This morning we were all up early so we could take a short bus ride to Krasanaya Polyana to pick up the team’s guest passes for the rest of the week. As we arrived, we were greeted by a local stray dog who has now fondly picked up the name of ‘Sochi Dog’ – whoever says military guys are ridiculously tough, hasn’t seen them fall for the puppy dog eyes of ‘Sochi Dog’! He was so popular with the guys, and everyone wanted their picture taken with the little fella.
After persuading the team we couldn’t in fact bring ‘Sochi Dog’ back to the hotel we finally made it to receive our passes!
After, a few of the team decided to walk back to the hotel as the weather was good today (a balmy 15 degrees!) and it turned out that the trip was well worth it as we bumped into the ParalympicsGB Curling Team who had come up to the mountains for the day (they’re based on the coast). It was wonderful to see the interaction between the Paralympic hopefuls and those who are competing at the Games and how friendly and encouraging everyone was.
Later, we took a (rather steep) gondola ride to the mountain village, where the majority of the ParalympicsGB team are currently staying, to meet them all and watch as they took part in the ‘Welcome Ceremony’, which is a tradition I only knew existed as of today, where the host country of a Paralympic Games welcomes each team to their country.
We stood with the crowds of Russian volunteers, who have all been so helpful, and watched a live band and listened to the commentators. And then, in an amazingly proud moment, the Russian Army raised the flags of Great Britain. For many of the Inspiration Athletes this was a taster of what was to come in future years. For example, Mick Brennan attended a Paralympic Inspiration Programme in Vancouver 2010 and this year we have been privileged to watch him with pride as he was cheered on by his fellow wounded colleagues whilst representing his country once again.
Once the flag had been raised, one of the guys (a rowing hopeful who lost his leg in Afghanistan) said to me, ‘I am going to be that side of the fence in two years’; such an incredibly humbling moment for me.
Once back at the hotel, the group gathered to reflect on the day. We discussed many things, including what they had learned, what they believed to be the ideal attributes to become a performance athlete and what it takes to thrive in this very unique environment. There were some fantastic answers from the athletes who had genuinely thought about their answers, clearly they had taken everything in that they had experienced today.
An early night is in order, as people are very tired after a long journey from the UK and no one has really had much sleep. Adrenaline has started to wear thin and our athletes are all keen to train in the morning, so some decent kip is a must!
Tomorrow we will be attending a sponsor’s lunch and then a reception held by the International Paralympic Committee before heading to the Opening Ceremony!