I think I am going to go insane during every meal. And its not from the heaps of rice either. The hotel plays a flute-dominated, 30 second tune on repeat ALL day. Its played in the underground garage, its played in the lobby, and it is blasted on the fifth floor where the ‘Western Restaurant’ is located. Only thing western about it is the bacon, potatoes, and baked beans that are served for breakfast. I digress. This tune is driving me crazy. Its in my head all day. Blair whistles it in the room. Joe hums it on rides. Im catching myself doing the same every now and then! By the time the race leaves Xi’an, Pavlov’s experiment will kick in and I won’t be able to eat unless I hear it.
The day was going to be simple, as are most days before a race. Wake, eat, ride, relax, eat, sleep. The hardest part was going to be figuring out how not to get lost on the ride. The race schedule that is posted in the lobby said that all riders would leave at 10. Of course not everyone abided by that, but, by a stroke of good luck, the Chinese team did. Who better to follow than the home team? Without any hesitation, they solved the maze of roads and we crossed a river out of the city onto a large 6 lane highway. That was completely empty. Really threw me a curveball. And every now and then we would see a person with a huge broom sweeping the side of the road. No buildings, minimal to no traffic, green fields on one side with a river on the other and the city covered in smog across it. Rather erie. And as if that wasn’t enough, it was there we saw the only accident so far: a small van had run off the road and into a tree.
After riding and another meal with the hotel’s ditty being etched into everyone’s brain, I turned my attention to a new hobby that Ty and Casey introduced me to. Its a bit childish but it is so much fun and amusing: Paper airplanes. We grabbed some magazines, pulled out the pages, downloaded an app that has multiple paper airplane folding guides, and got to work. Did some test flights in the hallway, adjusted the wings, selected the best planes, and then proceeded to fly them out the 18th story window. One plane fell right in front of a man who grabbed it and stared into the sky for a good two minutes before opening it to see if there was a cry for help written on the paper. Its the little things that keep you sane and having fun.
The fun was cut short for an early dinner because at 630, all teams met in the lobby to get bused to the team presentation. There, we met our race-provided translator, Olivia who is a college student studying English from Beijing. And with her, we got into one of about 5 buses and drove to The Xi’an Center for Athletics Activities. It was surrounded by a wall and there were armed guards at the entrance to the big building. The room that the opening ceremony was in was a big gymnasium with a large TV screen behind an equally large stage at one end. Facing the stage were white cloaked tables with an assortment of finger foods and Juizee Pop, a Chinese soda that sponsors the race. Music was playing, lights were flashing, race organizers were scurrying here and there, media were taking pictures and interviews with riders. It was mayhem.
Suddenly the entire room went pitch black and a cube on one side of the stage light up and flashed words like China and 2012. Then the screen behind the stage lit up with the same thing. The Grand Opening Ceremonies of the Tour of China 2012 had begun. Two people, a man and a woman alternating talking in Mandarin and Chinese, welcomed everyone and introduced important dignitaries and sponsors. Olivia had informed us that the ceremony was only supposed to be an hour but as speech after speech were given and video after video were shown, it was obvious this was not true. It was quite elaborate and thought out. We were treated to dancers and a famous Chinese singer who looked like a girl but Olivia said was a man. At the very end, each director was ushered on stage as a representative of their team and were given a gift from the race and wished good luck. More people got on stage around them and photographers rushed forward to take pictures. All of a sudden a bang, and banners unfurled from the ceiling highlighting each of the leaders jerseys. Lights flashed and the music blared. The Tour of China has finally begun!