Thursday, August 7, 2008

Match Day

We depart the hotel at 5:30 for a 10 minute trip. The bus has a police escort that radios ahead we are coming and they stop all traffic at any intersection to ensure we arrive without any problems. People are standing on the streets as we pass by watching us. The first game is going on as we enter so we head to the locker room and begin to prepare for the match. We begin to change and put on the belts for the communication device we have to help each other, put the device in the belts and the earpiece taped on our face and neck to keep it from moving around. Game went very good ended in a tie and we had one caution and one send off.It was very HOT and HUMID!!!!!!!

Jair and Kermit

On the Road

Today we depart for the city of Qinhuangdao, by train the 7 of us are taken to the train station and we are placed in an area and surrounded by security people that do not allow people to enter, then we board and ride the train for 2 hours to the city, with uniformed security people on the train with us and then we were met by more of the event staff for the venue. They take us by police escort to the hotel and we are greeted by the hotel staff, They have people there that present each of us with flowers and a ovation as we enter the hotel people are standing on the second floor. And then we are taken to our room and we enjoy dinner in the hotel.

Jair and Kermit

Hello From Qinhaungdao

Today we had the match between Cameroon vs Korea Republic. On a hot and humid night, both sides began the match playing a high-tempo, pressing game. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, with a caution to Korea in the 57th minute and a send off in the 90th minute. The match inspector was very pleased with our performance.

After the match, Jair headed to Shanghai to be the Fourth Official for the August 9 matches between Argentina vs. Australia and Serbia vs. Ivory Coast.

The First Game

We returned to Beijing this afternoon and we are exhausted from travel and last nightʼs match. As wide eyed first timers, we wanted to share a little bit about our experience.

We are still pumped up from the match and the realization that we are now officially Olympians! As you probably know, the game ended in a scoreless draw. Last night was an incredible experience! Wu Lihe Stadium is a beautiful brand new stadium redone specifically for the Olympics. The crowd in the stadium was quite loud and there were several moments during the match where our communication system was quite useful.

With a long way to go, we were the first crew to depart Beijing. Our fellow referees gave us a send off we will never forget, cheering and clapping for us. It was an unexpected moment of solidarity that reminded us we have a football family rooting for our success.

Upon arrival at Shenyang, we went on a short tour of the city and the Government Municipal Square. Many of the city residents take part in physical activities such as dancing, skateboarding, and jump roping on the square. In fact, there were a few thousand people at the square that night. Walking around the square was a perfect activity for us as we had a chance to see a local summer pastime and walking is a good way to loosen the muscles after flying.
We began preparing in earnest for the match by watching part of the World Cup Final from 2007 and discussing styles of play and strategies for dealing with specific situations. The next morning, we continued preparations with a pre-game at the hotel with our Argentinean fourth official. Veronicaʼs fluency in Spanish really came in handy to avoid misunderstandings in instructions.

We left for the stadium in a bus right behind Brazil and Germany.

While we waited for the bus, the Brazilian menʼs team departed to train and watch the match (Ronaldinho walked right past us!). With our police escort, we drove to the stadium while the locals waved.

Entering the stadium brought home the reality of participating in the Olympics. We went through the normal pregame preparations of walking the field and warming up, with the added step of testing the electronic equipment including the communication system, flags, and electronic sub board. We walked onto the field to the cheers of tens of thousands of fans. As the game began, we forced ourselves to ignore the distractions of the crowd and focus on the task at hand. Through the course of the game, we learned when to communicate vital information via the electronic system as well as when Kari was speaking to us and not to a player. At the end of the game, we were all drenched with sweat from the high heat and humidity. Although we were tired, we also experienced the exhilaration of working in a stadium with so many people, officiating the reigning World Cup champion and the runner up, and officiating at our first FIFA tournament. We were very fortunate to work our first game with a referee as experienced as Kari to help us with all the small protocols we never even thought of and calmed our nerves a bit with her confidence.


Monday, August 4, 2008

The Assignments Are Out

* The USA will be represented by a trio in the Germany v Brazil match on Aug 6th. Yes, the same match up as the final of the Women's World Cup 2007. On Aug. 5th Kari, Marlene & Veronica fly to Shengyang where, on the following day, we'll be officiating in a stadium designed to seat 60,000 people and rumored to be a sell-out!
* The USA will be represented by a duo for the start of the group play for the Men which begins on Aug 7, 2008. Jair and Kermit will be working the match between Cameroon and Korea along with the second assistant Ricardo of Jamacia. This match will take place in the City on the coast called Qinhuangdao, at the Olympic Sports Center seating 32,000. Today we practiced using the communication system, as well as began mental preparation for this match.

We are thrilled and can't wait to kick-off this wonderful event with great performances by the USA officiating crews.Thank you everyone for all your support - go USA

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Exciting Day

It has been a long and exciting day. Starting with training, both fitness and technical, followed by a group mental preparation session with our "team" Psychologist. The goal of this mental preparation session was to learn relaxation techniques in preparation for the upcoming matches

The sun was out and it was hot today, we’ve heard anywhere from 35-40 degrees Celsius (95-100 degrees Fahrenheit). Of course we are also told that is only at about 20 degrees humidity so there is a lot more heat where that came from. It was a bit hazy, but we could see the sun.

With the morning session out of the way, we had an opportunity to take an optional trip to the Forbidden City in the afternoon. This time we were able to go in. A huge and amazing facility. First used as a palace in 1368, it covers 720,000 square meters. (Yes, I bought a map with these fun facts).

Tonight was the night of the official FIFA Banquet (the first opportunity for us to sport our new Olympic “uniforms”) so we kept our touring to a manageable time. Many of FIFA’s most important people, as well as some representatives of the IOC were in attendance at tonight’s dinner. It was an enjoyable meal with over 200 people in attendance. Everyone looked great in their blue and white suits.

We are headed off to bed. Any questions just let us know….

Communication Systems!

This afternoon we had a meeting regarding the Communication System, which we'll be using for the Olympics. Since only about 1/2 of the referees have used it before, we got a brief overview of how it works an some tips in its use. Each referee was then given their own system to manage for the duration of the tournament. In the attached photo you can see the bag with all the equipment. The belt in which the receiver goes around the referee/ARs waist, the receiver, the microphone/headpiece and for the 4th official the "push to talk" button. I also added my referee shoe to the photo in order to give you a sense of scale (and I don't wear size 12). For the ladies this device takes up most of the torso and you can see the size of the receiver. However in my experience at the Women's World Cup in 2007 it was very handy and although not comfortable it did not interfere, but rather offered opportunities for assistance for the referee crew. I am glad we are using the system again. With this device, the key is to keep all communication short and sweet. We'll let you know our experiences with the communication system throughout the event. We'll start by testing it out as a team in training tomorrow.

Rise and Shine!

Bright and early every morning we wait in the lobby of our hotel for our transportation to arrive to take us to our training sessions. Our credentials are a requirement every time we depart our hotel for security purposes. Today our training sessions were on penalty kick, offside, and assistant referee involvement. The penalty kick session was about the decisions of the referee when attackers and defenders encroach the penalty area. The offside and AR involvement came hand and hand with our session. Our instructors let us know when AR's should and shouldn't be involved. Our daily sessions last about two hours.

We want to thank all of you for the kind words and support through our Olympic experience.