Friday, June 30, 2017

WOC and roll

C-JAM putting the WOC in rock and roll
I consider myself something of a connoisseur of WOC opening ceremonies, even if I need to look up the spelling before committing it to keypad. I particularly remember some corner of a far-flung Norwegian hillside that was forever and forever and forever Norway. That and the sky-diver at WOC 1999 in Scotland.

What we have just had in Estonia is going to be right up there with the most memorable. The large town square seemed almost devoid of people, even some minutes past the official starting time. After we'd been there about 20 minutes our recycled GB flag on a stick from WOC in Scotland 2015 was in third place in the "biggest flag in the crowd" category behind the Swiss and Swedes, mainly because these were the only three flags that I could see. Gradually more people drifted in, and then a distant thumping sound signified something might be about to happen, The thumping sound grew gradually larger until a lorry appeared in the far distance with two extremely large speakers on it blaring out some random Estonian tune of the moment, and a long trail of flags and orienteers behind it.

And then something happened to confirm this really was WOC. Per Forsberg bounced onto the stage and started announcing the teams as they made it into the square. Ever the professional, not once did he succumb to the temptation of querying the delay in proceedings with a trademark "I think he's too late". The parade was somewhat underwhelming. As ever the number of athletes was quite small, since people don't want to stand around all night when they have races to run. But at least we could watch as teams like Cyprus, Chile, Egypt and North Korea marched past. The teams formed up around the fountain at the top of the square with Tartu Town Hall in the background, and the assembled crowd (which by now just about deserved that term) formed around them.

After that we had the normal sorts of speeches (although commendably short) from IOF President
Leho Haldna, who turns out to be from Tartu, and then impressively from Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid. She managed to drop in various interesting facts about Estonia, including the surprisingly low population of just over a million.

So very quickly we had talked the talk and raised the flag and we were on to the entertainment. Which turned out to be a cello quartet called C-Jam. Who played cover versions of rock songs. Starting with "Highway to Hell" by ACDC. Followed by "Whatever You Want" by Status Quo. And finishing with the age-old string quartet crowd-pleaser "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. Watched by the North Korean orienteering team. In a town square in the middle of Estonia. Next they'll be telling you that Donald Trump is President of America.

Top that Latvia (WOC 2018 if you hadn't heard). All that remained was for the teams that had made it to take various team photographs and then it was off home to recover in time for tomorrow's sprint races (one for us mortals, one for the superstars).

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