Bob’s Olympic experience kicked off on Wednesday at the football qualifiers in Shanghai. The game could hardly be described as thrilling – New Zealand lost 1-0 to Belgium in a match so one-sided that the Belgians appeared to miss opportunities out of embarrassment for their opponents more than inability. The highlight for the smattering of Kiwi fans being the team’s farewell haka – this being their final match having failed to qualify for the knock-out stages.
The team will by now already have left China, as athlete’s permission to stay in the country expires within 24 hours of elimination from the tournament.
Unlike events in Beijing, the Shanghai football matches appear to have a tickets still available from the Stadium, so it is a safer bet for a bit of the Olympic experience than coming up to Beijing.
The Shanghai Stadium also looked excellent – considerably smarter than three years ago when Bob visited. Three-quarters full with fans, and absolutely flooded with volunteers and security staff. The drinks stalls resembled the infamous Chinese department stores with more employees than customers, and five people doing one job. Simply to buy an orange juice Bob had to order from one person, who then requested the bottle from two others directly behind him; meanwhile another girl had provided a cup and a fifth volunteer was giving change for a 10yuan note.
To be fair to the volunteers the apparent monotony of having so little to do – matched by the monotony of the match, one might suggest – did not dampen their enthusiasm; there were smiles galore.
Unlike the New Zealand football team, this was only the beginning of Bob’s Olympic adventure. Now in Beijing (under sunny skies, no less) Bob is looking forward to some athletics, and is hoping to catch some of the Olympic spirit in the Beijing bars this weekend. Onwards…