Amazing who you meet at the Olympics in ministry
Published 02 August 2012 | David Smethurst, Press Service International Media Team
One day after parking the car in the Olympic hub area I was passing through the security check and saw just ahead of me, John Eales (the Australian Rugby captain) and Mark Waugh (the Australian Cricket captain).
I introduced myself and asked them if they knew Morné du Plessis (the South African Rugby captain of the 1970's) who is my cousin. (I had the privilege of growing up in an amazing international sporting family).
They both replied that they knew him well. John Eales asked what I was doing at the Games and then what I did in life. I told him that from our charity we supported many orphans in Eastern Europe, especially in the Chernobyl radiation zone of Southern Belarus. He was amazed and wished me well in such a good work.
One very hectic day I had to collect a group of Belarusian Journalists from Gatwick Airport. They were a cheerful bunch chattering away like men do in the back of the Citroen C4.
When we arrived at the Olympic Village security check manned by the military, the journalists went very quiet and looked apprehensive at the sight of the uniforms.
David Smethurst (far right) with Belarus journalists
I explained to the captain who the men were and he asked, "What should I say to them?" I replied, "Just say, 'Oochine harrasho. Da blagaslviet tibia Gaspot!" (phonetically 'Very good. God bless you!'). The journalists burst out laughing and said, "You've understood us all along, you sneaky man." A great friendship has been established there.
I was honoured to attend the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony two days before the great event. This had to be familiarise ourselves with the line-up and timing of the entrance of 204 teams into the Olympic Stadium.
On this night we entered the Stadium as if we were athletes, although there was not much crowd in the stands. All the dancers and drummers were in place to greet us. It was awesome. The only other time I have done this in entering the Sydney Olympic Stadium for the 2009 World Masters Games where I competed as a swimmer.
Then the night arrived for the grand Opening Ceremony. Our team was responsible for getting the Belarus Olympic team into place to march to the Stadium. The atmosphere was electric with excitement as we marched the kilometre to the stadium.
After we delivered the Belarus team to the Stadium officials we were free to walk back to the Village and admire the other nations' teams.
Meeting Usain Bolt at the Jamaican Team line up was a wonderful experience. Everyone was clamouring for a photo with the great man. All I did was squeeze through the crowed, shake his hand and say, "God bless you for your events." He looked very surprised and thanked me, as if no one had thought to say that to him.
I also met two athletes standing humbly to the side of all the crowd - Dane Hyatt (a sprinter and relay runner on left) and Richard Philips (a hurdler). I felt a deep conviction that these two men were arriving at their time of greatness.
Catching a glimpse of Maria Sharapova with the Russian team was amazing. She is a very cheerful, personable and compassionate person off the court. I had the privilege to meet her tennis sparring partner Vladimir at Gatwick Airport last week.
Edited by Press Service International - Mark Tronson (www.pressserviceinternational.org)
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