walking, walking, and walking

Sunday, September 17, 2000, at 12:50PM

By Eric Richardson

Yesterday I pretty much took in the whole Olympic experience, starting with beach volleyball in the morning and ending up with a taste of the city at night.

The day started out way too early, since volleyball started at 9am. We got there right on time, getting to our seats right after the first game started up. The cool thing about prelims is that you make up for a possible lack of quality in shear quantity. We saw four games, and they ended up being great ones. 24 seed Mexico upset the top seeded Australians in a great match. The Australians were just stunned.

After volleyball we walked around Bondi for a while. It's an amazing place. The beach is amazing, and huge even with a large stadium firmly perched upon it. There were a lot of surfers there, despite the fact that the surf really wasn't all that good. There are much better surfing beaches around Sydney, making me think that surfing at Bondi is one part surfing, and three parts social.

Around 5:30pm everyone else headed back to the base. I, however, opted to move towards the city, intent on wandering around until I had covered the entire place. I started at Town Hall station heading in the general direction of Circular Quay.

The cool thing about Sydney right now is that it doesn't really matter where you go; there's always something going on. I stumbled across the Martin Place live site, one of the many spots across the city showing the games on an enormous screen. Martin Place also had a live band going, so I ended up watching that for a while.

After the band ended I made a more concerted effort to head towards the Quay, and ended up there shortly. By this time I was fairly hungry, so I bought a fish & chips at the Ferry Wharf and sat down to crowd watch and eat. Circular Quay was packed, with crowds mulling in every direction. I walked down to the Opera House, but nothing interesting was going on there, so I headed back the other way around the Quay. Once again, lots of people were about but nothing really appealed to me, so I headed up into the Rocks.

One of the cool things about the Olympics is the way the athletes head right out into the action. Going from the Quay to the Rocks I ended up walking a couple blocks with a girl from the US women's basketball team. Athletes are everywhere, and are usually easily identifiable in their team gear.

After running out of little shops to walk through, I decided to head back into downtown. I didn't really start with a goal in mind, but over time I decided to head towards Hyde Park and the only Starbucks in Australia. Walking back through Martin Place (I seemed to manage to make it there several times) I stopped to sit down and watch an event. It happened to be the men's 400m individual medley, which America dominated, breaking the world and Olympic records as well as coming in both first and second. The crowd was great, and everyone was into it, no matter what countries were competing or who won.

This atmosphere spreads farther than just the live sites. Throughout the city you hear cheering and excitement as every Pub has its screen tuned to the games.

Eventually I did make it to Starbucks, where I got a Mocha to attempt a recovery from the drowsiness creeping over my sleep-deprived body (12 hours in three nights... fun fun fun). Once armed with this caffinated recharge, I headed out in a new direction, completely unsure of where it lead.

I didn't make it far, though. Not a block away I get stopped by a person telling (not asking, or offering) me that I should (will) take this stress test they're offering down the street. Too tired to really be forceful, and a little curious, I gave in and got marched into the building. Only inside did it finally dawn on me that this was really the Church of Scientology using their technologically-suspect "high tech" devices as a cover for their salesperson evangelism. And salespeople they are... If there's one thing people like that know, it's how to make a sales pitch. I only managed to escape after convincing them that my life was completely perfect. (My favorite quote: "Really? That's amazing. We don't meet many people like you. Have a nice night.") It was an amusing way to kill a half-hour.

By now it's getting late and I'm starting to think about whether to head home, when I decide to wander back down to Circular Quay one more time and try to find the documentary team we're working with.

Amazingly, I was successful. I caught up with them right as they arrived and were about to begin their shoot, so I stayed to hang out and watch the filming process. I ended up being used several times as an interview prop, allowing the crew to covertly shoot beyond me at people who had no clue they were being filmed. In order to make things believable, I had to talk the whole time, totally making things to say up on the fly. Ever curious, people kept stopping to see who was getting filmed. Unfortunately, this meant my babbling had to be at least semi-coherent.

Around midnight we packed everything up and headed back. By this time my legs were sufficiently sore, but I'd had a great time.