August 17, 2008

Beijing, Day 2 – “apparently water means tea”

After 12 hours of sleep, ticket arrangements, and Great Wall arrangements, we left to pick up our table tennis tickets from Coke. In the lobby we met two South Africans, Esther and Beauty, who are here working for FIFA and organizing the World Cup 2010. After a bit of confusion at the other hotel (they wanted to see ID badges, which we don’t have) we got our tickets as well as a Spectators’ Guide, which has all sorts of handy maps. From there we went to find lunch. The concierges here only recommend their hotel restaurants. It’s very sad. When we said no, we don’t want hotel food, we want to eat local, the concierge had to go ask someone else if they knew anywhere to eat. The other guy directed us across the road, and we ended up finding the only restaurant over there, which had a picture menu and English translations. It ended up being quite good and also incredibly cheap (although we learned that price is no indicator of food size, as our $3 meals were rather large. We expected tapas). Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to get a cab to Peking University for the table tennis and ended up getting a ride on the Coke shuttle, where we met Mexicans of Chinese descent, the younger of whom had studied at Peking. The table tennis was Japan vs Korea for bronze. The serves were the most interesting part – a few of them did this tiny, hidden serve, one threw the ball really high, and a few sort of turned around. In this gym I also experienced squat toilets. They aren’t that bad, and I feel they’re actually more hygienic that sit-down (Western) toilets, but I wasn’t sure which way to stand.


After table tennis we used our guidebook to figure out which bus to take to Olympic Green. (Public transit is free for any day you have an event ticket.) The bus was packed, and most people got off at the first stop. We decided to follow the other people we saw with athletics tickets to the next stop, which took an additional 40 minutes because of the traffic and put us further from the stadium than the first stop. Then we tried to enter through what was apparently the exit and got yelled at. So we walked even further to the entrance. The Olympic security is intense. There are scanners for people and backpacks and then I had to get scanned with the hand-scanner. They made us throw out all outside food and drinks (so we’d buy more inside) and turn on cameras (to prove that they were cameras?) and cellphones. They seemed shocked when I told them I didn’t have a phone. Then they confiscated my granola.

Our seats were in D, which was not a very good section. We got to see the hammer throw up close. It was adorable when Kozmuz (Slovenia) won gold and then went running around draped in a flag and then gave a big hug to silver medalist Meyekovsky (Hungary) wrapped in his flag. Then he climbed into the stands, much to the ire of the stadium attendants. They stood there angrily while he went around rousing cheers among the Eastern Europeans in the front row.

The high jump went on at the opposite end of the field. We could also only see the Chinese big screen – the English one was behind us.
Other events: 3000 womens’ (WR), 100 womens’ (won by three Jamaicans), triple jump womens’ (apparently a WR but I only saw it in replay).

Since there was no good food at the stadium and I only had a caramel popcorn, we tried to go back to the hotel restaurant, but it was closed. We had to have room service.



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