Gary Bodie's Initial Impressions of Qingdao

For more on the young stars of the U.S. Sailing Team and their successful summer in Europe, see "Youth Movements" (p. 24) in the November/December 2005 issue of Sailing World.

Qingdao Montage
Courtesy Bocog

As in 1988 and 1996, the sailors will be isolated from the rest of the Olympic athletes at the 2008 Games in Beijing. The Olympic regatta will be held in Qingdao, a port city of 7 million people 430 miles east of Beijing. As in Athens, however, the venue is new construction that will morph into a marina after the Games, and the Paralympics, conclude. While researching the feature in our November/December 2005 issue on the young stars of the U.S. Sailing Team, we spoke with U.S. Sailing Team head coach Gary Bodie, who had just returned from a September fact-finding trip to China. What were your overall impressions of Qingdao? I think it's going to be really exciting. It's nice to have the venue in the host city and be in the main village, but I think this is going to be really special for sailing, too. It's a very large city that's totally into hosting this thing. It's going to be the only show in town and the Chinese are just going absolutely crazy getting ready. What about the venue specifically? There's going to be a lot of cool things. The satellite village housing is in the marina; they basically built a future five-star hotel-two high rise towers-in the marina for the athlete housing. In one sense you could never leave the marina. It started as a shipyard, it closed a couple of years ago and they've made great progress. The towers are up, they're not finished, but they're well on their way. A lot of the other projects, the sea walls, a lot of the other infrastructure is well on its way. They're projecting to have it finished by the end of this year, maybe the housing takes a little bit longer. In the past the U.S. team has bought or rented a house in the host city. Will you do that this time? We'll stay in the Olympic Village during the Games. In addition, we probably will have some housing in the city itself for the period before the venue opens. The venue opens two week before the opening ceremony and we'll probably be there longer than that. Another exiting thing about this venue, the outer sea wall is going to be open for spectators and they're going to put one of the courses close to it. There's a lot of concern in the sailing community that this will be a drifter of a regatta. What did you see of the wind? We were pretty fortunate. We went out on the water for a ride the day after we got there and I think that was a pretty typical day, 8 to 10 knots, puffs to 12, out of the southeast, the forecasted direction. There were some Lasers out, a couple of Tornados, 470s. It wasn't windy, but it was nice sailing. Current's going to be a factor, there was at least a knot and a half of current. Then, while we were there, a typhoon came ashore in Shanghai and the remnants came up the coast. We had a rainy night, nothing dangerous, but too much to go sailing. We probably saw one typical day. Will US SAILING's Olympic Sailing Committee attempt to place the Trials in locations that mimic the expected conditions in Qingdao? We're considering it. There's a couple of philosophical decisions on the Trials. On argument is just to have the Trials in a place where the sailing is good and not try to mimic the conditions. If we really thought the conditions were going to be completely stupid-which we don't-then why try to mimic that, then we might get a stupid result. We'll take into consider things like current, open water, light winds, but I think we'll end up with someplace that's good sailing with the assumption that good sailors win when its good sailing and good sailors can adapt. The other part is it a fool game [to match the conditions] I give it 1 in 4. First you have to know what's going to happen at the Games. Then you have to find a place where you think the conditions will be like that. Then the conditions as the Trials have to match what you expect and the same for the Games. There's four chances to be wrong. Short of having the Trials at the site of the Games, I believe it's a fool's game to make that the No. 1 criteria. [Ed.'s note: US SAILING has since announced that the Trials for the 2008 Olympics will be held in October 2007 in Southern California (Star, Tornado, 470, RS:X, 49er, and Finn) and Newport, R.I. (Laser, Laser Radial, and Yngling).] The venue in Athens had a ton of space, but many people felt it was too big. How does this venue compare? It's a big complex. It may be as big as Athens. But I think from a flow standpoint, the layout looks a lot more practical. You don't have to go from one end to the other, which you didn't have to quite do in Athens. But I think they've given a little more thought to the flow of operations. It's a big venue. but it'll function pretty well. Though under most people's radar, the Chinese had some solid performances in Athens. Did you get a sense they're making a significantly bigger push for sailing medals in 2008? We met with BOCOG organizers, we met with city organizers, we met with the Chinese Yachting Association, but we didn't meet the coaches and athletes. So my opinion isn't really based on this visit. Certainly the Chinese are making a huge effort and making a lot of progress. They have one unfortunate circumstance in that the class in which they were making the most progress was the Europe and they got swept out from under their feet. Windsurfing they're right on the cusp. I think they will be credible in a number of classes. And it also sounds like they're going to enter every class except for Star.