Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WOC 2007: Open Sesame

So after three days of races we finally get to the Opening Ceremony. For many runners who have failed to qualify for the finals their WOC is already over, which does seem a bit unfortunate. For others we are now at the point where the World Championships starts for real. But first we have a day to spend in hot and sunny Kiev.

We spent the morning visiting various gold-domed churches and monasteries, complete with associated caves and mummified monks. The caves entrance is cunningly concealed as a corridor accessed via a building site, and even the Ukrainians appear totally baffled about where it is or what to do. But eventually we worked out where to buy the candles that were equivalent to an entry fee and also served as a major source of light during the trip. They also provided endless opportunities for setting fire to the person ahead of you in the slowly moving queue as it passed through what turned out to be quite a short tunnel with various small rooms off it, lined with coffins containing embalmed monks. The boys liked it so much we had to do a second trip trough.

Then it was time to head for the beach at the Hydropark. This is a slightly aged fun fair complete with apparently dangerous roller coasters and other rides, plus the chance to ride on a camel, have your picture taken with a large bird of prey, eat all sorts of odd food, but most importantly cool down with a swim in the Dnipro River. There was a reasonable sandy beach, and the water was cool if a little brown.

And then it was yet another squeeze into the hot metro to get into the centre of the city. We emerged into Independence Square and took all the standard photographs of the statues and obelisks, and then followed a trail of orienteers towards the park overlooking the river. If you are ever put in charge of organising a WOC Opening Ceremony you will normally be given a large grassy field and told to get on with it. Kiev comes complete with a purpose-built open-air amphitheatre seating over a thousand, with stage, two enormous statues and an even more enormous metal arch over the whole lot. Add in a marching band, Ukrainian dancers and a surprisingly large crowd of orienteers to spectate and the whole thing was certainly one of the better examples of how these things should be done.

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