I have arrived in Beijing

We arrived in Beijing on Saturday August 31st, after a 4am start in malaysia. We had breakfast and packed sandwiches to eat during the hour flight. Once we landed in Beijing all the people on the team who could walk (everyone except me and esther) disembarked and proceeded through customs. I had to wait for a wheelchair to be brought onto the plane so I could get off. Because the Iraq paralympic team were on the flight too we needed 7 wheelchairs. This process was actually very well organised but seemed to me like commedy hour in China, as there were dozens of airline staff speaking Malay and dozens more Games volunteers and airport staff speaking chinese attempting to assist athletes from australia and Iraq who didnt understand either language. To add to the pandemonium an enormous media pack swarmed on to the plane to film the athletes in wheelchairs leaving the plane. You can imagine the scene as all these people scrambled about in the narrow aisle as well as 7 wheelchairs!
They started at the back of the plane so esther was long gone by the time I finally got off the plane and found my wheelchair at the gate. The media pack went into a frenzy of flashes and filming when some games volunteers gave me 2 bracelets which say something in Chinese. I think it says welcome.
By now I was completely separated from the whole team, so I went through to the Games accreditation area with a volunteer. It was very efficient, with teams ushered through a separate way to avoid all standing in line etc. The whole airport was decked out with Beijing banners and signs, and they even rolled out a red carpet as we went through a tunnel to customs. Then I struck my first problem, my coach had my entry visa to china and he of course went a different way and got off the plane ages earlier.Someone was brought in to translate while i explained that problem and after much discussion in chinese someone disappeared and returned with my visa!
Once I cleared customs I was finally united with the rest of the team in the baggage claim area, where volunteers were helping to collect our bags and load them onto a special bus to be brough to the village. We had been warned that we may not see our bags until the next day, so packed our swimming gear and pyjamas in our handluggage. But as it turned out, we had just walked into our building in the village when the bags arrived.
My first impression of China was delight at seing Sunshine and blue sky ( no smog in sight). Everywhere you look are signs and billboards saying Beijing 2008, and they actually have the paralympic mascot and IPC logo rather than just leaving up all the stuff from the Olympics. The side of the road from the airport is lined with flags that say beijing 2008 paralympic games, and there is a spacial “ipc buss lane” for our transport so there are no traffic jams. The excitement on the bus as we neared the village was amazing. We got off the bus and went through security, having our bags exrayed and a body search ( like an airport) before getting a first glimpse of our home for the next few weeks.
We didnt even have time to unpack (let alone decorate) before we had to meet downstairs to go training in the village pool. Then it was on to dinner in the dinning hall- it us so amazing to be here.
It all feels much more real now that we are here, and the Paralympic village is better than I could have ever imagined.
The village accommodation is set up as a series of appartment buildings which have a number of units on each floor. Our whole swimming team is in one building, along with the aussi cycling team. All the aussi swimming girls are on level 3, and I am sharing a room with with my friend Esther Overton. Everyone in our unit spent yesterday decorating with australian flags and kangaroos and balloons, which was a lot of fun. Our buildings are just opposite the dinning hall and transport hub, which saves a lot of walking.
There are of course little oddities, which remond us we are travelling in a foreign country. The showers don’t drain,so everyone is standing in ankle deep water in the bathrooms. And you have to stick a plastic pen lid into the powerpoint before you can plug anything in!
I havn’t explored everything yet, but there is a shopping centre including a beauty salon, Games rooms, swimming pool and of course the dinning hall- a gigantic building open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is food from all different parts of the world and it is all free! We even get a token to use in the vending machines so we don’t need to pay for anything!
We had our first training session at the watercube yesterday morning, and everyone on the bus grew excited as soon as it came into view. I discovered it is surrounded by water. We all took lots of photos before getting in to do our training session. The water was REALLY cold and i got goosebumps the whole time. Hope they warm it up before we race.
On our first morning here we had a tour of all the australian team facilities,including the medical centre which has ice baths incase we get hot and is staffed by a sport psychologist, nutritionists, nurses and several doctors. There is a media centre with interview room, and an athlete lounge with internet access.
Outside we have a resident centre where there is games rooms, internet cafe and the laundry. I sit in this building now, writing this, having just collected my laundry from the ‘garden shed’ like building out back!
Needless to say I am loving village life and cannot wait to compete- let the Games begin!

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