Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2004
U.S. Women's National Team
Notes from Athens, Greece
EAST HARTFORD TO ATHENS, GREECE: The U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team arrived in Athens this afternoon after a long, but smooth two days of travel that began Sunday night after the USA defeated China, 3-1, in East Hartford, Conn. The U.S. team flew to Baltimore after the game, where it stayed the night. The team awoke the next morning for a scrumptious breakfast before an hour bus ride to Washington Dulles airport where it boarded a flight to Brussels, Belgium. The U.S. team got VIP treatment and plenty of well wishes as they pre-boarded their United Airlines flight, getting on so much earlier than the other passengers that they actually had time to fill three rows for a quick team picture. Most of the players sported effective, if not attractive, calf or full length compression socks to avoid the dreaded "cankles" that can occur on long international flights. Most of the team slept on the flight over, which was a good thing, as there was a three-hour layover in Brussels, where the players occupied themselves with their books, music, wireless Internet, snacking and card games, including a heated round of seven-card Texas Hold'em poker, using hard candy for chips. The beautiful Brussels airport featured a vast array of the famous Belgian chocolate, but U.S. captain Julie Foudy somehow managed to refrain from the luscious collection of truffles and caramels.
"WELCOME HOME" -- U.S. TOUCHES DOWN IN GREECE:The U.S. team arrived in Athens about 3:30 p.m. local time, and despite all the bad press the Greeks have gotten for their rushed preparations, saw no signs of disorganization by the local organizing committee. The team traveled smoothly through accreditation and jumped onto the bus to the American College of Greece (ACG), where the United States Olympic Committee has set up camp during the Games. The U.S. team had a quick but satisfying bite to eat and then got to stretch their legs on a tour of the campus, which features everything an Olympian would want prior to the games, including a cafeteria, athlete lounges, weight room, training facilities, etc. After eating, the U.S. team relaxed in a lounge for an hour as most of the team popped in a DVD of a "Friends" episode, while some played cards and ping-pong. Then the entire delegation boarded a bus to the Athlete's Village, where the USA checked into its dorms - once again with no hitches - as the Greeks seem to have their lambs in a row. As the U.S. team pulled up to the Athlete's Village, they were awed by the multitude of flags, colors and banners, including the slogan "Welcome Home" signifying Greece as not only the host of the first Olympics of the modern age in 1896, but also of the home of the ancient Olympic Games.
VILLAGE READY TO GO:While the Athlete's Village can certainly not be described as "completed," with much landscaping absent and the look of fresh paint everywhere, it is more than serviceable and in fact, extremely organized and somewhat sparkling in its newness. With only a small percentage of the delegations having already arrived, the village is not yet bustling, but the signs of it coming to life are everywhere. The U.S. accommodations are spartan but nice, and the team found the security at the village tight and omnipresent, but not overbearing, with the multitude of volunteers tripping over themselves to help with bags and luggage. The U.S. players felt more than safe with a solider stationed at a checkpoint right outside their apartment complex. Most of the players took a short walk around the sprawling campus, visiting the massive cafeteria, before collapsing in their beds for a good night's sleep.
WEDNESDAY, LONGDAY: The U.S. team has a long day planned on Wednesday, which will begin with an early breakfast, followed by the team processing at the ACG, which is always a fun few hours as the team receives all their official Olympic gear. The U.S. team has training scheduled for 4 p.m. at Paraskevi Field adjacent to the ACJ and will get a chance to run for the first time since arriving in Athens. As expected, it is very hot in Athens, reaching into the mid-90s on the team's first day in the country, but with a nice breeze, and very little humidity, it was almost comfortable.
THURSDAY AT THE MPC: The U.S. team will train Thursday morning, and then several players will go to the massive Main Press Center for a press conference at around 4 p.m. local time, giving the Athens-based media a chance to talk to the U.S. players before they depart for Crete. The tournament schedule does not have the U.S. team returning to Athens unless it makes it to the gold medal game.
CRETE AWAITS:The U.S. team will stay at the Athlete's Village for only two and half days, departing on Thursday for Heraklio on the island of Crete, where the USA opens its Olympic competition on Aug. 11 against host Greece at Pankrito Stadium (6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET on MSNBC)
U.S. captain Julie Foudy's first impressions of her third Olympics:
"It's awesome. The USOC did a great job of putting together the ACG for our athletes, although I lost a game of UNO there this afternoon. The Athlete's Village is great. We went to the cafeteria and there are lots of desserts, tons of chopped fruit, and more desserts. They even have ice cream to go and I think it's open 24 hours. What more could you want?"
Foudy on the "feel" of the Athlete's Village:
"You see people everywhere walking around in their national team gear. Some of the rookies had no idea it was this big. They asked me if the Olympic experience got old. I told them it never gets old, first time or third time around."
U.S. forward Abby Wambach's first impressions of her first Olympics:
"It's overwhelming. It feels good to finally be here and feel what it's like. We have had so many different things and visions in our minds but nothing compares to the reality of being here. It is thrilling to see many different athletes and feel how much hard work everyone has put in to get here."
U.S. defender Heather Mitts' first impressions of her first Olympics:
"It's a great atmosphere for the team to bond as we begin our quest for the gold. I expected more people. The village is a little bare right now, but give it a few days and I am sure it will be what I expected and more."
STAT OF NOTE: Four members of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team have scored in an Olympic Games: Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly.
U.S. Women's National Team Olympic Schedule
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