Chuck In China ...
One view rarely heard from throughout any Olympic journey is that of the parents, the ones who generally have done a lot of the hard slogging to help their kid get to the Games.
We’ve been lucky enough to enlist a couple of parents who’ve agreed to supply us from time to time with their experience of the Olympics – Chuck Hayden, father of swimmer Brent Hayden of Mission, B.C.; and Lien Chao, mom of shooter Avianna Chao of Toronto.
Chuck Hayden is one of the great storytellers. Check out the anecdotes he provided in this profile of Brent. Lien Chao is accomplished author, her latest book just recently published, the Chinese Knot, an excellent collection of short stories on the Chinese immigrant experience in Toronto.
It’ll be a real treat to have their insights.
Here’s Chuck Hayden’s first entry:
So, what’s it like to be the parent of a member of the Canadian Olympic Team?
I can’t speak for others; but for this family, it is at the same time, exciting, exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and scary!
Then, you realise that having your son/daughter on the team means you get to spend even less time with them than before.
So now the question: Do we go to Beijing to watch and support, or not?
Well, of course we go!
|CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO|
|Brent Hayden's family is off to Beijing to support the Canadian swimmer.|
So anyway, we’re off to Beijing!
Now, flights, accommodations, and all the questions that surround those. Once Olympics come to a city, all hotels, restaurants, B&B’s as well as airlines put their prices up – a lot! But, that’s just part of the game, and the sacrifices one makes for their kids.
Beijing has its own unique set of obstacles.
First is getting a travel visa, the criteria for which seems to change almost daily, if not hourly.
At first we needed our flights, accommodation, reason for visiting, and our valid Canadian passport.
Then we needed the name, phone number and address of our Chinese host. We are staying with the relatives of good friends here in B.C., who most graciously arranged everything.
Then we were told that we needed a copy of the host’s Chinese Passport, with photo. And, his Chinese personal ID number (much like our Social Insurance Number). Already I am sure that our hosts will say that this is too much, and beg off. But they did not, they provided most graciously all which we requested.
But, the next requirement blew us out of the water: We are required to produce a copy of our host’s Certificate of Ownership for the property where we are to stay! At this point, I would have begged off! But our hosts came through within hours. Already we are so in their debt, and we are still in Canada!
Oh, did I mention that within 24 hours of arriving in Beijing, we are all required, with our host, to present ourselves at the local police station to register and be documented?
But, yes, we are now on our way to Beijing to cheer on our son, and the whole Canadian swim team. And, it will be good; for we are like a family.
The China Visa office in Vancouver is open 9am to 1pm Monday to Friday. They process only 200 applicants per day, though each applicant may have up to any number of applications. Our first attempt, we left our home in Mission, B.C., at 7am and arrived at 9:15 a.m., only to be told that they were full and come back tomorrow. They kindly suggested that we arrive a bit earlier.
After asking around, we found out that applicants start lining up at 6:30 a.m. or so. It took us two more trips, leaving home in Mission at 5:15 a.m., to have our application forms accepted as complete. It took one more trip to pick up the completed visas. So, we now have our visas, flights, and accommodation.
This was the experience of most of our swim family friends. I also understand from our friends ‘back east’ that the average was one trip, and a fifteen minute wait, with apologies from the visa people for having to wait so long!
Next time: Our tale of tickets to watch swimming.