Budapest, Hungary: The first day of the 2023 World Athletics Championships! Always so much excitement and anticipation. There was a morning session today. We did not plan to attend as it was only heats of heats, play-in heats, etc. - and it was on television. But when a huge downpour started just after nine o'clock, that sealed the deal. It ended-up being a good decision as there was flooding on local streets and traffic was a mess.
But first, breakfast buffet - included in our room rate - below the famed New York Café of our hotel. Every time I see this room, I take a breath and am in awe of the beauty. Did anyone read A Gentleman in Moscow? This hotel gives me the same type of vibes, and I'm definitely checking the furniture in our room for hidden gold coins.
There isn't enough bandwidth in Hungary to post photos of all the pastries, cakes, fruits, and other incredible selections on display to ruin guest's waistlines, and this was only one of the spreads laid out for our breakfast. But don't worry, if you can't find anything to your liking on the buffet, there is a complete menu to order from the kitchen - also included in the price of the room.
The main dining room of the New York Café is for paying public (non-buffet-included people). Please note the violinist on the left side of the photo. The music from the New York Café drifts down to the buffet, so I enjoyed my yoghurt and fruit with a little Strauss - The Blue Danube Waltz! It seems the violinist played for 30 minutes or so, and then a pianist steps in. Maybe they leap-frog over the morning?
Heading back to our room, we found a poster of the Budapest23 mascot in the hotel lobby. I've been to a lot of world championships and YUUHOO is by far the best mascot to-date. He represents a well-known (but not by me) Hungarian sheep with spiral horns, Racka.
We headed over to the stadium about one hour earlier than we needed to arrive, just so we could scout-out the situation, route, and get the lay-of-the-land. We ended up using the local Uber-type app, BOLT and were charged $10 for the 20-minute ride to the stadium. There is a tram. A bus. Several ways that require walking and changing modes of transport. We will find the best option, but a clean fast cheap taxi worked very well. Aside: traffic was a mess today due to the rain storm, the 20k men's race walk course going around town, and festivities for the national independence holiday celebration planned for tomorrow.
The stadium, meet website, and the event tickets describe in great detail what is not allowed inside the stadium. Purses must be teeny and clear:
I was the only rule-follower today. I will not be bringing my ridiculously ugly plastic purse tomorrow and am so damn mad I schlepped it halfway around the world. It will not be making the return trip to California.
We found our seats in the brand new stadium. It is huge! After the meet, the upper level of the arena will be dismantled and the facility will become a soccer stadium. It is also the loudest stadium we have ever heard for a track meet.
I was surprised security was so lax, considering the President of Hungary, Katalin Novák, was in the stadium to officially open the games tonight. (Do not confuse Ms. Novák with their evil Prime Minister.) After giving her speech, she sat near us in the stadium and was snapping selfies with so many children who came to say hello.
Our seats are fantastic. 6th row, with a direct view of the finish line. Boom! The Opening Ceremonies were pretty tame. There were speeches by the President and Sir Sebastian Coe, Tsar of World Athletics, a 3-jet fly-over, songs performed by (who I can only assume are) popular Hungarian artists, and then YUUHOO flew out of the starting blocks, screamed down the straight-away, flashed a "HI MOM" tee-shirt, and rolled across the finishing-line to make a World Record for a mascot in the 100m. Didn't know it was an event? The crowd went wild.
And then the races began! The men's 1500m heats (they have to run 2 rounds to make the final - brutal) were very exciting, with the first heat playing-out more like a final than a mere heat. Yared Naguse (Notre Dame) is one of Dave's favorites and we were happy to watch him move up to the next round:
We never made it over to hospitality (that comes with our ticket package), so had Lenny's favorite for our dinner tonight:
Then, the Big Race of the Night: the women's 10000m final! Anything could happen, but for the first half of the race, nothing happened. The posse sitting around us where trying to figure-out how to get me in the race - the pace was THAT slow. With two laps to go, Netherland Super Woman, Sifan Hassan, took off, after spending the last 22 laps in the way-back. At the finish-line, she was leading and there was some jostling with Gudaf Tsagay of Ethiopia, and Hassan went down! The three Ethiopians swept the 10000m (though the local press wrote the Ethiopians swiped the 10000m - Freudian slip?). Sifan stood up and staggered-in to finish 11th. She was smiling. What else can one do?
The excitement wasn't over! Oregonian Ryan Crouser, world record holder, Olympic Gold medalist, and all-over great guy, lead in the men's shot put all evening. It was the fight for silver and bronze that captured the crowd tonight. The other two Americans, Joe Kovacs and Payton Otterdahl kept fighting it out with the New Zealanders and Italian thrower, Leonardo Fabbri. Every throw had the winning positions changing with so much excitement and cheering from the fans. On his last toss, Crouser sent the ball 23.51 meters (77.13 feet) to set a new Championship record. Goosebumps! The Italian took the Silver and Joe Kovacs captured the Bronze medal with a toss of 22.12. Ryan Crouser's win tonight was his 2nd longest throw ever, only surpassed by his own world record of 22.56 (less than a 2 inch difference).
Though the meet was not over, we left after the shot put, not sure of how the heck we were going to get back to our hotel. This means we were missing a new event: mixed 4x400... meaning two males and two females on a relay team. Sadly, we missed a crazy finish with (again) a Netherland racer going down, meaning the Dutch lost two gold medals at the finish line tonight.
We again booked a BOLT taxi from the hundreds sitting in line outside the stadium and were quickly back to our hotel - looking for food. We ran up to the room to freshen-up and facetime with Lucile - she is 9 today! - and went the hotel bar to find our usual TrackTown USA and University of Oregon posse, plus a group of American's in town to board a river cruise boat for a week adventure on the Danube - but no food. Lay's potato chips and bar peanuts for us tonight. It was great to catch-up with everyone though.
Until my next update, I remain, your we know the ropes now correspondent.
Pedometer: only 8000 steps. That's what you get for watching television all morning.
PS: People have been asking about the safety of our house prior to Hurricane Hillary. Maricella and our gardener are on alert. We have a camera pointed to the courtyard that can get a bit flooded during big rain storms. It's all we can do from Hungary.