Danielle McCray Blogs About The World University Games Opening Ceremonies

July 3, 2009

BELGRADE, Serbia –

I’m back again! It’s been a busy few days. Slowly, but surely, I am starting to adapt to Serbian living. I have learned so many new things and met so many new people from over 100 countries. Getting to know their peace sign was one of the coolest things I have learned as a way to interact with the Serbians. Everywhere we go we throw up their peace sign and get nothing but nods and smiles, it’s pretty cool. So next time you see me I will have to show you how to do it!

July 1

Let the games begin

It seems like it has been a long time since I have played in a real live game. The past few weeks have been nothing but scrimmages and practices. Today was finally the day. To start off we woke up at 7:15 a.m., to walk to the café and eat breakfast. That was hard to do; I haven’t gotten up that early since Hudy workouts about three weeks ago, but once I got going I was fine. We had to once again, pick over certain breakfast foods to find something to eat. Serbian food just does not look very appetizing. Everyday I get the same meal for breakfast, which is Granola cereal and two pieces of sausage. I never change. (Unlike one of my teammates, she tries everything!) After breakfast we had a walk through. After walk through, we lounged around until the game. The game went very well. We won by a very large margin–85 points!!! After the game we went back to the village and got ready for the opening ceremonies.

Opening ceremonies:

So far since we have been here, the parade for the opening ceremonies has been the best event. We all met in the front of our village and waited for the rest of the USA teams, like men’s basketball, Tae kwon doe, water polo and swimming and diving. When all the teams were together we gathered up and walked to wait until our country was called to start walking down the street. The only thing that was not fun was the waiting time. We had to wait about an hour to even start walking down the street. While waiting, four of my teammates and I decided to go chat with other countries and trade pins. I gathered over 20 pins from different countries and plan to get more. We took so many pictures with random people that would come up to us and ask, we all felt like a celebrities. After walking down the street for a little more exchanging of pins and picture taking, these Saudi Arabian guys came up to me and asked to take a picture, so I agreed. After the camera flashed they all chanted OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA!!. It was very amazing to see how many people knew of him and supported him from other countries.

About 45 minutes had gone by, so we decided to go back to our area so that we could get ready to walk in the parade. When we got there our director told us to start walking. We walked by these shacks that had children in bare feet and mothers with their babies on their hips waving at us. Their homes were torn down, with clothes all on lines outside to dry. The kids had looks of excitement in their eyes, because they saw us. The kids looked hungry and sick. It felt like we were in a movie. It was so sad to see theses kids and the mothers who were suffering, but knowing we put a smile on their face—for even just a few minutes—made me proud to be there. Once we walked by this part we walked through a path of confetti that was blown out to kick of the ceremonies. The parade was about two miles long and all long the street were thousands of Serbians who cheered and yelled for different countries. We walked by a huge crowd that chanted USA. I didn’t know that there were so many people in Serbia who supported us. After about a mile into the walk we came to this camera that would put you on a big TV. We all started dancing to get on the camera. It was hilarious! We were acting silly the whole trip. We kept stopping to take pictures with people on the street, but the police would not let the people get close to us. They had to stand behind ropes. There were several kids screaming to have our hats that read USA and our shirts. I really wanted to give this little kid one who told me ” I love USA!” He was so cute. But we had to keep them for the rest of the ceremony. I noticed some Serbians really like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Two boys were yelling “Kobe Bryant” as we walked by them in their little Serbian accents. Another boy started saying “I like LeBron James.” Throughout the whole walk we were waving smiling and throwing up the Serbian peace sign.

After the two mile walk in the parade, we went into the Belgrade arena. This Arena was huge and nice, it reminded me of the Sprint Center. We again followed our director to our seating, which was right by the Hungary and Hong Kong delegations. We sat in our seats for about another hour waiting for the rest of countries to enter the building and get seated. During this time several countries were already seated so we decided to do a huge wave with our hands. We would jump up and throw our hands up and sit down then the country next to us would do the same thing, then the country after that, then after that. It was a continuous process, until we got tired of doing it. It was something to do until the ceremony got started! After about an hour went by it finally began. It consisted of a lot of welcoming and thanking. Then they announced every country that was here, starting with the country that started with “A”. When your country was called you would cheer and a representative would walk at the center stage that we were gathered around to hold and walk with your flag. It was our time to be called. The announcer said “USA” and we all jumped up and cheered and screamed while over half of the place booed us. At that moment I didn’t know what to do. We were out numbered. The strangest thing was, all those countries that were booing us were the same people who had wanted to take pictures with us and talk to us. That moment really let me know how much the US is disliked in other countries. After the ceremony was over we went back to our village and hung out until curfew.

July 2

Today was another early start day. We did the same game-day routine, eat, film and bus to the game. Today was a little more of a challenging game. We only won by 34 over Great Britain!. The final score was 93-59. We played really well, our coaches were very happy. I love making the coaches happy. It makes the day go by so much better! After the game we had the whole day to ourselves.

While at the village we have been making friends with a lot of people from all over and supporting other sports that represent USA. We are really cool with the USA men’s water polo team. We always hang out with them. So after our game versus Great Britain some of us decided to go watch them play Japan. I was excited to go see water polo for the first time in my life. I had only seen it on TV. We caught a shuttle to their game. It was so much fun to watch. I never knew how dirty this game could be. There was a lot of kicking under water, grabbing and wrestling while playing. I sat by people who knew all the rules and asked them so many questions. Our USA men ended up tying with Japan 8 to 8. After the game they were a little upset, but thanked us for coming. I got the chance to talk to them after the game because they came and sat with us to watch Croatia vs. Serbia. One thing that amazed me was that the whole time they are swimming to stay up above the water. This sport is so hard to play. You have to be very strong and able to control your attitude after someone hits you with a cheap shot underwater because the refs can’t see everything that happens under water. It was amazing to see them jump up so high when trying to throw the ball at the goal. There are so many techniques in this sport. I take my hat off to water polo players. After their game we shuttled back to the village and lounged around because we were exhausted.

July 3, 2009

Yes! Today we didn’t have to wake up until 9:40 a.m., for breakfast. We were able to sleep in, which felt so good. After breakfast we had a walk through outside. We made our own basketball court in the parking lot to go over Serbia’s plays and talk about our offense. It’s about 12:47 p.m., here in Serbia and I’m about to get ready for our pregame meal and get focused for the game today. We play Serbia in the Belgrade Arena. They are the home team, so we are need to go out and show them what USA Basketball is all about. Until then Rock Chalk!