Let the Games begin. Team Serbia has officially arrived at London 2012. The excitement among the athletes was palpable, as they paraded through the Olympic Village in a ceremony that mixed formality with celebration.
Among more than one hundred athletes representing Serbia at these Games, Novak Djoković, Milorad Čavić, Ana Ivanovic and Nadja Higl attracted most attention from international media and even athletes from other countries who came to enjoy the spectacle.
Serbian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Dr Dejan Popović made the journey to Stratford, East London, to welcome the athletes to Britain. He stood alongside President of the Serbian Olympic Committee Vlade Divac as their nation’s flag was raised to mark the moment when Team Serbia was officially in residence at London 2012.
Serbian National Anthem
A number of athletes were visibly moved as the Serbian national anthem rang out around the Olympic Village, even hoping that the same tune will be played at their own medal ceremony later in the Games. As well as the more official aspects, the athletes were entertained by circus performers from the National Youth Theatre, which added to the carnival atmosphere that was created as part of London’s welcome ceremony.
For many of the younger athletes, it was the first time they had chance to meet other more established members of Team Serbia. Shooter Ivana Maksimović, herself already a media darling in Serbia, made the most of the experience and took her chance to be photographed with her hero Novak Djoković. “Nole is my idol, my hero,’ she said. “I was really looking forward to seeing him. To be part of the same team as Nole is enough for me.”
Dr Branislav Jevtić, Chef de Mission to Team Serbia was relieved to pass this latest in a long line of milestones. “I am glad to say that finally we are here,’ he said. “After seven years of long hard work, many meetings and visits to London and then our own national contests, we are here with our athletes ready to get to work. Our first competition is on July 28, in shooting, and we have a very strong chance in that. It should be a good start to our Games. I have high hopes for our team this Games. Just wait.”
A Major Achievement For London
Dr Jevtić praised the organisation of the Games. “This has been a major achievement for London and, with only a few days until the Opening Ceremony everything is going very well so far,’ he said. “We have a few small issues in the accommodation but nothing that cannot be sorted, and that is to be expected. All in all, we are excited to be here and for the Games to start.”
Walking around the athletes’ living quarters behind the security walls of the Olympic Village, the athletes appeared relaxed and happy. Serbian tennis star Janko Tipsarevic, who will be living in Wimbledon for the duration of London 2012, told Wild Rooster, “I feel great. I only arrived yesterday but it is good to finally be at the Olympics.”
Boxer Aleksandar Drenovak, who recently travelled from Cardiff to London, was all smiles and bounce as he expressed his excitement. “This is fantastic,’ he said. “I am representing my country at the London Olympics. It’s amazing.” But young swimmer Nadja Higl summed up the overwhelming feelings on the team: “It’s London, it’s the Olympics… Yes!”
After the excitement of the flag raising ceremony, Serbia’s athletes returned to the peace of the most private areas of the Olympic Village, although sleep still seemed a long way off.
Life is Good in the Olympic Village
On Wednesday evening, athletes from all nations were relaxing together, coming and going about their own business. Some were meeting friends from other championships, while many more were taking a stroll to collect water or snacks, buy souvenirs, or enjoy a game in the pool hall. In this inner sanctum, there was a sense of calm and ease. In these final hours before the Opening Ceremony, the excitement as well as the tension is sure to increase.