Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Olympic experience, week one

 OK. Let’s get a few things out of the way.

I’m sometimes easily disappointed. No matter how much I think, ‘don’t set yourself up with unrealistic expectations.” Or, “Whatever is supposed to happen, is what’s happening.” Or, ‘Sometimes the goals you reach, are not the goals you set.”. I’m still disappointed. 

I’m also reinventing my UK experience. I’ll explain more later.

Yesterday was a very good day. I adore my coworkers. The Physios I work with could not be any nicer or more welcoming, for which, I’m extremely grateful. My boss, Liz Nicholls, who’s in charge of the medical dept at the tennis venue (and a bunch others, but we’re lucky enough to have her with us our whole time) is sincerely one of the kindest, more generous, patient women I’ve ever met. I feel incredibly blessed to have her as my boss. She could have made my Olympic experience awful or wonderful, and she’s definitely doing her best to make it as good as possible. I got to see the first dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony last night because of her (2 physios, another massage therapist and myself) and I’ll be eternally grateful for that experience. The only thing I missed was the parade of nations. The rest was like Cirque Du Soleil on steroids and if you increased the budget by maybe 20 times.

My last Olympics, Athens 2004, I was stationed at Beach Volleyball. The way our schedules work out, I was usually the only massage therapist, and the only American on duty. My #1 memory of working there is of the first few days when the Greek medical staff would  gather about 10 feet from me, and talk in Greek all day, completely ignoring me (and not knowing I understood a little of what they said). It was a spectacularly lonely experience, and one I was scared to repeat. I know it surprises friends of mine to know that I’m incredibly shy, and I don’t easily introduce myself to others. So it took about 3 or more days to begin to make contact with the staff there. And even though in England, I was fairly certain that I would be better at 1) understanding what they were saying (still debatable to an extent) and 2) making friends. I didn’t want that to happen again. Sometimes, no matter how you attempt to convince yourself that you’ve grown up and changed, you still have old fears that creep into your psyche and doubt your abilities. My coworkers have been incredibly gracious and inclusive to me, both professionally and personally and I am very grateful for that. Plus, they’re genuinely lovely people to be around, and of course, tops at their craft and educational to be around, which is one of the perks of working the Olympics. Considering that after 4 days of work, I’ve only worked on 1 athlete, it was fun to spend several hours watching the physios practice their athletic taping skills.

That brings me to the source of bitterness, so forgive me for a short moment. I’ve worked for 4 days and massaged 1 athlete. There were no nets on the courts at Wimbledon until yesterday. When I arrived for my first day of work and found that no players had been seen yet, or probably would be seen for days, I was quietly seething. Each year, when I work at the US Open, we hit the pavement running. Our first days there are full practice days and packed with massages. I was a little nervous that I was working 9, 11ish hour days and how that much work might take a toll on my body. So having little work is definitely a blessing, but frustrating none-the-less. I’ve come a very far distance, at considerable expense, and I am clearly not needed yet. I have spent the past few days enjoying meeting my coworkers, wandering the incredibly beautiful grounds of Wimbledon, and eating too much. Again, very lucky. And yet, very frustrating. And actually incredibly exhausting for my body.

SIDE NOTE: I am shocked and horrified at the lack of accessibility for wheel chairs or mobility impaired people in this city. This metro system, although amazing and everywhere, is not ancient like New York and I think there is NO excuse for not having elevators and/or at least escalators at every station. Some of the trains have up to a foot of gap between the platform and the train, or a foot step up. Dangerous and disgraceful. And for the Olympic venues, they’ve made access nearly impossible. The walk portion of my commute is about 30 minutes because that’s as close as we could get. Last night the walk from the tube station to the Olympic Stadium was about the same, and then 3 flights of stairs to get to our seat. They just built that stadium. Where was the elevator? Was there an elevator? Unbelievable. My body is killing me these days. My knees, ankles and back are being beaten to death. But thank goodness I’m not on crutches or worse. I have no idea how I’d get around this city.

 I also said I was reinventing my England experience. The last time I was here, I was 25 years old. Major changes were happening in my life, and I took my savings to come to England and start studying massage, look at a school, see some shows, travel around, etc. As most of you know, I have no sense of direction. I’m lost almost every day of my life, in every city, GPS or not. The last time I was here, I did a fair amount of standing crying on street corners knowing, “I’m lost/I’ve missed the train/I’ve missed the store I needed/I might miss the show/I’ve missed meeting someone”. This time I was determined to NOT do that and actually ask for help (always a good rule that I’m still working on). Also, I was lonely and depressed last time, and I was afraid that would happen again. Traveling by yourself is just, simply, lonely. Anything cool, you want to share it. Anything that sucks, you wish you had someone to lean on. At 25, I wasn’t very good company for myself. These days, I hope I’ve improved. I still find myself on a lot of wrong street corners wondering where or if I've gone wrong. It took me 3 days coming home from work before I got home correctly. I even missed my town on the bus. Yes, my TOWN, not just my stop. But by the next day, I was giving other people directions. Let's hope they got where they were going.

So what’s the lesson? The experience to share? The point?
I don’t know. Ask for help. Enjoy your own company. Reinvent the experience. And get a good GPS.

All for now.


  1. I totally agree with you aobut the accessability at the Olympics. I dopn't know how people make it to the place, we had to walk miles from our bus prkingot to the venue and then another mile to another venue at the park......unbelieveable........Underground about killed us with all the stairs

    1. Glad you survived. Thank you for the comment!