Do’s and Don’ts of Attending an International Gymnastics Competition
In preparation for World Championships, GymMapStics has some advice from her own personal experiences for the novice international gymnastics meet traveler.
Do: Invest in a backpack! Don’t underestimate the value of carrying your belongings on your back and having two hands: one to hold a cell phone, one to hold a map or a coffee or, if you want to look completely out of place, a guidebook. Backpacks are especially handy if you’re visiting multiple cities in one trip because they’re much more maneuverable than the average piece of luggage.
Don’t: Drag a wheelie bag, especially through the streets of Sofia. The wheels of your pink luggage will become entrapped in the uneven cobblestones as you dart across the street, unaware that there are underground walkways, and you will arrive at your destination significantly later than anticipated.
Do: Keep your eyes peeled! You never know who you’ll run into either at the venue or around it. Luckily, no one has said no to taking a photograph yet; however, they do not have much of a choice when a stranger passes her phone off to an innocent bystander and does not let them walk away until they’ve smiled and taken a photo.
Don’t: Hand your broken iPhone 4 to the Team GB coach to take a picture with the entire team. The shattered screen will prevent her from taking a decent picture and you will be a blurry face standing around people of similar height who may or may not be the actual team.
Do: Go to Starbucks! You will encounter free wifi and the guarantee of a restroom! This technique has proven successful in numerous cities and countries! If you’re in an country that uses Cyrillic, you get a cool receipt and you can pretend you’re Mustafina.
Don’t: Do not ONLY go to Starbucks. As great as the internet connectivity and bathrooms that will definitely have toilet paper and toilet seats, local coffee shops and bakeries are even better. They’re great places for observing the culture and people in a new place as well as try some tasty treats that may not be available in your homeland. Maintain low expectations regarding the ice coffee though. This applies to other regions of the United States as well as other countries. Ice coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts in Florida is just not the same and ice coffee at Costa Coffee in Bulgaria for reasons unknown requires a blender. Also, do not be alarmed when baristas ask if cold soy milk is okay. They always do and it’s always okay.
Do: Accept and appreciate the transition music. It will be stuck in your head for the entire competition and many weeks afterward. The songs will also randomly pop into your head as you partake in mundane tasks, like riding in the subway or cleaning your kitchen. Embrace it, own it, live it.
Don’t: Dance like a major goober in an attempt to appear on the jumbo screen. As much as USA Gymnastics encourages this, do not let them fool you into thinking this is cool. It is a trap. Also, no one wants to spend an entire competition dreading the time between rotations because they know the tween girls in front of them will start busting a move to the new Ke$ha song.
Do: Stay in an AirBnB rental! Having an apartment with many amenities not found in a hotel or hostel can make for a relaxing evening following a tiring day of watching gymnastics. Amenities include full kitchen, private washer and dryer, private bathroom that does not require shower flip flops, and if you’re really lucky, a dog.
Don’t: Do not dismiss the idea of staying in a hostel! Hostels are cheap, sometimes provide free meals or booze, and usually house many people attending the same event. You can meet new people who share the similar interests in gymnastics but have different opinions and experiences.
Do: Enjoy local culture! Sofia had free English walking and food tours that filled the time in between events of the European Championships in 2014. The free walking tour provided a lengthly history as well as provided a sense of direction to the city that would serve as home base for the next eight days. Food tours allow a glimpse into the city, country, or areas gastronomic culture as well as the regular culture as the two are typically closely intertwined. Additionally, tours like this will sustain you much better than crappy arena food that is exactly the same gross, greasy barely edible junk in every country. Avoid it like the plague.
Don’t: Enjoy the local culture so much that you stay out in Edinburgh until 4am and then board a train to Glasgow at 7am to attend the Glasgow World Cup. You will look like a corpse when you meet Beth Tweddle, be too hungover to engage in conversation with the friendly people sitting next to you, and leave before the conclusion of the competition because you are about to fall asleep in the aisle of the arena.