Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympics "LiveBlog": Day 1 (slightly delayed)

After 3 days in Chengdu, we arrived in Beijing on the night of, well, I suppose, day 0 and had a nice dinner of Beijing duck before returning to our condo and CCTV's non-stop coverage of weightlifting, shooting, archery, fencing, and in every sport that the Chinese is winning gold medals (which, for the first few days) seemed to be every sport. We were, however, quite excited about our 1st event on day 1 - the women's gymnastics team final, which promised a duel between China and the U.S. We woke up on day 1 to a hazy sky with nary a sight of the sun - must be that famous Beijing haze. We caught a cab to the Olympic Greens for about $3 (with prices this cheap, no need to even take advantage of the free public transpo system during Olympics week). As we chatted from Americans from Connecticut to Illinois while waiting in the security line, we all realized that our first Beijing sun sighting was going to be pretty exciting. We walked around the Greens for awhile (though it was hard to not run into a Olympics volunteer dressed in the blue polos - as one was posted just about every few meters) before entering into a packed National Indoor Stadium for the much-anticipated event. After seeing Mary Lou Retton on the flight, and in the baggage claim area, we sighted Mary Lou again at the souvenir stand at the Stadium - wonder what she's doing at a gymnastics event? In a frenzied pro-China crowd, it was hard for us to start any USA chants, so we were content to cheer modestly when all 3 US gymnasts completed their vaults successfully, and then the mood turned ebullient when Nastia Liukin posted her monster 16.9 on the uneven bars. But then, as everyone knows, Alicia Sacramone took a couple of tough tumbles on the beam and the floor exercise, and the remainder of the event turned into a victory dance for the Chinese pixies. Though disappointed, this did give me a chance to teach my friend the words to the Chinese national anthem - though they would soon be forgotten.
After a quick lunch where a 7 year old showed me how to operate my magical self-heating meal (seriously, a $3.50 meal that heats itself when you pull a string, those ingenuous Chinese!) we went to a women's handball where we were surprised to find midcourt seats about 10 rows up - literally, the best seats in the house. We sat behind a couple of 50-something brothers from the US who has travelled to every summer Olympics since Barcelona - it's great to have disposable income! Team handball turned to be an intriguing sport to watch, and I now know that no. 8 on Angola is its primary offensive weapon, and that South Koreans are enthusiastic about their team handball! The 40 or so South Korean fans banged their thundersticks in rhymic fashion and chanted mysterious things through the match - if only I knew what they were talking about!
We were supposed to have gotten tickets to China v. Cuba in women's volleyball - but our contact had presumably found someone willing to pay more than the $100 a piece we had offered and he had accepted back in the U.S., and he then made up some fake excuse and left us without tickets. We then had dinner at an overpriced (we had to pay like $10 a piece for dinner) seafood restaurant and retired for the evening to more team archery and weightlifting.

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