It’s true! We’ve managed to secure tickets for the Sunday rowing finals in Beijing!
When we originally booked tickets in June of 2007 (!) we asked for every rowing event and got tickets for every session except the Sunday finals. Unfortunately, this day will feature the lightweight events, quads and eights, with a few different medal potentials and a couple of friends competing. (That our friends and fellow Thames RC members are competing was a much more compelling reason.) We figured we would somehow manage to get tickets, but it was really starting to worry us. Luckily a well-connected friend came through and now we’re all set. Woo-hoo!
The whole event is pretty organized, though the first day had some hiccups. (Long queues for security, completely disorganized food vendors). Our tickets are for the stands about 150meters away from the finish (of a 2000m course) and in good view of the television that shows coverage of the entire race and the results board showing who’s ahead every 500meters. When photos are uploaded I’ll link to them here. (I’m not the photographer in the household)
[By the way, porto-loos in China are squat toilets. Luckily they also have regular toilets in a separate building. Again, guys generally have things easier here.]
The initial heats are always a mixed bag. Typically the first 2-3 boats are pretty competitive, but the last-place boats are often miles behind. This should tighten up for each race. But as I mentioned before, some crews have taken it easy once they were in a place to qualify for the next round instead of racing it to the end, to save themselves some energy.
Today, Sunday the 10th, the racing was cancelled just after the quad sculls heats were done because of the weather. (Rain, lightning, etc.) The women’s eights that had been at the start paddled down the course, and the other eights came in as well. At first the announcements just said that racing was delayed, but about twenty minutes later (after another batch of lightning) it was cancelled for the day. Apparently it’s now been scheduled for tomorrow.
Another strange note, but two Chinese boats scratched (officially “Did Not Start”) yesterday. That’s really too bad, as that puts a lot of athletes’ and their countries’ efforts over the past years to waste. Rowing was one of their big efforts for these Olympics since it’s known as a “medal-rich” sport, and this takes away two of the fourteen chances just by not showing up.
Life in the stands has been interesting. We’ve met some interesting people from elsewhere in Britain, been in front of an enthusiastic group of Poland supporters, and laughed at a fairly boisterous (read: drunk) group of Ireland supporters dressed in leprechaun outfits. Also met a guy today who was at the opening ceremonies. He mentioned that there while most of the stadium was full, there were still a good bunch of empty seats, which is a shame.
Life in China
So we’ve been doing a homestay here in Beijing which has been interesting. The flat is owned by a couple in their 50’s, a Canadian man and his Chinese wife. They live in a flat in the same neighborhood, the “Airport Dormitories,” since it’s by the airport and populated by a lot of their workers.
When we first walked up to the flat, the words going through my head were “tenement”, “ghetto”, “s**t-pit” and more. Luckily once we got to the top floor and our flat, we found a nice new modern door and a newly and nicely furnished flat. It’s fairly small, but complete with good kitchen, Western-style toilet/shower, great TV, and DSL. The owners have been incredibly kind to us, making sure we know the local area, how to get on local buses, interesting places in the area, etc. They also helped us get a Chinese SIM card for one of our mobiles.
We are definitely the only Westerners in our area, but word about us got around pretty quickly, so there’s no strange staring going on. Yesterday we got to know the local convenience store, and today we got to know the local department store/grocery store. Coming back from the rowing today we got enough food to last us two or three days easily for the equivalent of £9.
It’s been great to come back every night and see other events on the television, across four different channels. Unfortunately all of the commentary is in Chinese, but considering the standard of most sports commentary, that’s probably a good thing. It’s fun to wake up to Olympic sports, go see Olympic events, and come back home to see more Olympic sports. It’s going to be full-on for the next 10 days which is great!