Olympic Journal: I Carried the Flag for Burundi

Former Iowa standout runner Diane Nukuri Johnson is running for Burundi in the 2012 London Olympics. She’s also one of our Big Ten names chronicling their Olympic adventures for BTN.com, and this time she tells us what it was like to prepare for the trip to London and how she wound up carrying the flag for Burundi on Friday night. Find more journals here.

Here’s what Nukuri Johnson sent us on Monday:

“I know I said I would update my blog as soon as I got to London, but as you might expect with the Olympics, I had a really busy week. Also, I got a bit of a cold, and a couple days ago, I slipped and fell in the shower, landing on my hip and elbow. Fortunately, everything seems to be OK now, and I’m finally settling into a routine here in London.

Former Iowa track and cross countrty standout Diane Nukuri Johnson is running for Burundi at the 2012 London Olympics. A veterah of the 2000 Olympics, she is keeping an Olympic journal for BTN.com. Read all of our Olympic journals.

“Since my last post, a lot has happened. First, I drove from Iowa City to Chicago after my workout on July 14 to see my husband Alex before I left for London. I flew from Chicago and he is there for the summer, so it was nice to see him before I left. But I hate packing. It was very stressful when I was trying to fit everything into two suitcases for living the next three months. As soon as the games end, I’ll head back home to Burundi to stay with my family until October, so finding a way to get three months of stuff in 100 pounds of packing space was a headache.

“I left Chicago on Tuesday afternoon at 4:15, had a layover in Amsterdam for an hour, and I finally arrived in London around 10 a.m.. The flight was not too long, but I never got to sleep the whole time, and was totally exhausted. I’ve never been a great sleeper, so I’m not surprised, but it only made the trip longer. When I got the airport, I got my credentials and had to do the fingerprinting because normally, as a Burundian citizen on a Burundian passport I would need a visa to go to England. But the Olympics have created a special exception where all you need is to show your Olympic credentials and record a fingerprint.

“After the fingerprint, I saw the volunteers outside waiting for me. I started to get so excited because I knew I was getting so close to the Olympic Village. But the volunteers told me I just missed the bus and I had to wait for another one that came 30 minutes later. I ended up being the only person on the bus and the driver was pretty amazing. I asked him how long it took to get to the Olympic Village and then he said, ‘One hour and 45 minutes without the traffic.’

Photo courtesy of Diane Nukuri Johnson

“And I was not excited about that.

“Once I got to the village, I was so happy to meet everyone and check out the village. The next couple days after that were very busy. It was hard to find a place to run, so I had to take really long drives to places to run, plus I was very tired and I didn’t feel like doing anything. Each country had a welcome celebration and we had Burundi’s on July 24. It was a lot of fun dressing in traditional Burundian clothes and taking pictures in the park – the women get to wear “invutano” which is sort of like a sash-dress combination that fits like a dress or skirt around the waist, and then one shoulder gets the sash part over the top, it’s usually worn with a tank top underneath and they’re almost always really bright colors.

“The most exciting part so far was definitely the opening ceremony. I was asked to be a flag-bearer (see the photo in this post) and I was so honored to have that opportunity again after doing it in 2000 as a 15 year-old in Sydney.

“My teammates and I dressed in the  invutano again, and we did matching nail polish and makeup. So I guess you could say we were dressed like Burundi head-to-toe.

“So far it has been amazing and I am looking forward to race. I promise to update my blog faster next time!”

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Jean-Claude Ndikumana on 8/3/2012 @ 12:52pm EST Said:

Good luck at the 2012 Olympic Games my lovely syster.I´m sure you will win and i´m proud of you.

God bles you.

IMANA IKUJE IMBERE igihe uzoba uriko uriruka, abe ariyo izogutanga yonyene kuri arrivée hama nawe ukurikire.

Claude