Olympic Reportó9/19/00 - SailNet Community
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Olympic Reportó9/19/00

SailNet’s Olympic correspondent Bob Merrick, the US Men’s 470 crew, reports from Sydney on the first few days of the Olympic Games. Merrick and his skipper Paul Foerster begin their competition today.

The author, center, poses with fellow Olympic teammates at the opening ceremony.
Last Friday night the Olympic Games finally got underway with a fantastic opening ceremony. The first sailing events began two days later, so the entire US Sailing Team was able to attend the ceremony. I can understand why athletes with events on the following day don't march. For the athletes, the ceremony involved a lot of waiting in line followed by immense excitement and then more waiting in line.

Most of the team was down at the marina on the morning of the ceremony finishing measurement or getting out for a quick sail. We were all told that we should catch the 4:00 p.m. ferry, at the latest, in order to be back at the village in time to eat dinner and get ready for the ceremonies. The entire US Olympic Team is staying on the same block in the village, so the plan was for everyone to meet on Main Street USA, right behind the sailing house, at 6:00 p.m. to catch buses to the stadium.


Follow the Olympics with Bob Merrick's reports and photos along with our primers and commentary from spectator Martha Mason.

Olympic Report—09/25/00
Olympic Report—09/22/00
Olympic Report—09/21/00
Olympic Report—09/20/00
Olympic Photos—Opening Ceremonies
Olympic Photos—Miscellaneous
Let the Games Begin
Getting to Know Olympic Sailing
The Olympic Primer
Olympic Report—08/03/00
Olympic Report—06/30/00
Olympic Report—05/29/00
Olympic Report—05/06/00

The buses were about a half-hour late, but it was great to mix on the street with all the other athletes. We were all getting our pictures with the basketball and tennis players. Getting pictures with celebrities continued throughout the night. US Baseball Team coach Tommy Lasorda must have had his picture taken with people about 200 times over the course of the night.

Finally the buses arrived and we were all taken to the gymnastics stadium where we would wait to march into the Super Dome. All the other teams were sitting in different sections doing their team chants or starting the wave. There was a large TV screen hanging from the ceiling so that we could watch the ceremony, but there was no sound. The teams were called out one by one, starting with Greece and then alphabetically with Australia last. A few hours after they started calling teams, the US team was called. We all lined up, girls first. The sailing team tried to stay together under Hal's [Haenel, the Team Leader] guidance, but it was difficult in the mass of bodies. It took another half-hour before we entered the stadium. When we walked in the crowd was roaring and all the athletes were so pumped up it was amazing. We all walked around the track and then onto the infield as the rest of the teams came in.


Olympic Photo Albums
Olympic Photos—Opening Ceremonies
Olympic Photos—Miscellaneous

Inside the stadium we got to hear the Olympic oath and Juan Antonio Samaranch open the Games. The most exciting part by far was the lighting of the torch. Australian female medallists, celebrating 100 years of women's participation in the Olympics carried the torch around the stadium. Cathy Freeman—the 400-meter gold medallist and world record holder—had the honor of lighting the torch. The flame came up out of a pool of water as a ring of fire with her in the middle and eventually rose to the top of the stadium. From where we stood, it was absolutely impressive. I will never forget it.

After the ceremony all the athletes started walking back to the village in mass. Every single one of us had to pass through one of about 10 medal detectors. We got back to the team house at about 1:00 am.

The Olympic regatta got underway two days later. Mistrals and Tornados and Solings were the classes to start on the first day. The wind was not very cooperative and both classes were postponed for a few hours. I spent the day watching the 49er practice race. I had a great view from Nielsen Park on the east side of the harbor about 20 feet above the water.

The Tornados finally completed the two scheduled races. US reps Johnny Lovell and Charlie Ogletree finished the day with an 8,6. In the Mistrals, Mike Gebhardt started off with a 2,22 and Lanee Butler had a DSQ and a 4. Lanee sailed well in the first race, but was later disqualified for tacking too close to Hong Kong. The Solings had only one race and the US team finished fourth. Down at the marina the Tornado sailing was live on television, complete with onboard cameras and GPS tracking. It was really exciting to watch on television even with the light air. When the wind finally shows up it should be spectacular.

The second day of the regatta was Day One for the 49ers and the wind was as light and shifty as it could be with wind shifts up to 180 degrees. The McKee's dealt well with the day and had a 6,3. The 49ers had full country flags on their spinnakers, but the ink on them was causing the spinnakers to rip more frequently, so they’re being replaced with new sails. In the Tornado, the US had a 5-8 to put them in sixth overall. The Austrians were winning after the day. Jeff Madrigali and his US Soling crew had a tough day and finished 14th. The team is in seventh and only has to finish among the top 12 to make the match-race finals. In the Mistrals, light wind only allowed for one race: Lanee finished in 12th to put her in 15th overall. She will move up once the throw-out is factored in after five races. Mike Gebhardt finished 10th to put him eighth after the day.

On Tuesday Paul and I had our practice race. We had a good start but didn't get far enough left on the first beat and rounded 10th. From there we ground back to about sixth.

The general attitude on the team is relaxed so far. There is a little bit of frustration at the lack of wind, but we’re all confident that we'll see some great breeze before the regatta is over. Paul and I start racing today. We're ready to go, so wish us luck.

Bob Merrick is offline  
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