That day after getting our bags and checking into our room, we all headed down to get dinner. The restaurant was as big as a basketball court and there were so many people there. It was like Charlie and the chocolate factory - there was so much food, you could eat as much as you wanted, and pick anything that you wanted to eat. The best part was the table that had so many nice wonderful cakes on it and jelly squares that you can eat. It was a great dinner.
Tuesday morning was a very sunny morning and this was the start of us training in this kind of hot weather that you never see back in Ireland. We all met up and went for our breakfast and then after a bit of a wait, a bus took us to the sports stadium. The stadium had every thing from track and field to an all astro weather pitch where we were going to do our training. When we got there, two other countries, Jamaica and Africa were doing there training.
We all get our boots and sun cream on and then as the Africa team came off, we went on. We got into doing our warm-up and when we went to sit down, most of us jumped back up as the ground was so really hot that you could cook your breakfast off it!! We trained for an hour and it was really hot - the sweat was coming off us all in buckets. We were drinking so much water, it was unreal and we knew this was going to be tough on us all. But we kept the heads up and we pushed each other on. After the training, we got back and had lunch and then we spent the afternoon at the back of the hotel at the swimming pool. The water in this pool was from the sea and was really salty. We got into a water polo match which we lost 19-18.
We were playing other people from other countries that were just on holidays there and it was a great buzz getting high-5's from everyone. Even wee Hughie bagged a few goals!! After dinner we all got on the bus with Team Ireland and made our way down to the port of Rhodes to a place called Old Town Castle. It was a place where you can just go and do your shopping - a bit like Stephen's Green in Dublin with so many shops everywhere.
All the rest of the other countries were there too walking about shopping - it was totally amazing to see other Special Olympics people everywhere. After an hour, we were all taken to this big open nightclub and we just danced the night away there. It was amazing. The music was fantastic and everyone had a wonderful time.
Wednesday morning wasn’t a great day for me. I didn’t sleep well and my sinuses were kicking in. We all had breakfast and off to do our training. It was really hot and everyone still wasn’t used to the heat. We were dipping our heads in under a water tap that was at the astro pitch. As training went on, we started to get used to the hot sun. We made a trip that afternoon on a bus for an hour to a place called Lindos. It was a totally amazing place in the north east of Rhodes. It was really hot when we got off the bus and the shops there were packed out with so many people getting ice cream and water. We all walked about taking photos and video clips of the beautiful place that we were at in Lindos with its big Greek castle on top of a mountain.
After dinner that night there was entertainment in the hotel which we were all invited up to. It was pretty amazing - they did everything from Michael Jackson, Mask, and Flashdance to Chicago. Everyone had a fab night.
We were up early on Thursday morning to do our last training and it was great. Everyone was cheering each other on and we pushed each other through the training. The craic was great and after 3 days we were finally used to the hot weather and heat. After lunch in the hotel we had a big meeting in one of the hotel rooms where the Irish ambassador came to see us all off and wish us well. Then the whole of Team Ireland made our way down to the Old Castle Town. There was Team Ireland, Team USA, Aussies, Canada, and Jamaica, in this big courtyard. We were right in the middle and next thing the singing started from ole,ole to usa and Canada started singing. It was totally amazing - I'd say we would all get a part on the X-Factor.
There was a big crowd of people and here was the last Flame of Hope to be lit by the torch runners before moving onto Athens. Even the Kennedy family was there and special guest speakers too. I got mixed in with USA Team and Canada and got a few photos taken and was swapping badges too. We went from there to the Port where we waited for the Blue Star Ferry to come in and we finally said goodbye to Rhodes.
So the Aussie and Jamaica teams boarded and then it was Team Ireland. We were lucky to get settled into one of the main rooms. Then I went outside and walked about on the top deck of the ferry. After about an hour on the ferry it took off from Rhodes and headed for Athens with 7 stops on the way. We pulled out after 8.30pm and as we were leaving just could see the sun starting to come down and day was starting to turn into night. For sure this was going to be a very long night and one hell of a boat trip, but I just kept the head up and got chatting to other people from USA and Canada. The USA team were buzzing as they had never been on a boat in their lives! After dinner, we got some of our own players to sleep as this was going to be a very long trip. A few of us stayed up and we all watched out for each other. I just wandered about in my own wee world and listened to my music, and chatted away to other Team Ireland athletes. The big Greek adventure went long into the night.
After our final stop at one of the Greek islands, it was just plain sailing onward to Athens . I was getting a bit tired but didn’t wanted to go to sleep as I wanted to stay up and see the sun come up. At 6am, the sun started to come up. It was really beautiful, totally amazing to be there. The sky was pure red and yellow and not a cloud to be seen anywhere for miles. I took a few photos and even got friends in a few of them. There was great craic on the top deck and the other countries came out and started snapping away as well. After half an hour there was just blue sky and deep blue sea all around us with a bit of a strong cold wind. It was fantastic just to feel the coldness hitting you and it was a nice way to get cooled down. I walked about chatting to everyone from players to coaches. We were all buzzing as there was just an other 7 hours to go before we landed into Athens.
I slept for just under 2 hours and woke up after 9am to get some breakfast. After breakfast, I spent most of the morning up on deck and walked about listening to my music. Then I met more team members from USA and we really got on well with them, chatting about the sports that we were in. It was hard to explain to them that I was doing 11-a-side soccer as some didn’t know much about soccer!!
Finally after 17 and a half hours on the ferry we touched down in Athens Port! It was weird being there and all you could see was about 20 big purple buses waiting to take us away. I was really looking forward to the next stage of our Athens trip as the ferry pulled in.
We were taken to our accommodation and early on Saturday morning, we did some training for an hour, and got into playing a match with the Spanish team. Then we watched the Brazil team playing on the next court and they were so great, that some of them could be playing in the Irish League.
We all then got ready and got our Team Ireland gear on and just tried to enjoy the Opening Ceremony of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens.