Thursday, August 14, 2008

At the Games, II

Last night I went with Jiahao to see some of the women's handball competitions (I'll take what tickets I can get) at the Olympic Sports Center. The first match of the night was Norway vs. Kazakhstan; the second, Germany vs. Hungary. Norway and Hungary both brought winning teams to the stadium, accompanied by truly obnoxious fans. The Norwegian fans had a fairly threatening aspect to begin with, which they heightened by dressing up as Vikings——I think they scared Jiahao half to death. The Hungarians were less frightening and less sober, but they did set up some pretty intimidating call-and-reponse cheers across the stadium.

Sitting directly to my right was a student wearing a Yale cap, who it turned out had come to the matches with another Yale man. Both were students at Princeton's program here in Beijing; both were, like most Foreign Devils, desperately ready to get back to America.

Jiahao and I arrived well before the matches begun, so we had a chance to get a good look at the stadium and its grounds. Jiahao photographed everything, explaining to me in his adorable manner——nationalism is adorable in small children——that he needed to "capture this historic moment." And at the stadiums, it's hard not to get caught up in the Olympic excitement...

...especially when the cheerleaders (or to use the delightful Chinese term, the laladui), take the court with the Fuwa and schoolchildren who have just finished a pre-game pee-wee match. The cheerleading squad, by the way, was officially called "The Chinese Honey Bunnies," and they performed to the music of——well, have a look yourself:

The first game was a bit of a blowout, much to the disappointment of a small group of Kazakh fans, who spent the entire second half of the match singing a Kazakh song that sounded like something straight out of Borat; the second game was extremely close, with Germany maintaining a narrow lead until the very end, when, to raucous Magyar exultation, they finally pulled ahead. I was a bit disappointed; the Hungarians had cheered wholeheartedly every time one of their players injured a German, and I'd hoped they would get shown up by the end of the game. Thinking the Germans would win, I took some footage of the German team scoring; if an athlete had ended up on the ground clutching her knee it would have better represented the violence of the match. Handball's more exciting than I expected; but I've only experienced the sport under the iron rod of Mr. Donodeo, where no game is quite like it is in the rest of the world.

On the way out I took a picture of the 鸟巢, the Olympic Bird's Nest, looming over the Fourth Ring Road. When the weather's not awful, Beijing can be a fairly pretty place.

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