Giant on the move
An Olympic waiting game
The last weeks before the Olympics may be the most difficult for the athletes. The work is done and there’s nothing else to do but wait, rest, watch grass grow and let the pressure build. It’s a time which tests athletes’ mental strength and discipline.
In the last week before my first Olympic race, I tried very hard to escape the Games.
Practices were short and light and didn’t do much to drain my energy. So I looked elsewhere. I went to the movies, mostly on my own, and hung out with friends who promised not to mention running. Time crawled and race day just wouldn’t get any closer. I suspected I was going crazy because I kept looking up in the sky, expecting a roof tile to fall on my head and end my Olympic hopes.
The anticipation drains the soul. It’s no accident Britain’s athletics team headed to Macau nearly two weeks before the athletics programme started in Beijing. They won’t be doing great deal of training there but being away from home and being together in a camp gives a sense that something has already begun.
And being shielded from the media also helps. I’m now representing the media but at that time I’ll admit, being asked over and over again how I was feeling didn’t help.
Once athletes move into the Olympic Village, distractions become abundant, which is in a way good. The Village is a novelty with its games arcade, shops, internet room and general bustle, but there is a drawback and it’s felt on the track.
As most runners tend to practise at the same venue, workouts can be more about watching everyone else: Who is he? What is he doing? He’s looking smooth/tired/sharp/flat/invincible?
It’s also a place to meet others, have friendly chats: So, are you going out fast/hard/easy? and talk frankly: Boy, I’m tired/beat/slow/drained/hopeless.
In the end, everyone will be all too happy to forget the last few days before the Games.
NOTE: Balazs Koranyi was an Olympic semi-finalist in the 800m at the 1996 and 2000 Games for Hungary and since 2004 has been a Budapest-based correspondent, covering mainly political and business news. He will be covering the Beijing Games for Reuters.
PHOTO: Pool tables in the recreation area in the Olympic village in Beijing, July 27, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray