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Friday wrap-up

Friday for us was Gymnastics and Beach Volleyball day.

Gymnastics

Our first event was the Women’s Gymnastics Individual All-Around Final. Since it started at 11am, we managed to get there with plenty of time to spare so that we could experience a bit of the Olympic Green before going in. Since it had rained the day before, the skies were clear and the bright sun made it VERY hot outside.

We had nosebleed seats, just 4-5 rows from the top of the arena, but because it wasn’t terribly big, we still had great views of the action. The American women were predicted to do very well, as were the Chinese women. All of the 24 competitors were but into four groups for the four “stations” (vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise). The Chinese and Americans were in the same group along with the Russians.

The first two events for the Chinese/American group went okay, with no girls clearly winning. But after the balance beam the eventual winner, Liukin of the USA had a BIG lead, something like 0.4 points above the next (Chinese) girl. The floor exercise was okay for the Chinese girl, but went very well for both American women. Liukin took the gold and Shawn Johnson the silver.

It was actually pretty difficult to watch gymnastics effectively. There are four events going on simultaneously, so it was good that the top girls were all in the same group. But the worst part was that spectators had so little information. The scoreboards just showed the total points for the top three athletes, and little else. Even the scores that were displayed after judging each event were only shown for the briefest of moments, in some cases literally seconds, before they were cleared to display the name of the next competitor. In the end I had to hand write the scores down so I could figure out who needed what to win. Spectators at home miss the spectacle, but have so much more and better information!

After gymnastics we made our way to the Olympic Green “Super Store” where we managed to find a few things (pins, flags, etc.) that we’d been looking for. Though it was a huge space, there was still a good 20-30 minute queue to get inside!

Beach Volleyball

As my previous post mentioned, this sport kicks ass. It’s a serious sport, with both technical ability and physical prowess/stamina required, but it’s also just SO MUCH FUN. A few reasons why:

  • Great action: There is a lot of back and forth, lead changes and the like. Though a lot of matches finish with one team winning two sets to none, it certainly doesn’t seem like that during the match. It’s much easier to stay interested when leads can change so quickly.
  • Quick matches: They rarely last more than an hour.
  • Lots of action: Little time in between points/sets, and when there are breaks in the action they’re short.
  • Perfect size court: Small enough that two people can cover it effectively, but big enough that it’s still possible for teams to find holes.
  • Entertainment: Organisers go above and beyond to make it fun. Dancers during the breaks (more scantily dressed than the athletes, by the way) and announcers that really try to rev up the crowd. Even the Fuwa’s get involved (the Beijing 2008 mascots). Simply an awesome time.

I HIGHLY recommend seeing it in person if you ever can. After that match we are definitely going to try and catch as many beach volleyball matches as we can during London’s 2012 Olympics!

Other stuff

Friday was also American food day… unintentionally. After the gymnastics we went to the Super Store, and by the time we came out it was getting really late and we still hadn’t eaten. The exit of the Super Store was about 10 meters away from the entrance to the McDonald’s. It has been about 3 or 4 years since I last ate at a McDonald’s, but then we go to one in Beijing. Oh, well.

Dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was just around the corner (in Beijing terms) from the Beach Volleyball venue and they served dinner late, which was good because Beach Volleyball runs late. So I also had a chance to get a really good quality hamburger in Beijing. We forgot until we were there that it was a Friday… because we were there so late an American-style cover band kicked off just after we sat down. If you follow me on Twitter (check it out here), you’ll have read that it became particularly surreal when they busted out with a Pink Floyd song.

I realize I’m posting this a bit late, but hope to catch up shortly with today’s (Saturday’s) action!