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by Robert Gambert
What an experience it has been to attend, participate and enjoy the ultimate of an IVV adventure. With trip captain, Matt Pernick and five others in tow, we all bonded together in friendship, camaraderie, and walked, biked, swam or even aqua walked during the three days of the Olympiad. The Japanese IVV organizers have set the standard for hosting such an event. Following the opening parade, which Wanda Musse, recalls as being emotional; upon hearing the U.S. national anthem being played, while she marched in the Olympiad parade into the Mount Fuji Stellar Theater.
The American group was led by Matt as he carried and held high the U.S. Flag for about a 60 minute walk to the Mount Fuji Stellar Theater. All of the walkers thoroughly enjoyed this inspirational moment of the opening ceremonies of the Olympiad. Alphabetically, in order were walkers from the participating IVV countries representing such countries as: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg; and Norway, who had a really strong contingent of perhaps 80 or more walkers, and the host nation Japan walkers. Hiking groups such as Walking Adventures and the Koala’s (mostly German) were in attendance and participated as well.
The opening ceremony was nothing short of spectacular, as the back drop of the open back side of the theater roof was Mount Fuji, as in a post card picturesque view. Oh, how exciting the event was for the several thousand participants who applauded, and gave their approval of all that was unveiling before them. Suddenly from the furthest entrance and top of the stairs a young woman Japanese speed ice skating Olympic gold medalist, smiling the whole way as she quickly entered carrying high from her outstretched hand, a brightly burning Olympic torch while a cloud of smoke trailed behind.
She past the spectators and descended down steps leading up to the stage in the Theater center where she was welcomed by the Olympiad officials. While translators spoke excitingly in either Japanese, English or German Languages, the young Japanese woman lifted the burning Olympiad torch and lit the Olympic lamp – thereby officially opening the 11th IVV Olympiad. Following the traditional announcements, acknowledgements and welcome to Mount Fuji by the respective officials of the city and Mount Fuji Park area; the spectacular and authentic Japanese entertainment began. With huge drum kettles, pounding out a rhythmic beat of a Japanese origin. Followed by four Japanese Kimono dressed women each sitting at a different shaped harp or string instrument, played melodies familiar to many, such as a piece from Vivaldi.
The music was beautiful and stirring to hear in such an amphitheater setting. And just as spectacular entering from all sides were several dozen kimono dressed dancers lightly steeping and swaying in their characteristic dance. A scene that was simply beautiful to watch and enjoy.
An additional highlight to the Olympiad was meeting and talking with walkers from many other countries and exchanging greetings and pleasantries that as we walkers are so accustomed to doing. As Wanda said “volksmarchers are the friendliest of folks”.
As our tour to Japan occurred during concern for the Swine Flu pandemic. Upon landing in Narita Airport, Japanese health officials boarded the aircraft and quickly made electronic scans and collected individual health survey information; which only became more emphasized upon arrival in to the West Inn Hotel, where the group stayed. At the Hotel we were briefed that they we were to take our body temperatures daily, note if we are ill and report any illness or unusual symptoms.
Our hotel was directly on the provided free shuttle bus service and made travel back and forth to the Olympiad area, smooth and hassle free. The following day we were surprised to see the arrival of the Turkish conclave to the hotel where the Bad Pennies Group stayed. All members readily obtained information about the 12th Olympiad to be held in 2011.
The first day hiking events were within view of Mount Fuji and traversed many interesting sights of local towns, gardens, agriculture such as rice paddies and Buddhist Temples. Several of The Bad Pennies members walked the 20km trail up to 3,125 meter height of Mount Fuji.
Additionally, participants could do the 25km bicycle ride to the same height. Event stamp for either aqua walking or swimming a distance of 300, 500, or 1000 meter distances was available.
The weather was simply great for all events held.
Wanda expressed that she felt such a feeling of being welcomed, that as Americans we were really appreciated and honored. Many of the spectators, of all ages, extended to her a most respectful and acknowledging recognition that she an American was welcomed by the Japanese citizenry.
All the club members had the opportunity to get a special commemorative 11th IVV Olympiad stamp on the last day. The special stamp was suggested by new club member Bob Gambert (formerly of Stuttgart, Germany and now residing in Carlisle, PA) to the event organizers, who readily acknowledged and promised that they would have a stamp. Bob has acquired seven Olympiad stamps, to include France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia and now Japan.
He further helped several of the club members and others in obtaining the World Book, which provides a record of participating on three continents, six countries and two Olympiads.
AVA President Curt Myron and his wife – were present at the Olympiad and expressed their enjoyment of participating and experiencing the event.
Club members were fortunate to obtain a fifth day event; as they were bussed to the smallest of the five lakes below Mount Fuji. There they hiked a 13 km trail through a pristine natural forest and along the lake side.
Organizers provided a Japanese style box lunch which was just as interesting to the American palate.
Now, that the 11th Olympiad is a historical past, where do the participants plan to go next? Antalya, Turkey is the location for the 12th IVV Olympiad, from the dates of 20-25 October 2011. The Bad Pennies plan to offer an organized trip to attend the next Olympiad in Asia.
For additional information, check the Bad Pennies website.