The Tolopka's Meet the Olympics

Beach Volleyball:  Saturday, 16 September 2000

Our first day of real Olympic competition!  Today is Women's Beach Volleyball eliminations, held at world-famous Bondi Beach east of the city.  We walked the half-dozen blocks over to Central Station to join the throngs heading to Olympic venues throughout the city.  Don't know what you all have been reading in the local papers, but we've found the transportation system to be efficient, friendly, and pretty smooth sailing. There are lots of trains, in terms of both frequency and in number of different places that they go.  (I remarked to Janet the other day that we'll know Portland has a real train system when you go to a station and have to make a choice more complex than "should I get on the train?")   The trains are even quieter to ride than MAX in Portland; they whoosh into the station, board passengers, then smoothly and silently start to glide away as though they're powered by some Star Trek-like mechanism.  Anyway, we found our way onto the train to Bondi Junction, and from there it was a couple mile bus ride down to the beach. 
We keep leaving for the venues really early because of the recommendations from Cartan Tours, but everything works so well that we have lots of spare time once we get on-site.  In this case, we decided to grab some lunch at a cafe across the street from the Beach, strongly believing that "real food" would be a better idea than whatever we'd fine inside.  (We had "desperation hot dogs" at the Opening Ceremonies last night that were strange enough for our group to swear off the franks for the duration of the Games.)  We got a sidewalk table at the Le Paris-Go "Too" Cafe where we ate barbecued chicken quesadillas and frittatas while watching live Olympic coverage on a small TV tucked up in the corner -- delicious.  TV coverage is everywhere around the city; every restaurant (even the fancy ones), every shop window.  At half a dozen "Live" sites around the city there are gigantic screens set up in the streets, and they're always filled with cheering crowds urging on their Aussie favorites.
All of the Olympic venue entrances have metal detectors and (pretty cursory) backpack searches on the way in.  On entering Olympic Park for the Opening Ceremonies yesterday, I dropped my pocket knife into the "bypass" tray as at the airport and caused a real tizzy -- dire warnings that they should confiscate my weapon, but they'd let it go this once.  Well, I forgot to pull it out of my pocket and was halfway to Bondi when I realized that today.  Rather than repeat the tizziness, I decided to try a "buried treasure" technique, surreptitiously burying the knife under some wood chips beneath a tree near this venue entrance and figuring I'd get it again later. 
So we joined the other fans heading in and made our way down the beach.  The stadium was plunked down right in the middle of the beach -- made it look a bit like some alien artifact that fell from the sky.
These games were the preliminary round; one game to 15 points, single elimination.  First match was between the Brazilian team of Adriana and Sandra (foreground) versus Cuba's Larrea and Fernandez.  The Brazilian fans were out in force (right) with a large yellow and green cheering section, including a band consisting of two drummers and a single trombone player.  The Brazilian pair was by far the stronger of the two winning 15-4.
Next match:  A USA (Jordan/Davis) v. Australia (Huygens-Tholen/Straton) showdown.  This US team was seeded third in the tournament, but had a tough time before putting away their opponents 15-13 in a nail-biter.
Later on in the afternoon, Jennifer (Johnson) Jordan sat in our section to watch more of the action (left).  She landed in our section because she was looking for her Dad, former Olympic decathlon legend Rafer Johnson (right, straw hat), who had been sitting there watching his daughter compete.
In the third match, we saw the second-seeded Brazilian team of Adriana (a different one) and Shelda destroy the Bulgarian Yanchulova sisters 15-3 in just over 25 minutes.  The final match of the day matched the top seeds from Australia (Pottharst/Cook) against the 24th-seeded Mexican team (Galindo/Gaxiola).  Despite the apparent mismatch, this was a very exciting game.  The Australians (green, far side) had the height and power, but the Mexicans (red, near side) were really quick, making digs and running down balls everywhere.  The Australians prevailed 15-11, but it took a determined effort and a lot of Australian cheering to pull them through.
While we're on the subject of Australian rooters:  There's apparently an all-purpose Australian cheer consisting of two words:  "Aussie" (pronounced "Ozzie"), and "Oi" (pronounced -- well, just like it looks).  It follows a call-and-response pattern, with the caller taking the part of "Aussie" and the crowd handling the "Oi"s as follows: While this cheer is suitable for all sporting events, it's apparently good for almost everything else as well.  We heard it at the Opening Ceremonies, at the Olympics Live sites, in restaurants, in the train stations, while waiting on line -- you hear it so often you start to feel deprived without it.  It's also a highly democratic sort of thing; the initiator need not be anyone with "official standing" of any sort, simply any leather-lunged fan in a good mood.  Sure it's dopey, but highly infectious!

After the games ended, we struck out back toward the venue entrance to reclaim my buried treasure.  "Oh we're sorry, you can't leave that way.  Everyone must leave the venue at the other end."  Which turned out to be at least three-quarters of a mile in the wrong direction before we could turn around and head back.  Bummer.  We finally made it back to the tree ... and discovered that pirates had apparently been there before us.  So I've sacrificed a pocketknife to the Olympic Gods.  Oh well -- could have been a lot worse.

We reversed course and hiked the 3/4 mile back again to catch the bus toward the train station, then found our way via train to Circular Quay for dinner. We headed for The Rocks and Zia Pina Pizzeria, which we remembered from 5 years ago as having pretty decent food.  Not a bad dinner, although it didn't quite match Janet's memory.