It serves this doubting-Thomasina right (‘30,000 volunteers—they must be joking!’)—the volunteer-list has been oversubscribed! Our son Niall is to be a transport assistant, and we’ll host an Argentinian couple whose athlete son will compete in artistic roller-skating.
There was a large crowd outside the gates of the Dáil at the services cutbacks protest on Tuesday 10 June. I especially admire those who made the trip all the way from Kerry, Cork or Limerick. Good radio and TV coverage highlighting the contrast between the positives of the SO event and the negatives of service cutbacks.
Our guests’ 3.00pm flight was delayed for over two hours, but I was well compensated by watching the volunteers as they welcomed delegations from Andorra, Surinam, Germany, Israel, Malta and Portugal. Eventually, Alfredo and Nelida Logarzo (pic 3) arrived at our house for an overcooked dinner and the pitiful remnants of the Spanish I’d studied over 40 years ago.
Saturday 21 June
The Opening Ceremony was, so say absolutely all of us, magnificent! I explained the significance of Colin Farrell, Ronan Keating, Samantha Mumba, the Corrs, Ronan Tynan and Rita Connolly to the Bolivian family sitting beside me—but they needed no introduction to Pierce Brosnan, Bon Jovi and Bono/U2! I couldn’t resist aiming, paparazzi-like, at nearby government ministers. Alfredo and Nelly, who had been at the 1995 World Games in Connecticut, said our opening ceremony was much better. Olé! (But, oh-oh, at home our four-hour video tape switched off before the torch arrived up to the stage.)
During the week
Nelly and Alfredo hired a car, with another family, to travel to Belfast for their son’s four days of competition. Their stay in Ireland is very expensive, and I was embarrassed that the final car-hire charge was over 50% more than the quoted price on the Internet. (The term ‘inclusive’ was more than a bit deceptive, and once again insurance is the Achilles heel.)
At the Festival Village, I met Nancy Robinson (pic 4), from my native Oregon, who had just received the full treatment from Osadía, the very popular hair-artists from Barcelona. She was about to meet her husband for a business dinner!
I enjoyed snatches of table tennis, bocce and gymnastics competitions at the RDS, and swimming in the splendid new Aquatics Centre. Gerry Ryan (pic 5) is the very well-qualified volunteer coordinator for bocce. He trained-in his colleagues in lawn bowls clubs to become officials for the sport, which is a new one to us in the Republic.
The Irish media gave the games great coverage. RTÉ’s daily radio shows and evening TV summary programmes were extensive, enthusiastic and balanced. And, apart from a deplorable headline article in the Sunday Independent, the Irish broadsheets gave equally valuable coverage.
We saw very little of our visitors—they left the house as early as 5.00am to make their way to Belfast, and returned too late for meals or social events like Wednesday’s Race Night. But by Saturday, when my friend Joann and I drove up to watch the last day of skating, the new motorway stretch had been opened, impressively reducing the trip to two hours. We admired the great support given by the Belfast volunteers, but the venue lacked the public interest, buzz and media coverage it could have shared, had it been nearer to Dublin. We kept wondering why the decision had been made (the skating surface in the King’s Hall was a temporary one). It was such a pity that the 100+ skating athletes, their coaches and families were largely isolated from the wider Games festivities for four days.
All great occasions come to an end
The Games closing ceremony was a great party. Maybe I needed stronger eardrums and more taste for self-congratulation, but I was just too grumpily tired to enjoy the four hours fully. Awaking to the grey Monday morning rain (thank you, Lord, for your excellent timing), we finished copying the videos that included two millisecond-images of Sergio and Bettina’s star skating performance. Then I saw Nelly and Alfredo off to the airport. But the Argentinian delegation hadn’t been able to get their full block of seats on Monday’s flights to Buenos Aires, they didn’t leave until the following day. So, still unable to let go of ‘sharing the feeling’, I bussed to the airport on Tuesday and waited for utterly-exhausted Sergio, Bettina and their colleagues and coaches to disappear through the special ballooned departure gate. (pic 6)
An Olympic Three-Gold-Medals Athlete kissed my hand!!! I had no opportunity during the week to meet our visitors’ son Sergio, except to wave at him from a distance on Saturday morning as he performed his faultless Dracula artistic rollerskating routine and received his well-earned third gold medal. However, finally during the closing ceremony he came over to the barrier of the Hogan Stand with one of the Argentinian coaches, and before Nelly grabbed her son for a frantic hug, I introduced myself and Sergio gave me a beaming smile and a courtly beso a mano. That’s my most treasured memory of the fantastic games and the world athletes who lifted us all during those precious days.