Monday, August 18, 2008

And The Next Day...

...I had passes to go watch the initial rounds of the Men's Fencing event. At the Fencing Hall.

The tour bus got stuck in some pretty nasty traffic and we reached an hour late - which was a pity, since I'd have to leave a couple of hours earlier to make my flight anyway. So I only got around an hour or so of it.

Which was fun enough.

The best part of this trip was I got to see sports I would normally skip on the television set itself, leave alone actually watching one. But you learn something everyday. And today was that fencing is fun to watch.

It's a pretty aggressive sport, and it's no wonder they put something at the business end of the epees - I wouldn't be surprised if someone gets stabbed at one of these.

I happened to see three Chinese participants in the hour I was there, which is a special experience, since the crowd goes apeshit screaming, cheering, and generally making a ruckus.

Next: The lonely Indian fan.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

And Then I Watched...

...the Men's Artistic Gymnastics.

It was one of the two events that I had tickets for. The tickets looked like this:

I was pretty impressed with this camera that would move on the rails next to the run-up for the vault. It could move real fast.

The rounds they had in the event were the rings...

...the pommel horse...

...the horizontal bar...

...the vault...

and the parallel bars and the floor exercises. Most of the men on the floor exercise sucked big time. I don't know if it's because they were out of practice, or if 'floor' isn't really a mens event.

To be honest, I'd have not voluntarily watched it, but after watching it, I'll admit it's an impressive spectator sport. Especially the vault. I saw four teams participating, along with a bunch of individuals (from Australia, Puerto Rico(!), Venezuela..). The four teams were Korea, Belarus, Romania and Germany. I think only Korea and Romania qualified for the next round. The Romanians had this dude called Dragulescu, who seemed to be their big hero - he did good with the vault and the parallel bars, but not too good with the rest. He barely qualified for the next round.

Next up: Men's Fencing.


Friday, August 15, 2008

I find it...

...amusing when white people do black people music. Check this. I have to admit it's imaginative.

Via Kanye's Supercool Blog.

The food...

...from my recent China was outstanding - more than usual.

One of the reasons was that a lot of the food was at a do, or a buffet, instead of me staring at a pictures of food on a Chinese menu and trying to guess what might be the best thing for me to have.

1. The Golden Jaguar Buffet
The craziest experience, the buffet at the Golden Jaguar, where I spent my Beijing Olympics opening night.

Here's a couple of videos that I took, before they stopped me. The two videos just deal with the starters section, and then the next couple of sections. From a larger perspective, it barely covers a tenth of the buffet.

I found this video on youtube as well, which is a little more comprehensive. Crazy frikkin buffet, is all I have to say. I had to sit down and gather my thoughts before I could pick what to eat.

2. Gui Jie (Ghost) Street
The best place to grab authentic Beijing food at the odd hours, this is a street packed with eateries on both sides for some distance. I went with a group of people, and had the hot pot. The pic there shows the two hot-pot sauces - and the spicy one was SPICY.

It was a fun place at midnight, and the waitress explained how their busiest hour really starts at 2 or 3. The odd hours gives it the name Ghost Street.

3. Kung Fu
Not really a mind blowing food experience or anything, but I found this McDonald's inspired Chinese chain to be amusing. It's a nice quick place - not gourmet, but functional. I love the logo - I'd buy a t-shirt with that logo on it.

This is the Kung Fu outlet at one end of Beijing Road in Guangzhou.


Monday, August 11, 2008

I got picked up... the airport, when i went to Beijing last week, since it was part of a package, that The Client gave.

The airport was fun. I wish I could say that about the Air China flight.

A significant portion of the Cayman Islands Olympic team was on my flight! Here are both of them, picking up cash for the cab ride into the city. Unfortunately, I'm not able to get their names.

For some reason, the Czech team was missing. I saw around four people at DIFFERENT places in the arrival area, looking for these guys.

Beijing Airport is grand and all. It's some way out of the city - I'm told these days, that it's a norm for all large cities.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is part of a series...

... of blog-posts which I'm putting up on my experience of the weekend past. The posts are sort of rambling, only very loosely based on my itinerary.

I didn't actually get to visit the Olympic stadium till the afternoon of the day after the opening. We had tickets for Artistic Gymnastics. Fortunately, I had sufficient company today - folks from market-research agencies, and my host himself.

In the meanwhile, I got myself interviewed by a European ESPN team. They asked some generic questions, and then asked me if "..I felt safe in Beijing..." - I said, I presumed so, since I see the police pretty much everywhere.

We spent some part of the "free time", (as on our super-organised-schedule), walking around the olympic complex. As luck would have it, I'd just visited the Sydney Olympic Complex a couple of months back, and had a benchmark. The verdict essentially is - it's frikkin grand. Between the sheer size of the complex, the Water Cube and the Bird's Nest, it's quite breathtaking. I don't think the photographs do it justice.

The Water Cube is my favourite of the lot - and it's a pity I didn't get to enter it (I'm not really complaining, mind you - I've been lucky enough to even see it in person). In the evening, while I was leaving, they were doing some cool colour-changing stuff with the exterior.

The Bird's Nest is impressive too, up close. Even in Beijing's grey evening sky, you could see the Olympic flame. Again, I'd loved to see a sport inside.

The Olympic complex has something called 'the Sunken Garden', where the MacDonald's and the subway station is. It's a level below the rest of the complex, which is much cooler, with water sprays and water bodies all over the place, in style of ancient Chinese gardens, I think.

Keep it locked - more posts and pictures on it's way.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

The First of... posts on some Olympic adventures in Beijing.

As some of you might know, I was invited by clients to spend a couple of days at the Beijing Olympics. Over the weekend that just went by.

It was a pretty big opportunity. To be honest, I'd have never thought of doing it myself - the soccer or cricket world cups were bigger events in my wishlist. Now that I'm back after my magic weekend, I'm putting the Olympics on top of that list. With a couple of reservations. Of course, I haven't been to a soccer or cricket world cup. Yet.

Overall, it was a superlative experience, and it was far better than I expected.

No, I didn't get to watch the opening ceremony - I'm nowhere near that important. I heard from people who were there that it was hot as hell. Literally. You can insert your own bird's nest soup joke here. But, all of you who saw it on TV must have witnessed the sheer grandeur of it. And the lip-syncing drama.


I was part of this complete packaged do that The Client had, for a whole bunch of different levels of business partners and employees. Everyone but me spoke Mandarin, and I felt like a gatecrasher at a stranger's wedding that evening. We were in this buffet, which was a phenomenon in itself (more on that later) - and we could watch the show on television screens, or go down to the street, where we had passes to a cordoned off area, where the interested could watch the proceedings on this big-ass screen.

I stuffed my face till blue. Went down and soaked in the atmosphere while watching the shindig. And stuffed my face again, when the blue subsided. Across two stuffings, I barely must have touched upon a fifth of the available choice - and that on a small-helpings-more-variety strategy.
Coming back.

From that evening, I come away with two insights. The Chinese love to eat. And they love to cheer. The opening show was pretty special, and though I was only watching it with a thousand strangers, I had myself a good time. Downstairs, the ethnicity was more global, but everyone got into the Chinese habit of cheering everything vociferously. It was all good.

And, in the area where I was, they had a center selling commemorative pins, which are to be traded, like cards. They had a stage, with some entertainment. They had a bunch of other stalls and display thingies - all very grand and shiny. There were newscasters everywhere. One of the European TV presenters was so HOT that people had actually queued up to have their photos taken with her. No one knew her name. It wasn't a planned thing.

While leaving for the night, after the ceremony, I got another taste of the local jingoism - we were piling into our tour buses to be shunted back to our hotel - I was trying to get out of there on one of the early buses since I was pretty tired, and feeling bored without anyone to talk to. Suddenly, on the bus radio the entry of the Chinese contingent into the stadium was announced; the four-fifths full bus just emptied! It didn't get going till the entire team had been cheered into the stadium.

More posts on their way.