Special Olympics – My experience Part II

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I reached DCU (Dublin City University), which was my accommodation venue in Dublin, nearly on time. The people at accommodation were very nice and handed me a list of rooms allocated and told me to get that sorted straight way (did I have a choice there?) After checking and cross checking for an hour I realised that my name was not on the list 🙂 So they asked me to leave my bag with them and sort out the delegates first. For the next four hours I was handling a few unhappy souls! I had a few volunteers to help me in giving out keys and I had to do all the documentation as we were told that if people changed the rooms we should inform them for safety reasons.

If one or two wanted change in rooms then it would have been an easy task but I was changing and re-changing (if there is a word like that!) rooms for 103 people! So finally a decision was taken that all the females would be on the second floor and the men would occupy the first floor. My HOD wanted the ground floor as she said she could not climb stairs! We had only one room in the ground floor and that was for a wheel chair athlete. After four hours I sent people to their rooms, promised accommodation guys that they would have their list ready by the night and I would personally sit with them and put the details on their pc and had to run to get a taxi to go for a “walk through” for the opening ceremony the next day. After all this I came back to the ground floor only to realise that there was no wheelchair access to the room! The crowd there was brilliant enough and they built a temporary ramp in no time for us!

When I came back that night at 10:30 I had spent more than twenty four hours without any solid food! Ours was the last stop and the bus driver Niall said he hadn’t had anything to eat since morning either. So we dragged him along and managed to sweet talk Tom our catering manager to open the fridges so that we could have some sandwiches to eat!

We were chatting to Niall and found out that Niall was the manager in Bus Eireann (our intercity bus service) and he was driving because he had not enough drivers out that day! Actually I got to meet so many lovely people during the games that I felt there was some hope that the world was heading in the right direction! I also got to meet the first women inspector for Bus Eireann who was another volunteer!

From that day I had to go for a HOD meeting every morning at 8:00 which meant I had to leave at 7:15. I had to wake up at 5:30 each morning to check with accommodation, delegation services, volunteer check in, catering and transport if everything was ok before I left. And then they had both my mobile numbers of course!

The next day I sat in DCU all day trying to sort out accommodation (I had an argument with the head coach the previous night at 12:30 and finally gave up and went to bed!) and do other stuff before getting ready and leaving for the opening ceremony. The opening ceremony was brilliant. I’ve never seen anything that big in my entire life! I did miss quite a few bits and pieces because one of my athletes went missing and I also had an athlete who collapsed. By the end of the day all my athletes were tired, hungry and cold! I had a tough time trying to explain that I could not arrange for a dinner at 1:30 in the night for the entire team. The highlight of the day was that my HOD had managed to get 25 passes for the opening and because it was in the last minute she could not deliver it to the people on time. So we ended up giving passes to unsuspecting strangers on the street and making them really happy!

The amount of celebrities that turned up for the opening was unimaginable. We did hear a few rumours on who was coming and who was not. But we got to see Eunice Kennedy Shriver (and a whole load of Kennedys and Shrivers), Mohammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, the Irish Prime Minister (Bertie Ahern), the Irish President (Mary Mcaleese), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Collin Farrell, Samantha Mumba, Jon Bon Jovi, Ashley Judd, Heather Locklear, Eddie Ervine and more than half a dozen royal families from all over the world (actually I don’t think I saw anyone from the British Royal family!)
Last week when I saw the recording of the opening ceremony I realised that I did not see half of what was going on stage! I was running around and just cheering and shouting for each team that entered the stadium and for each name that was mentioned on the stage… so much so that I had nearly lost my voice the next day!
The opening ceremony was on the longest day of the year (June 21st) and what could be a more appropriate performance than ‘Solstice’? Open Arts, the Belfast based theatre company comprising of 180 performers with a learning disability and 140 professionals, created the special performance ‘Solstice’. The best part was that the performers had made their costumes themselves 🙂
We had Riverdance performing for us and they broke the record by having the maximum number of Irish dancers lined up on stage! And then we had Macnas and the Blue Teapot company performing ‘The Ball’ for us. This again was by a group of performers with learning disability. The Ball was inspired by the various ball games in 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
And we all got to sing the athlete’s song ‘May We Never Have to Say Goodbye’ ! This song was sung over and over again in the next few days in each and every awards ceremony! This is one of the songs that has made a big difference in my life!

May We Never Have to Say Goodbye
(Word & Music by Shaun Davey)We crossed the oceans
We crossed the valleys
We crossed the mountains high
There’s none to fear
For now we’re here
And may we never have to say goodbye

So come we all to take our chances
For we’re prepared to try
To run the race, to face the challenge
And may we never have to say goodbye

We bid you welcome
To share the feeling
Now that the evening’s nigh
Come take my hand
For here we stand
And may we never have to say goodbye

So come we all to take our chances
For we’re prepared to try
To run the race, to face the challenge
And may we never have to say goodbye

So come we all to take our chances
For we’re prepared to try
To run the race, to face the challenge
And may we never have to say goodbye

The climax of the Ceremony was undoubtedly the arrival of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope following its 17-day journey through 15 European countries and every corner of the island of Ireland by Law Enforcement Officers from 20 countries, led by An Garda Siochana and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. In an emotional end to the evening the Torch was handed to young Team Ireland athlete David McCaulay from Derry, who lit the World Games Flame to officially herald the start of 2003 World Games.

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