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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What does the FIFA U20 World Cup and UW have in Common?

Unfortunately, I had to leave the G's as in the Griffins and Gallimore's at home.  The 3 G's this time around are:  Genki? GK's and Gold.  "Genki?"= "How are you?" in Japanese.  Japan is where the 2012 U20 Women's World Championship is taking place.   I get to hang with the USA team on this journey, mainly with our  GK's.

A short while ago I was cheering on Hope Solo and the USA women in the Olympic Final.  As I watched the gold medal match with the Husky Women's Soccer team during  pre-season, I was reminded that I have a very cool job. On August 10th I boarded  the flight to Tokyo with the U20s and staff. Many Japanese people on our flight congratulated the USA on the gold medal.  It clearly was a game watched by multitudes.  

If all goes well, our trip will be lengthy.  I used to think heading to the airport with 2 toddlers was a chore, now I think traveling with a group of 31 with enough tape, Gatorbars, Nike gear, and sports bras to last 26 days is much more difficult.  

Our first stop is Hiroshima.  Our hotel is across the street from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum; the target of the world's first atomic bombing which took place on August 6th, 1945.   As we walk to the museum in our USA gear, we come across what used to be a building for the Dept. of Industry.   It is now called, "A-Bomb Dome."  I felt like I was in one of my kids' Magic Treehouse books. With the turn of one page,  I  had jumped back in history a short and uncomfortable 67 years. 
A-Bomb Dome

Red Ball depicts the area of immediate impact. Surrounding
area is 2 kilometers of destruction shortly thereafter. 
 As our team serpentined through the museum. One by one you could almost see the exact moment on a players face when  a symbol, photo, quote, artifact, letter or statistic  was the one that cut to their heart. 

For each, the moment was different, but the impact the same.  

I was expecting "their side of the story" to paint Americans in an awful light.  But the message here was simply that nuclear weapons are fruits of war and during that time, the Japanese also inflicted irreversible harm of people in many different countries.  So while I was expecting stares or indifference with the locals, we were all greeted with warm smiles and respectful bows.  The mission of this place is of human solidarity and peace.  It felt good to be here. 

One of the stops of the museum that caught the attention of many was the story of Sadako Sasaki. 
It is related to the logo of the U20 Women's World Cup and has connections to Seattle. 

Sadako Sasaki lived in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  At age 11, Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia, a type of cancer caused by the atomic bomb.  While in the hospital, Sadako started to fold paper cranes. In Japan, there is a belief that if you folded 1000 paper cranes, then your wish would come true. Sadako spent 14 months in the hospital, folding paper cranes with any paper she could find. Her wish was that she would get well again. Sadako also wished for an end to all suffering and to attain peace and healing to the victims of the world. 

Sadako died on Oct. 25, 1955 at 12 years old.  She had folded over 1300 cranes.  Her friends raised funds to build a memorial in honor of Sadako and other victims.  The Hiroshima Peace Memeorial was completed in 1958 and has a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane.  

At the base is a plaque that says:  "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world."  The paper crane is often given as a wish for peace.  

Dr. Floyd Schmoe, a professor at the University of Washington won the Hiroshima Peace Prize in 1998 after helping rebuild Hiroshima after WWII.  He used his prize money to clear a small lot near UW and with the help of many volunteers, on August 6, 1990, 40 years after the bombing, the dedication of Seattle Peace Park and the Statue Sadako occurred. 

Our team payed their respects by placing a wreath at the base of the Peace Arch.  The A-Bomb Dome is in the background.  

Yes, I am here for a World Cup.  Thankful that our team gets a first hand look at the meaning behind the tournament's logo.  The beauty of sport is it has a habit of making the world much smaller.  I am looking forward to listening to the anthems and seeing the colors of the other countries.  

The first match we play is versus Ghana on August 20th. 

The first match for the Huskies is Friday, August 17th.  Yes, I have a cool job. 

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