Aug. 16, 2004
Swimmer Christel Bouvron (Singapore, Singapore/Raffles Girls' Secondary School), the first student-athlete in 84 years to compete in the Olympics while enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, has been soaking up the atmosphere of the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad in Athens, Greece. The junior-to-be, who is taking part in the Olympics for her native Singapore for the second time, checks in with Irish fans about Greek hospitality, the pageantry of the Games, and living in the Olympic Village.
Bouvron, who has earned all-BIG EAST honors four times in her first two years at Notre Dame, will take part in her only event, the 200-meter butterfly, on Tuesday at 10:28 a.m. (Eastern European Summer Time), which is 2:28 a.m. (Monday night/Tuesday morning) in South Bend. The top 16 then move on to the semifinals, scheduled for Tuesday at 7:20 p.m. (EEST) (11:20 a.m. in South Bend). The top eight swimmers will compete in the final on Wednesday evening at 7:42 p.m. (EEST) (11:42 a.m. in South Bend). NBC is scheduled to cover the 200 fly during its evening coverage on both days (beginning at 8 p.m. in South Bend) and might also feature prelim action on Tuesday (its coverage starting at 12:30 p.m. in South Bend).
Keep checking the official website of Irish athletics, www.und.com, which features coverage of all 10 Olympians with Notre Dame ties competing in this year's Games. Still to come will be a recap of Bouvron's performance in the 200 fly, as well as another diary entry from her, and photos documenting her experience.
CHRISTEL BOUVRON ATHENS OLYMPIC DIARY - ENTRY #1
Dear Irish fans,
This is Christel Bouvron, writing to you from Athens, Greece, home of the Olympic Games and one of the most exciting places to be right now. I have been here for slightly over a week, and I have to say that my experience thus far has been nothing short of spectacular.
Athens, put simply, is an incredible place. Everything about it is just so fascinating. Okay, I might be a little biased, considering that I'm a Classical Civilizations minor at Notre Dame, and I'll be taking Greek in the fall (unfortunately I've only picked up two Greek words here). But still - this place is just amazing, with its vast history and its people. The Greeks have such a rich culture, and they are so incredibly proud of it. While walking through the streets just below the Acropolis, my teammates and I were stopped by multiple Greeks who just had to tell us how happy they are to be hosting the Games, and that they really hope we enjoy our stay. Thousands of Greeks also volunteered their services by helping out in the Games as liaison officers, drivers, servers, and in many other positions, just to ensure that the these few weeks will be run smoothly and successfully.
The slogan for this year's Games is "Welcome Home" and there are thousands of banners around Athens proclaiming this. The people are just so excited that the Olympics have come full circle and have returned to where it all started. The organizers have also tried very hard to imitate the ancient Games, and the shot put competition is being held at Mount Olympia - about a three-hour drive from Athens - where the spectators sit on a hill around a field. Also, medal winners are presented with an olive branch in addition to their medal. These little things indeed bring a special feel to this year's Games.
All the participating teams stay at the Games Village, a huge estate that caters to our every need. It is so big that shuttle buses are required to take us from one part to another. We live in apartments within the Village, and thankfully, they are fully air conditioned, or we would have a terribly rough time surviving this scorching heat. Now the highlight of the Village would definitely have to be the dining hall (but of course!). It is a huge tent (probably bigger than Notre Dame's South Dining Hall and North Dining Hall put together) located right at the entrance of the Village. There is just so much food in here, and if I didn't have my teammates threatening me with fat jokes, I would probably have had three different kinds of dessert with each meal. Moreover, as McDonald's is a sponsor of the Olympics, there is an outlet inside the DH (dining hall), as well. Whatever you could ever feel like having - the DH has it.
The Village also houses a few internet cafes (thank goodness! I would have been so upset without AIM!), a post office, a polyclinic, a hair salon (where all athletes are entitled to a free hair cut, but I think I'll pass on that), a telecommunications center, a music shop and the Village store that sells everything from Olympic mascots (they're called Athene and Phevos) to daily necessities. In addition to all these, we can get our laundry done by the volunteers, play pool or work out at the recreational sports complex. Security in here is extremely tight as well, and although we groan about the long lines to get our IDs scanned and having to walk through metal detectors, it gives us a feeling of relief and lets us have a good night's sleep.
Two nights ago was the Opening Ceremony, and as I had done for the Openings at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, I told myself that I wouldn't be all "Oh-my-goodness-I'm-at-the-Olympics" excited and giggly - like I'm about to bounce off the walls. However, I started getting goose bumps all over my arms just watching the beginning of the athletes' parade (Singapore was the 169th country to walk out, so we had a fair bit of waiting at the Gymnastics Stadium, where we were "housed"), and by the time we actually made it in front of the crowd, I thought I was going to burst. We had to walk a full round of the track, and my teammates and I were trying to get caught on the cameras. Needless to say, I was delighted when my teammates at ND emailed my to tell me that they'd seen me on television! Overall, it was a breathtaking performance and an incredible experience. Although we got back really late and had to walk really far back to our apartment, it was definitely worth it.
The swimming races started the morning right after, but thankfully I didn't have an event; considering how exhausted I was feeling, I probably wouldn't have managed to finish my race. However, in the very first race of the morning, Drew [MacKay], a freshmen on the Irish men's team, almost won his heat in the 400 IM in a really fast time. Well, at least one of us was feeling awake! Apart from that, watching the meet these two days has really made me itch. Thankfully, I have less than a day to wait, as I race tomorrow morning (Athens time)! I can't wait!
All of my Singapore teammates go to school in the US (two of them actually swim at BYU, and we are already eagerly anticipating the meeting between our schools in football on Sept. 4), as do many of the swimmers taking part here, so it has been very interesting seeing a few familiar faces. It is a much longer schedule than what we usually do in college, but thankfully it is spread over many more days. Instead of the prelims and finals format we do at the BIG EAST Championships and other three-day meets, we have prelims, semifinals (top 16) and finals (top eight), making it a little more tiring. However, it makes great entertainment, so the organizers like it that way. The evening events (semis and finals) have been extremely exciting over the past few days, with tons of upsets, triumphs, and world records.
Well, I finally get to swim the 200 fly tomorrow morning, and I have tons to do this afternoon to get ready. I can't wait to shave (swimmers usually shave just a couple of times a year, just before a big meet), pull out my race suit and color on my cap (the organizers are really picky about logos on our apparel because of the coverage and they don't want us doing any advertising, so we can only have one logo on our cap. Unfortunately, I have two, so I need to color one of them over), and then after my race I can finally eat all the dessert I want to! I'm so psyched! Wish me luck!