Sunday, August 17, 2008

Watching the Beijing Olympics

It is about ten days after the Opening Ceremony; about half of the competitions have been completed and nearly 400 medals have been given to the greatest athletes. The Beijing Olympics is the only topic the media covers, and people talk it about all over Beijing. Lucky ones see the events in person, but people don’t complain when they can watch live coverage on TV at home, in the office, or on the street. There are five TV stations showing live coverage of different events simultaneously.

When I shopped at the antique market, I saw big screens in different areas in the market. Buyers and sellers watched the games while doing business. In another shopping district, hundreds of people watched live coverage on a gigantic screen. When I went to the bank, people were watching live TV coverage in front of the clerk's counter. Of course, people can also watch TV on subway platforms or on buses. People such as taxi drivers, who don’t have access to TV, listen to live coverage on the radio. They haven't missed any important games even though they can't watch live coverage on TV.

Hundreds of thousands of lucky people watched the Olympics in person, and I was one of them! Last year I tried to reserve tickets on the official Beijing Olympics website and the U.S. site. But after bidding on more than 20 games, I didn’t win anything. I thought I'd never get a chance to watch anything live. Luckily, one of my friend’s companies has some tickets as a sponsor, and the official U.S. site opened up to sell tickets again. Don’t ask me why those tickets suddenly became available. I went to see a volleyball game, a gymnastics competition, and a track and field event in the past few days. Wherever I go, I see hundreds of people in front of entrances selling and buying tickets; some tickets go from 80 rmb ($11) to 5,000 rmb ($724). I don’t know if anyone really paid that price, but I did see some people pay 1,800 rmb ($260) for a ticket that doesn’t have face value in the suite area (free ticket for the VIPs).

Inside the stadiums, the atmosphere was just unbelievable. Everyone was cheering (if not shouting), clapping, and waving, especially for the Chinese teams. Many spectators have China's flag tattooed on their faces and hold national flags, small or big. They were continually shouting “Zhong Guo Jia You” (China, go, go!). They were so loud I worried they'd disturb the athletes’ concentration, and I had a terrible headache the morning after a volleyball game. Of course, they had reason to shout, because it was China versus Cuba, the two best women's volleyball teams in the world. The last three rounds were so close that each team beat point by point, and even went to 32 to 30 (usually the game ends at 25) in the fourth round. Finally, China lost to Cuba, 15 to 13. I thought people would complain about China's team, but instead, they all said it was a good game and cheered for Cuba’s victory.

Watching the Beijing Olympics is definitely a life experience. Now I want to go to competitions I wasn't interested in before, because just being in that atmosphere is an absolutely worthy experience. For those of you who can't see the Olympics in person or watch live TV coverage, visit these websites. You'll see the live coverage on your computer: