After the blast that was sepatakraw and field hockey, I knew that I needed more. The games were only around for two weeks, and when else would I get the chance? I mean, I don’t exactly have plans to move to London for 2012, or Rio for 2016. So I set out for more tickets, unavailability be damned!
November 20 – Football (aka Soccer)
After trips all over the metropolis, I decided to settle close to home. I knew that there was a football match at the Tianhe Sports Centre, a short walk away from my house. I had heard that most soccer tickets were pretty easy to get, unless China was playing of course. Just to prepare myself for the game, and to decide on a team to cheer for, I checked out who was playing.
It was the Women’s Semi-final. Korea vs. Korea.
After looking that up, I got pretty darned excited, I mean, how often do you get to see two countries at war play a sport against one another? What would the crowd be like? How would the players react?
I met up with some friends and headed on over to the venue. Right after showing up we find someone trying to sell tickets. After a bit of haggling we end up paying 80RMB for the 50 kuai tickets. Not terrible, but we probably could have done better.
After we get into the stadium and find some seats, the game was maybe 5 minutes in. Looking down at the pitch, we can see that the white team was clearly dominating the red team. Logically, we assume that the white team is the South Koreans, since they are known for having a much stronger squad.
The stadium was at about two-thirds capacity, with the side we were seated at (camera side) having the majority of people. Across the field there was a small North Korean cheering section with flags and everything. I noticed that nobody else was sitting around them. I couldn’t help but wonder if it were the athletes, and everyone else was kept away.
As the game went on, the white team continued to dominate. Eventually, as the first half neared an end, they finally scored. I jumped for joy, along with the rest of the crowd. Then I looked at the scoreboard PRK: 1 KOR: 0.
I had spent the whole first half cheering for the Evil Korea.
Lesson learned, GO RED!!!!
The second half was a bit more even, with the white (note to self: North Korea) dominating most of the play. Eventually though, as time dwindled down, the red (note to self: SOUTH Korea) tied it up.
I was a little disappointed by this time that the crowd was mostly Chinese. There are a lot of Koreans in Guangzhou, and I was hoping that they would have filled the stadium. The spectators were pretty respectful, giving even cheers for both sides. Even though I expected them to be more in favour of the North, it didn’t really pan out that way.
The game went into extra time, and to my surprise, the North Korean team (in white) scored twice late in the frame to win the game, much to the delight of the bizarre North Korean cheering section across the field from us.
As we left, we noticed several nice buses surrounded by a military presence, complete with a tank. As much as I wanted to take a picture, I thought better of that. While there was security at all of the events, there wasn’t that much anywhere else. Did they expect the Korean teams to take it out of hand? Was it there to escort the North Koreans back? Or was it just because it was Saturday night? I really have no idea, and I didn’t want to stop to ask these questions.
November 21 – Cricket
After getting tickets from scalpers, friends of friends, or students, it was about time that we got tickets legally. About a week before, my girlfriend and I went to the ICBC Bank to get tickets. After standing in line for tickets, we were told that we needed an ICBC account, so after an hour of waiting and signing things, and getting my passport copied down, I got one and we purchased some tickets. It really was a painful process that reminded me of signing up for a bank account with China Merchant’s just to go to the Expo. Does this make sense to anyone else out there?
…and rant over. Back to the games!
After several great experiences, and minimal problems, it was about time that our luck ran out. After consulting a map, it seemed like cricket wouldn’t be that difficult to get to. Sure it was far away, but Guangzhou’s subway system is good enough. Long story short: I was wrong; horribly, horribly wrong.
We had to take the subway, and then a bus, and then walk, and then wait. None of the volunteers were all that knowledgeable (shocking, since they were so great for the other events), and the transit links were worse.
We finally got to the venue, at 9:40 for a 9:30 start. While it sucks being late, one of the advantages is that usually everyone else has already arrived, and the lines are easier to get through. This was not one of those times. Everyone else had arrived late as well.
The line to get into the stadium was super long, super slow moving, and super pushy.
When we got up to the front, my girlfriend asked one of the volunteers, why it was taking so long. He answer that “We didn’t think cricket would be so popular, and everyone came at once!”.
I had to state the obvious, but people usually come to sporting events at once. You know, when the event starts.
We finally got in, were seated under the hot sun, and joined the rest of the crowd an hour after the event started.
Now I am sure that cricket is a great and elegant game. I am sure that there is a great deal of strategy, and some excellent athleticism involved. But I just don’t get it. I had the game roughly explained to me before hand, but I was still confused. And apparently I wasn’t alone. I’m sure that a cricket purist would have been embarrassed by the crowds lack of knowledge, and if that is any of you out there, I’m sorry, but I just didn’t get the game.
We left after a few hours to go grab some food, and proceed to our next event of the day. Yet another English sport that North Americans have changed into a game that they call their own…
November 21 – Rugby
Now this was more like it!
I had seen Rugby 7s on TV a few years ago, but I didn’t really understand it. Seven on a side, two seven minute halves, sure makes for an exciting and fast paced game! Our tickets were good for a total of nine matches on the opening day of the tournament.
There were so many games, both mens and women’s that I honestly am struggling to remember the individual scores. However, there was one pretty central theme to the games: lop-sided scores. One of the common themes for international tournaments is that the opening games are usually the best teams against the worst teams, to serve as a bit of a warm-up for everyone (e.g. Brazil opening the World Cup against North Korea, or Canada opening the Winter Olympic Ice Hockey against Norway).
The games were fast and furious, but more often than not ended up with scores of fifty-something to zero.
Energized and exhausted, we decided to take the subway back to civilization. Apparently, everyone in the giant rugby stadium had the same idea. The subway was crowded, and I don’t just mean typical Chinese volume, I mean insane and sardineesque.
For safety reasons, they held people upstairs before allowing them to go down to the train platforms. Now of course, people were pushing and shoving, in ways that I am sure I don’t need to explain to anyone who has spent anytime in the Middle Kingdom.
The security guard yelled something and all that I could make out was “waiguoren“. My girlfriend explained that he said something to the effect of “Don’t push, there are foreigners here. Do you want them to see you acting like this?”.
We went down to the trains in an orderly fashion.
November 24 – Water Polo
I wish that I had some grand story to tell for my final event, but sadly I don’t. Water Polo was simply fantastic, they are athletes of the highest caliber.
The semi-final match between China and South Korea was a lot of fun. China utterly humiliated their opponents, winning 22-7, sending the fans home happy.
I tried to cheer, I tried to get into it, but the fact remained. I was just too damn tired.
Good thing the Games won’t happen for another 4 years, I don’t think that I have the energy for it to take place any sooner.