By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
With the great Christie Rampone getting honored for her illustrious career by U.S. Soccer Saturday, I thought that I would pass on a memory about her family during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Qinhuangdao, China.
You’re heard of the show boat to China? Well this story is about the slow bus in China.
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated and myself took a train from Beijing to Qinhuangdao for Wednesday’s U.S.-Norway women’s Olympic opener. The train departed the Beijing train station at 7:05 in the morning and arrived there at 9:11. That number alone should have alerted me that we would have some impending personal disasters the rest of the day,
But I did listen to my inner voice?
We got to Qinhuangdao on time and since we didn’t know a thing about this city, we decided to seek out an Olympic volunteer or two to see if there was a media bus.
That was mistake No. 1.
The hospitality center was adjacent to the train station. We were invited in to wait for the bus, although we didn’t know at the time that there weren’t any buses.
We were treated nicely, offered water and drinks, in an air-conditioned room, along with the families of Aly Wagner and Rampone and two photographers.
The highlight of the waiting room was Rylie Rampone, whose doll got the attention of the police’s drug dog. The dog wanted the doll and had to be pulled away by a policeman. Rylie, meanwhile, wanted to pet the dog, but officials wisely thought otherwise, just in case.
We also waited, and waited and waited.
At 10 a.m., Wahl went up to a volunteer and told her that we had to get to our hotel as soon as possible because we had to work — which was very true. She said something like the bus was coming very soon and that we shouldn’t be in a hurry.
Around 10:20 it was my turn. As I was telling the volunteer how important it was for us to get to the hotel, she said the bus was here.
We boarded and waited for the families and photographers, who had a ton of photo equipment to load.
The bus got going and we must have been but a handful of minutes into the trip and we saw our hotel on the other side of the road. But the bus driver didn’t stop.
We went to the families’ hotel and then searched — that’s right — searched for the photographers’ hotel. As it turned out, the driver and volunteer were looking on the wrong road.
We finally found it, but there was another delay — the driver and volunteer apparently wanted to make sure the rooms were OK for the photographers.
Grant finally had had it and I joined him to flag down a taxi within a minute.
Several minutes and a dollar or so later — that’s how much the cab ride cost — we were at the Qinhuangdao Grand Hotel — some two hours after the train pulled in.
One of the volunteers apologized to us.
In the hotel lobby, more volunteers, mostly women who wanted to make sure just about every need was taken care of, helped us with this, or with that. As Grant said, we were getting killed with kindness.
We met someone who I believe was one of the head honchos from the media and he asked for my card and I told him I had left it in my hotel room in Beijing. He seemed to be very disappointed as he gave me his.
I had to sign several pieces of paper (saying what publications and internet sides for which I was writing for).
The head honcho called me Mr. Daily News (my bosses at the time were going to love that one).
I asked Grant if this was some kind of test or that we were involved in some kind of reality show we didn’t know about (Big Brother, China, the ultimate Big Brother Show, or Candid Camera Qinhuangdao).
And to top off the day, then came the U.S. Women’s National Team’s fiasco — the 2-0 loss to Norway — only its second Olympic loss ever.
(And I forgot to tell you about my 2 1/2-hour nap — I almost missed one of the media buses to the stadium — or when we asked the volunteers at the soccer stadium where the media restaurant was they took us to the official VIP area where apparently top IOC FIFA honchos would eat, among other things).
I did learn one thing from that day’s experience.
When I returned for the next game, I decided I would take a taxi from the train station to the hotel.
I figured I could spare the dollar.