Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Team USA Touches Down in Beijing

By: Dick Cooke
I was not intending to write about our travel day, but that changed when I looked out of the window of the plane and saw the North Pole. I figure I won't have an opportunity to see that landscape very often.

We left the hotel in Cary at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, drove four and a half hours to Dulles in D.C., then took off for Beijing at 1:30 p.m., an hour later than scheduled. We flew from Dulles, over the North Pole, through Siberia and landed in Beijing at 2:20 p.m. their time on Wednesday. We are 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

The flight was packed. The Canadian baseball team was with us, as were a few members of the USA female shooting team, in addition to a large number of Chinese school children.

Two books, a movie and some sleep, and we were in China. Thirteen hours in the air - a very manageable flight. A number of our players and a couple of coaches dropped $750 to upgrade to business class.

Baggage claim took quite a while, but the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) walked us through everything, and all bags were accounted for. The Beijing airport is huge, clean and impressive in its architecture.

On the ride to baggage claim, I spent a few minutes talking with Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers, who is here to watch the Olympics and is a huge baseball fan. Roly DeArmas and I had our picture taken with Jelena Jankovic from Belgrade, who will become the number one women's tennis player in the world as of August 11. She was on our flight, heading to compete in Beijing.

Tomorrow we play China in an exhibition game at 6 p.m. Our administrators have a full plate prior to that, as there are some credentialing and general logistics issues they need to sort out. In the short time we've been here, the people have attempted to be incredibly helpful, but the language will clearly be an issue.

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