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U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team Arrives in Crete

U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team
Notes from Heraklion, Greece
Friday, August 6, 2004

WELCOME TO PARADISE: The U.S. Women's Olympic Soccer Team boarded a bus at 10:50 a.m. Athens time this morning and bid adieu to the Olympic Village, starting its short pilgrimage to Crete, the largest of the Greek islands off the southern coast.  The shortness of the flight (50 minutes) wasn't the best part of the trip. That came when the voluminous amount of U.S. gear and personal bags actually made it onto the small plane.  The U.S. team landed at an isolated airstrip located right on the rocky coast to high-level security and enjoyed the always welcome tarmac arrival in which the team walks down the portable steps and 15 yards onto the bus.  The team then took a short bus ride which redefined the term "winding road," featuring several Tour de France type hairpin turns on the ride up into the hills and then down to the beach that caused several team members to battle "bus sickness."  Still, the nausea was all but forgotten when the team arrived at its beachfront resort hotel located smack dab on the beautiful, sparkling blue water of the Sea of Crete.  The setting could not have been more opposite than the hustle and bustle of the Olympic Village, but it was a welcome respite for the U.S. team as they begin to focus on their first match of the Olympics, just five days away against Greece on Aug. 11 (6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET on MSNBC).

FIRST TRAINING IN HERAKLION: The U.S. team had a scrumptious three-course lunch after arriving at the hotel just yards from the ocean, munching on pasta and Greek foods before relaxing for several hours at the hotel.  Training was at 6 p.m. on a wonderfully warm night, and while intense and sharp, it was short, as the team begins to taper into its first match.  The number of security forces and extremely friendly Olympic volunteers seemed to outnumber the players themselves, who all received roses as they disembarked the team bus.  The Greek volunteers, shopkeepers and anyone involved in the Olympics have been extremely friendly and helpful to the U.S. players as the country is seemingly bending over backwards to be gracious hosts.  Despite the predictions of doom for the Olympic organization, the U.S. players have given everything high marks so far.

"CRETE IS SWEET": Proclaimed U.S. captain Julie Foudy, after seeing the stunning beaches and picturesque mountains of Heraklion, the largest city on the island and fourth largest city in Greece.  Home to Europe's first civilization and empire, the arid look, breathtaking views and rocky landscape of Crete easily can take a tourist back to ancient times, when the port served as the center of Minoan civilization which lasted over 1500 years, from 2600-1100 BC.

U.S. defender Heather Mitts, after being asked what the players (who are notorious shoppers) were buying after she and her teammates poured into an Olympic souvenir store at the Athens Airport, despite already spending a great deal of time and Euros at the Official Olympic store at the Athlete's Village:
"Posters?and everything."

Nineteen-year-old U.S. forward Heather O'Reilly, who is closer in age to Joy Fawcett's 10-year-old daughter Katey than to the 36-year-old Fawcett herself (who has been capped 255 times), after both walked into their room at the hotel in Heraklion.
"Well, one of the beds was definitely a lot bigger than the other.  Let's put it this way, there was no question about which bed I was gonna get."

VILLAGE THOUGHTS: The U.S. team had just one "incident" in the Village when defender Heather Mitts got locked in the bathroom for 10 minutes at the team dorm, which featured some brand new doors with locks that still need the kinks worked out.  While Mitts' teammates tried to free her, she eventually worked the lock open and no authorities had to be summoned.  As the U.S. left the Olympic Village this morning here are some selected quotes on the unique experience of mingling with the athletes of the world.  

U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx:
"I'm glad we got a couple days in the village, because I didn't think we would have any time to see that part of it.  It's been so much fun seeing athletes from different countries putting their flags up and we were just really exited to be around this atmosphere."

U.S. captain Julie Foudy:
"I think the feel of the team is that we are finally on the last leg of this journey.  We're in Crete, we're here, we have five days until the first game.  It's not so chaotic as the Village.  The Village is exciting and fun because you have all these interesting people and athletes, and there's nothing like it.  But at the same time, the biggest challenge for an athlete is focusing there.  So (here in Crete) it's much easier. You are much more isolated, the team is together and it's a beautiful spot."

U.S. goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill, who has been a lot of places, on the beauty of Crete:
"This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  Aly Wagner told me the Swedish men's soccer team was here at the hotel, so I ran out to see them, but it was only a bunch of scuba divers."

STAT OF NOTE: That USA has never met any of its first round opponents -- Greece, Brazil and Australia -- in the opening round of an Olympics, but did play Brazil in the semifinals in 2000.