Friday, 12 November 2010

The Kirks Trip to India!

Our adventure to Delhi started at the Belfast City Airport on a wet Friday evening. 12 hours later we touched down at Terminal 3 in Delhi Airport. We knew that the athletes had arrived at around the same time as us so we hung around waiting to see Katie and the rest of the team before they were whisked away to the Athletes Village. 20 minutes later we saw them!

It gave us some idea what might be in store for us. The group of athletes were being escorted out the airport by a large number of armed guards who did not like us approaching them! A quick exchange of hello’s and goodbyes and they were escorted onto their air conditioned bus. We battled through the hoards of people crowded outside the entrance of the airport and took a taxi to our hotel.

Our first mission was to collect our tickets from one of the outlets near our hotel. On paper this seemed like a simple task in reality it took us about 3 hours and lots of hassle. No one seemed to know where we were supposed to go and we were sent from pillar to post! To make things worse when we arrived back at the hotel tired and thirsty and definitely in need of a beer there was none to be had it was Ghandi’s birthday and the hotel had declared it to be a dry day!

The following day was the opening ceremony. 3 hours after leaving the hotel we eventually got to our seats. Security was very tight the queues were enormous and there was pandemonium around the stadium. We were searched three times once we passed through the gates of the stadium. No water was allowed no food no video cameras no coins no batteries no flags the list went on and on. When we eventually got to our seats we were not allowed to take our drinks (which we just queued 30 minutes for) down to our seats!! Very annoying! Especially in 34 degree ‘s heat!

The opening ceremony was spectacular though and it was great to see the Northern Ireland team coming out into the arena.

The first day of athletics followed a few days later. We were fortunate that the BBC commentary team were staying our hotel and they had warned us about the state of the track as they had got down onto it that morning. It was undulating and had undergone major patching up following the opening ceremony. Strangely it was not a Mondo track like most modern day stadiums but the same type of track surface as the Mary Peters Track which is basically a surface that is used for training tracks. They were of the opinion that pb’s would be few and far between.

The 400m girls were running their heats on the 1st night and all competed very well given the hot humid polluted conditions.

Katie was in the 4th heat which had an Indian athlete running. The noise from the crowd during her heat was unbelievable! Even when the athletes were called to their marks the locals were screaming and whistling. A lesson learnt for Katie as she let it distract her and didn’t hear the gun go off!

Others nights in the stadium were equally as noisy especially when Indian athletes were competing. The loudest cheers were saved for the woman’s 4x400 final when the Indians pulled off a surprise win. I have never experienced anything like it. The noise was literally deafening!

We managed to get a visit to the village which was interesting, especially given all the bad press it received before the games. The apartments were ok but poorly finished and still dusty, but better than the accommodation that we had when I was at the Commonwealth games in Auckland. We slept in bunk beds in prefab type huts with paper thin walls. Not good when the person in the room next door snored all night! We were able to sample the food in the dining hall and it was really very good especially the naan bread which you could watch being made. Security into and out of the village was very strict. We had to surrender our passports before we were let in and were searched three times on the way. We were starting to get used to this though, experiencing this every time we went into the stadium. The Delhi police advised that the athletes were not to leave the village and if they did so they were not to wear their sports gear. We managed to smuggle Katie out for an afternoon at our hotel much to the disgust of some of the team who were looking to escape as well!

At last it was time to make our way back to the airport and fly home. We left with mixed emotions. The extreme poverty we witnessed will be forever etched on our minds. The poor organisation was also disappointing. Delhi 2010 was the first event I had ever been to that there was no merchandise to bring home- no tee shirts, no polo shirts really no branded mementos at all! Ticketing was a disaster we queued for ages only to be told that the computers were down (again)! Then eventually when they were up and running they would tell us that the event was sold out! This was not the case as we could see loads of empty seats on TV!

On the positive side we met some really nice Delhiites who were very friendly and welcoming. We watched some great athletics. Some of the food we had was awesome. Saying that, it was great relief when we got back to cold and wet George Best City airport!

Mark Kirk
Father and Coach to Katie Kirk (4x400m Relay)

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