soviets surprise everyone by taking the most improved category. Their cream-colored, double-breasted, pin striped suits are a distinct change from their usual funeral gray. Of course, they've had eight years to design them. The spirit of Glasnost lives on.
10:35: We start putting order into the mass of U.S. athletes. Lifeboat rules are in order: women and smaller males go first.
11:00: As we move closer to the stadium, lifeboat rules are abandoned. Women and then whoever can tooth and claw in a quasi-respectable fashion go first. Miraculously, I end up on the third row of men with only one broken fingernail. As we pass the country of Djibouti, I notice that Ahmed Sulah, the favorite in the marathon, is carrying his country's flag. I secretly hope he herniates himself.
11:30: We enter Olympic Stadium chanting "U.S.A." and waving flags. There is an immediate rush as we clear the tunnel. The place is packed but the Korean crowd is somewhat subdued and polite. At the far turn a large contingent of U.S. fans get vocal and there's the lump and the teary eyes. The U.S. athletes are a lot looser than the other country's athletes, showing little semblance of rank and file. Some wear Mickey Mouse ears, some carry "Hi Mom" cards or funky stars and stripes haircuts. The exception is Canada, whose athletes fling frisbees into the stands.
12:40: The Games are officially opened by the president of Korea. Speeches are given.
12:45: The crowd spells out the motto of these Games - "Harmony and Progress" and hundreds of white doves are released, symbolic of peace and freedom. Again the chills.
12:47: An athlete next to me receives a souvenir on his shoulder from a low-flying symbol of peace and freedom. Mac Wilkins, on his fourth Olympic team, demonstrates his experience by shielding himself with a garbage bag.
12:50: Olympic flame enters stadium. Torch bearers are hoisted 90 feet into the air directly beneath the cauldron. A dozen or so tired doves are roasting in the cauldron but most take wing without so much as a singed feather. Jets fly by at the same time, trailing the red, green, yellow, black and blue colors of the Olympic rings.
12:53: We march out of the stadium and it's back to the buses.
4:00: After lunch I lay down, totally exhausted mentally and physically. Hopefully "Big Brother" has nothing more for me today.