August 15, 2008

"I'm feeling very Olympic today . . . how about you?"

Sanka Coffie's words from the movie "Cool Runnings" were never more appropriate than today when I managed to hit not one, not two, but three different sports. Let me put it this way, while you may have seen the swimming "live" on NBC last night, afterwards you went to bed. I too saw the swimming live, but while you were sleeping I watched the Slovakians sweek kayaking and canoeing and just after you woke up this morning I was discovering the magic that is team handball. Eleven hours - five of them spent watching different events. So today, I thought I'd offer a timeline:

  • 8:00 am - Depart for water cube. Because this is the first day of track & field, traffic is a bear even if only cars with odd-numbers are allowed on the road.
  • 9:00 am - Begin security line in good time using newly-acquired skill of cutting in line, first perfected by the Chinese people
  • 10:00 am - Watch (sigh) more World Records fall (Lochte 200 back, Phelps 200 IM, Soni 200 breast).
  • 11:00 am - Watch Libby Trinket turn Gold into Silver by breathing on every stroke in final 25 meters of 100 free. Watch Michael Phelps use first 85meters of 100 fly as a warm-down from his 200 IM.
  • 12:00 pm - Wander down for round two of Olympic Superstore. Line-cutting technique is nearly perfected.
  • 1:00 pm - Hit Coca-Cola VIP suite to get another photo in front of Olympic flame now that sky is clearly visible. Pay money to woman at register #28 (of 32) at Mickey D's. Don Red-White & Blue wig. This move promptly brings all progress to a complete standstill as I'm besiged by locals asking for a photo. There are 1.3 billion people in China and I now have photos with exactly one-half of them. Putting on a red-white & blue wig and draping an American flag around you is a lot like Facebook - you suddenly find yourself with several friends you didn't know you had.
  • 2:00 pm - Miss bus to canoe park because of Chinese paparazzi. Find that cab drivers who have been blowing us off all week are more than happy to drive me the 60 km out to the canoe park. Learn firsthand that Chinese are not the obedient, non-confrontational followers I thought as cab races to 60 kph until cops appear in sight when they drop to 30 kph.
  • 4:00 pm - Arrive at Olympic Canoe/Kayak park. This is a man-made river with turbulent rapids set against the backdrop of mountains. Drop aforementioned wig someplace thus ending my life as a rock star.
  • 5;00 pm - Board bus I missed going out, thus saving the 150 RMB cab fare.
  • 6:00 pm - Arrive back in Beijing at central bus terminal. Walk two miles to a secondary Olympic green and find a Norwegian willing to part with a team handball ticket for 50 RMB.
  • 7:00 pm - Discover that Team Handball is a crazy sport combining elements of basketball, soccer and arena football. Fortunately for Norway, the French also boast a lazy goalie (actually, kind of reminds me of most French folks I've met) en route to an easy victory.
  • 8:00 pm - Find myself chanting something that sounds like the word "Ponderosa" with a bunch of Hungarian fans. Find that Pondersoa does not actually mean "cheap steakhouse" but something to the effect of "Go Hungary."
  • 9:00 pm - Learn that Hungary is more than a country - it's how I feel after spending all day out and about, so with that I'm wrapping it up.
  • I was wrapping up my day chanting something that sounded like "Ponderosa" along with a bunch of Hungarian handball fans



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