Last night I got to attend my first Olympic competition session. RR had two Beach Volleyball tickets, and invited me along. Beach Volleyball – why not?
We rode our bikes to Chaoyang Park, which took maybe a half hour. When we saw the huge mess of taxis outside the park entrance we were glad we chose to pedal there.
As you can see, they’ve tarted up the entrance to Chaoyang Park.
Some of the guys hanging around there offered to either buy our extra tickets or sell us some. You go through a security check here, though they do not check your ticket at this point.
Inside they’ve got an amusement and concession area set up with a giant screen showing various Olympic events. Some soft drink company sponsors this, but I don’t remember which one. For ¥10 you can ride the shuttle to the competition area, which is a good idea, since it’s a long distance from the south gate. One American woman was complaining loudly about having to pay “ten bucks” to get a ride, apparently forgetting that it’s the equivalent of $1.50. She was welcome to walk – we took the shuttle.
Once you get off the shuttle you get to the real security check:
Once again you go through a metal detector, and when it screeches they give you a quick pass around with a wand – yes it was the belt buckle. They have you open your bag and confiscate any food, beverage or weapons.
It’s still a bit of a walk further to the actual venue. There are a lot of little concession stands.
They have Coke, Sprite, bottled water, orange drink and bottled sweet tea; for beer you can get Budweiser, Tsingtao, or Yanjing; food is limited to popcorn and various packaged products like pastries and sausages. “Sandwich/hot dog/pizza” was listed on the menus, but all the stands had them marked NOT AVAILABLE. We grabbed a couple large Tsingtaos and went in.
Inside, the first match was already underway.
USA vs. Germany women. Note that the event was completely sold out. That’s what the press release said, so it has to be true.
Here is Team USA serving:
There were a couple of sections filled with young people in identical shirts.
I’m guessing they might have been the recipients of the ¥5 student tickets.
One of the fun things about Beach Volleyball is the DJ. It’s a bit like the way they play little bits of music during the lulls in action at an American baseball game.
Another fun thing about Beach Volleyball is the dance squad, the Beach Girls. They come out and do routines during timeouts and such, like when the sand gets raked.
This is the Olympics, remember? Serious athletic competition and all. I think TV ratings worldwide would be higher if other sports besides Beach Volleyball had Beach Girls. Athletics (track and field) could especially benefit from the extra action, with all the gaps between events.
Here’s Germany serving to the USA.
Note how the player not serving is using hand signals to suggest a strategy to the server.
The USA won the match, which made this group happy.
As the Beach Girls came out for another routine, joined by a giant Nini...
...some fans started coming in for the next match.
Second on the bill was Australia vs. Georgia.
Georgia has just scored a point here. Australia had to work for it, but eventually pulled out the win.
In between that match and the next, the Beach Girls and Nini were joined by Huanhuan and Yingying while the Brazilian and Russian teams tried to warm up.
The two MC’s (one Chinese, one foreign) came out with the Girls to explain some of the crowd participation elements of Beach Volleyball.
Here... ...you can see that the Brazilian penchant for athletes going by single names is not limited to football.
While they looked a little shaky at first, Brazil managed to get the win.
All in all, it was a fun evening.
As the Girls went through another routine...
...RR and I headed for the exit. Which turned out to be much more difficult than it might seem.
There were lots of signs telling you how to get in, but nothing telling you how to get back to the park’s south gate. We picked a direction, and found ourselves going out the east gate, unable to get back in, so we had to walk around a large part of the park’s perimeter. It’s a really huge park, so it took us a long time to get back to where we parked the bikes.
I remember a few months ago, when it was announced that restaurants inside venue perimeters would be closed during the Games, that some bloggers commented that this was a scheme to funnel more money to the official concessionaires. I think I can safely state that other reasons were behind that (security, of course), because when it comes to food inside Olympic venues, it sucks big time. The only choices are small prepackaged snacks of the kind you can buy at 7-11, and none of them are filling or particularly appetizing. It’s kind of pathetic that one of the world’s great events can’t even bring itself up to the level of an ordinary rock music festival in this respect. McDonald’s, one of the major international Olympic sponsors, had no presence at all, and while Coke signs were everywhere, it was all just decoration. Moral of the story: Make sure you eat before you go to your event.
Okay, enough ranting.
Eventually I’ll get around to writing about the Opening Ceremonies. No, I didn’t see them in person, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.