Sunday, August 17, 2008

Live from Beijing (Part 2)

It is now the evening of Day 9 at the Beijing Olympics. I know I promised to post earlier, but we have been very busy for the last week or so. Here's a quick recap of the events that we have seen.

8/10: Swimming

Since all the swims were prelims, they weren't that exciting, but we did get to experience the Water Cube. It lived up to all our expectations; the scales on the outside changed color every several minutes, and there was even water running down all the interior walls into a large continuous pond. We also saw Michael Phelps in the 200 meter freestyle heats and Natalie Coughlin in the 100 meter backstroke heats. Throughout the heats, a lot of Olympic records were broken and a couple of world records were set as well, but the most exciting moment was when the 4 x 100 freestyle U.S. relay team set a world record (yes, it was smashed the day after, but it was still impressive considering it was the U.S.'s B team).

8/11: Women's Basketball

We watched two preliminary games: Russia vs. South Korea and Belarus vs. Latvia. Russia won over South Korea 77-72, but I thought that they had been outplayed for the entire game. South Korea was called for traveling 3 times in the final 4 minutes, which killed their chances of pulling off an upset. Even though Russia was much taller, South Korea played really good defense (I think Russia had 25 turnovers). However, Russia shot something like 72% from the field, so I guess they kind of deserved to win. Belarus won the other game 79-57. It was close in the first half, but Belarus blew it open in the third quarter. The game got pretty ugly in the fourth quarter with the substitutes in.

8/12: Men's Volleyball

We saw two games again (one ticket buys you two games): the U.S. vs. Italy and Brazil vs. Serbia. The U.S. won in four sets over Italy; they lost the first set but won the next three. An American player, Reid Priddy, was very impressive. He was probably 2 or 3 inches shorter than the other hitters on the team, but he had the most kills and might have had the most blocks. Brazil also won in four sets over Serbia, and also lost the first set but won the rest. Neither team was great at blocking, but Brazil played better defense and also had some powerful outside hitters.

8/13: Weightlifting

We watched the men's 69-77 kg event. I'm not exactly sure how it worked, since we thought it was a preliminary, but then when we looked at the results in the evening, all of the scores that we saw were in the results for the final. Anyhow, we apparently saw the worser of the two groups, since Erkand Qerimaj, the winner of the group, was 13th in the final results. There was an American, Chad Vaughn, but he had a DNF after he couldn't lift 182 kg in the clean & jerk on any of his 3 tries. In addition, Janos Baranyai, a Hungarian lifter, unfortunately dislocated his elbow in the clean & jerk. Thankfully, the injury did not jeopardize his career.

8/15: Women's Basketball

We saw another 2 women's prelim games: the U.S. vs. Spain and Belarus vs. South Korea. The U.S. won handily over Spain, 93-55. It was actually only 39-34 at halftime; the U.S. coach put in the subs after Spain was down 17-4, but Spain fought and climbed back. The second half was a blowout, though, with the U.S. hitting their jumpers and playing tough defense. In the second game, Belarus defeated South Korea 63-53. It wasn't a pretty game. I think Belarus shot around 32% from the field and South Korea might have shot under 30%. South Korea also had trouble defending the much taller Belarus forwards and centers.

8/16: Men's Baseball

Yesterday, we watched Cuba defeat Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) 1-0. It was a pitcher's duel; the lone run of the game was a solo home run in the 7th inning, after which the Taiwan starter was taken out. Taiwan only managed 4 hits, one of them being a 2-out single in the top of the 9th. Cuba wasn't much better offensively, only getting 5 hits themselves. The only extra-base hit of the game was the home run.

We didn't watch anything on the 14th or today; instead, we visited the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, respectively. I didn't think the Forbidden City was that interesting, since all we saw were antique buildings with thrones in the middle. However, the Great Wall was much more exciting. We visited the Badaling section of the Wall, about 50 km north of Beijing. The wall was open to access in both directions from the entrance, and we arbitrarily picked the one with less people. We ended up walking a very hilly 2 miles to the end of where visitors are allowed (there was one set of stairs that probably went up about 18 feet vertically in 10 feet of horizontal distance, with steps right in front of your face all the way up). The views, though, of the surrounding mountains were exhilarating.

I decided to split this up into two posts, so see the above post for tidbits on the games and on life around the city.