As I mentioned in my last post, Sunday was football day in Beijing. With a posted kick-off time of 17:45, the four of us ended up meeting on a corner near here around 16:00, which was at the limit of what I had figured was possible to make it all the way to Fengtai, which is in the far southwest part of town. We walked to a nearby subway station and got on a southbound train on Line 2. Two stops later, we transferred to Line 1, which is the main east-west line that goes through the middle of town. We stayed on that train for 12 stops, getting off at the Wukesong Station. Wukesong is one of several sports and entertainment complexes around town that will be used for Olympic events, in this case mostly basketball. And in January, the indoor arena there is slated to host the Spice Girls on their reunion tour.
Anyway, Fengtai is quite a distance from Wukesong, so we piled into a taxi for the remainder of the journey. It was around 5 when we did this. After a long round-the-block transit, we got onto the Fourth Ring Road heading south to Fengtai, and came to an immediate near-dead stop. We inched along the highway for the next 40 minutes. We saw many taxis and other vehicles near us containing people wearing blue and red striped shirts. When we got to the Fengtai exit, we could see the stadium lights off to the right, not far from the highway. Luckily for us, a policeman was directing traffic, motioning all taxis over to the side of the road to let out passengers without having to struggle through the bottleneck of the exit. We paid our ¥30 and hopped out. We passed dozens of vendors selling Barcelona gear.
Remember how I mentioned the ticket envelope said you had to present it along with the ticket to get in? Theory vs. practice. At the gate, a guard separated people with bags from those without. I had a bag, so I went over to the line with the X-ray machine. I put the bad on the conveyor and stepped through the metal detector. It beeped loudly, but the young woman on the other side waved me through without question. I picked up my bag and was on my way.
Our section was at the exact opposite side from where we came in. JW and I grabbed a couple of waters from a bicycle-mounted vendor on the way. We could hear the players being announced as we walked. (You might note that so far I have not mentioned anything about my ticket being checked. This is not an oversight in my narrative.) We walked up the stairs and saw the players taking the field. At this point a guard looked at our tickets (not the envelopes) and pointed to where the seats were. We had to go up several rows and across. We got to our row and saw that seat 24 was on the aisle, and we had 6-9 at the far end. Trouble was, there was no way to get to those seats from where we were. The big pillars supporting the scoreboard blocked our row. We had to go up a couple more rows and work our way past a couple dozen people, squeeze past the pillar and down into our row.
Just as we took our seats, the whistle blew for the kickoff. It was a lovely Beijing day for the visiting superstars.
Keep in mind that this photo was taken at about 6:15pm in August. In other words, full daylight.
Just before halftime (not that we were aware of the time, since we were sitting under the scoreboard – and I later found out that the game time was not even displayed up there, so no one else knew exactly how far along it was), there was a cheer in the crowd as a player with long curly black hair came out to the sidelines to warm up. Yes, it was Ronaldinho. Flashes went off everywhere as everyone tried to catch him.
Halftime entertainment consisted of a taped woman’s voice repeating the rules printed on the ticket envelope over and over in Chinese. That and seeing Ronaldinho kick the ball around on the field a bit.
Near us on the side away from the scoreboard posts we saw this:
Why might there be scaffolding erected in the middle of a section of seats? With people sitting under it, even. Why, indeed?
That’s a TV camera up there.
My pictures of the second half turned out pretty pitiful, but if you’ll forgive the blur, I think you can make out this one:
What? Not clear enough? Here’s the annotated version:
1 is Ronaldinho taking a free kick
2 is the Beijing goalkeeper, no doubt feeling like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming Peterbilt
3 is the ball, curving in a lovely, effortless arc over the wall of Beijing players
4 is the spot in the goal where the ball will end up a split second later
There you go. Sunday Night Lights in Beijing.
Oh, the score? Um, something like 4-0. No surprise that Guo’an had no chance against the Champions League stalwarts, but I’d say they have no reason to be ashamed of their performance. They had quite a few shots on goal, and Barca’s keeper had to do a bit of work to keep the slate clean.
And yes, today is 8/8, one year exactly from the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics. In other Olympic news, we have this. And I can’t really talk about the bizarre events that transpired a couple weeks ago, since the public announcement is still forthcoming. Attentive readers may be able to figure out what it was by the timing and what I’ve written in the past, but I will neither confirm nor deny anything.