Blog # 11: French invaders

No, the bag hasn't turned up but an irate French photographer did, and is not happy that none of the four women in our apartment wanted to share a bed with him!

Some of the team at the Press Conference prior to competition starting
Some of the team at the press conference prior to competition starting

It’s getting close to lift-off! The whole city, the vibe and the security have intensified. There is a huge amount of last-minute activity and now it really feels like we are here for something special.

Before I get on to the horse news, you are all probably wondering what news there is of my missing suitcase. It was located at the Athletes’ Village where it has been enjoying itself for the past few days. It was due to get a taxi to the Deodoro Accommodation Village yesterday but, unfortunately, it was thwarted by the increased security – it seems that a suitcase travelling solo is not being welcomed by the security boys who guard the Deodoro complex. However, this morning I have been assured that they have got the right clearance and it should be here within two hours. But I had to head off to the equestrian venue as there were things to do: arena familiarisation, stable tours and course walks. I just hope that my camera battery lasts until the end of the day and that by the time I get back my bag will be there! Perhaps that bag has had more adventures than me…

They might not be the funkiest numbers in Rio, but they sure are comfortable!
They might not be the funkiest numbers in Rio, but they sure are comfortable!

More good news is that I caught up with NZ official Helen Christie last night and as well as doing a hilarious interview with her in her night attire (“no photos please”), I acquired some shoes. She had a spare pair of very, very comfortable ones which daughter Katie had worn at Aachen, but which had ended up with Helen. Now they are with me and, sorry Katie, but you won’t be getting them back. My feet are in heaven. I also briefly caught up with fellow Kiwis Neil McKenzie-Hall and Andy Bowles, who are also staying in the Deodoro Village. The Ground Jury, which includes great old mate and fellow Northlander Andrew Bennie, is also staying at the village, so I hope to catch up with him soon.

Clarke Johnstone loves the pounamu he received from NZOC
Clarke Johnstone loves the pounamu he received from NZOC

The riders were in fine form at the press conference yesterday. They really are very skilled at dealing with the media in a graceful way. They also give very useful and useable answers, and so are justifiably media favourites. This aspect of being an elite athlete is so important, because to be quotable, as our riders are, is important for getting media coverage, which is important for keeping the sport in the Olympics and therefore getting funding. Our riders are certainly great ambassadors for our sport.

We had a bit of a nightmare last night. At about 10:30pm, as I was frantically trying to file stories, write up interviews and sort photos, in walked the accommodation people with French photographer, Eric Knoll. They said that he was moving in. As I was the only one actually there at the time, I had to defend our territory and explained that we were full. Debbie and I were sharing one room (with twin beds), Libby was in one bedroom and Di in the third. Where was Eric going to sleep? I didn’t think that either Libby nor Di would have been keen to share, and there certainly wasn’t room for a lanky Frenchman in our room! It all got very awkward, and while Eric was the weary traveller who needed a bed, it really wasn’t our problem. The accommodation lady told me that this was “not in the Olympic spirit”! That is going to be our catchphrase when things go wrong from here on in.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. The staff were back just before midnight to try to bring in another bed. By this time, Di and Libby were there to defend their own territory. We will wait to see what happens when we get back. It might be that Di and Libby have to share a room and we get a French flatmate, but after the reception he gave me this morning at the equestrian venue, it could be an atmosphere like after the Rainbow Warrior saga.

The “proper” bus and shuttle system kicked in yesterday, and a new record was set for the trip from my accommodation to the main press centre – just 39 minutes. The trip to the equestrian venue takes about 15 minutes from our accommodation, but today it was a bit longer: there were considerable queues to get through security as the x-ray machines were not working, so the army boys diligently searched everyone’s bags. As you can imagine, the photographers took a while to get through this process!

So, I am about to begin my first full day working at the equestrian venue, the first of many, since I am here for all of the equestrian events, right though to the jumping final and medal ceremony. Already I am buzzing with the joy of being able to see the most beautiful horses and exceptional riders trotting past me.

Yessss, it’s the Olympics and it’s nearly showtime!