Countdown

One day to go to the 2000 Olympiad, Lisa Walker writes from Sydney

Thursday September 14th 2000, Author: Lisa Walker, Location: United Kingdom
The newspapers have been counting down to the start of the 27th Olympic Games day by day, but today the front page says it all - one day to go!
For the British Olympic Sailing Team, that means one day until the most important regatta for four years, and it all begins with the spectacular Opening Ceremony tomorrow.

The formalities and excitement began Wednesday night though, as the British sailing team, along with the rest of Team GB, met at a reception held at New South Wales’ Parliament House. Team GB looked amazingly smart (amazing for the sailing contingent anyway) in pinstripe suits and ties emblazoned with the British Lion. The new shoes proved a problem for some, and a few of the sailing team were nursing blisters this morning - good job they're not runners.

Present at the reception was HRH The Princess Royal, in her capacity as President of the British Olympic Association (BOA), along with (to give him his full title) Her Britannic Majesty’s High Commissioner Sir Alastair Goodlad. Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was also amongst the VIPs as was Kate Hoey, the Sports Minister. Milly Mynors, the Olympic Sailing Team administrator, got a bit of a shock when the High Commissioner sought her out and told her that he was at school with her father. It’s not what you know; it’s who you know!

The reception was a glamorous affair, with Matthew Pinsent being the popular choice as he was officially selected as the flag bearer for Team GB. Just between you and me, I think Ben Ainslie, who had been nominated by the British sailing team, was secretly relieved at the choice - I’m not sure he would have been up to the task of holding the flag out in front of him for the whole circuit of the track, in Steve Redgrave style!

Princess Anne seemed to make a beeline for the sailors and enjoyed chatting to the team and its supporters. Perhaps because she’d met most of them before and probably because she knows something of the sport. Ian Walker managed to get a promise that she would try and come out and watch some of the sailing events. Let’s hope so. I know that Lew Carter from Woolahra Sailing Club, who has been invaluable in the team’s organisation and preparations for this event, was visibly moved at having the chance to shake her hand and talk to her. Just reward for his and his wife Gloria’s endless hard work.

The atmosphere in the Olympic city has been building at a frenetic pace over the past week. The crowds have been coming out in their thousands to catch a glimpse of the Olympic torch as it's wound its way around the country and now finally around Sydney itself. Every evening news bulletin shows tens of thousands of locals and visitors crowding around the 'community cauldrons', while a local celebrity has milked this moment of fame and lit the miniature version of the Olympic Cauldron.

Thursday evening the Olympic Torch will pass by Rushcutters Bay, the venue for the Olympic sailing regatta, but most of the British team will miss the opportunity to catch a glimpse before the big one - the opening ceremony. Most will be out on the water, trying to master the unpredictable wind and waves inside and outside the harbour. The rest will be working hard in the Olympic marina preparing their boats for the big day.

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