08.13.2008 79 °F
Wow, two posts in one day. I'm supposed to be at the China-Cuba women's volleyball match right now, but instead I'm at my cousin's house in air-conditioned comfort watching on TV. That's an interesting story I'll get into later.
First I'll write a bit about handball. Bonnie and I got a late start and didn't leave for the city until 1:30pm - we caught a taxi straight to the Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium, which is across the street from the Olympic Green. At the security checkpoint I had to empty my bag, which was no surprise since it's happened at every venue, but this time I had to leave behind four rechargeable batteries. I already had a set of four replacements in my camera bag and should have known to take out the second set. Fortunately the volunteers staffing the checkpoint said I could come back to retrieve them.
We made our way to the gymnasium and found our seats about 2/3 of the way through the South Korea-Sweden match. Since handball isn't played in the U.S. outside of middle school gym class, perhaps, I can't imagine that anyone reading this is well-versed in the game. Think of it as hockey on a wooden floor. First of all, the ball looks like a small volleyball and is easily held by one hand. The players have to dribble it if they're going to run more than three (I think) steps. The defense forms an arc surrounding their own goalie, and the offense passes the ball around rapidly before someone tries to break through and score a goal. The goalies do not wear any protective gear other than long-sleeved jerseys and long pants, and they have to contend with balls that are whipped in their direction.
The action is pretty fast and the contact way more physical than I had expected. The Swedes and the Koreans were all over each other, and although the ref calls fouls they didn't let up. South Korea ended up winning 31-23, and I could tell that the Swedish coach was unhappy with the reffing. Towards the end of the game he even got a yellow card for arguing with the ref.
China and Angola were on next, and as you can expect they got a lot of support as the hometown team. Angola wasn't going to give up without a fight, though. We left just after halftime because we had to make our way to the Capital Gymnasium for more women's volleyball. After picking up my batteries, we walked to the nearest subway station at Bei Tu Cheng. Just before we got there we passed two Chinese guys in their early 20s who were holding a crude, handwritten sign that said "Volleyball" and "Tickets." I hesitated a bit and then called them over, mostly to ask if they were looking for tickets to the China-Cuba match that was about to start in a couple of hours. Their eyes got really wide and they asked if I had any. Well, yes, I happen to have a pair in my bag. You should have seen their expression...it was like a sad puppy who really wanted a bone or a treat and would do just about anything to get it.
Since we were supposed to me my cousin's wife, Peggy, and her mom at the venue, I needed to check in with her first. The puppy-dog-eyed guy whipped out his cell phone. After a long conversation with Peggy (and with Bonnie's quick approval), I decided to sell them. These guys were on the verge of begging me for those tickets, and I just couldn't let them down. It was kind of a weird situation, but I don't regret it. Plus Bonnie and I were able to get back to the house by 7pm and have a chill evening for the first time in days.
Tomorrow I have a free day, i.e., no Olympics events to attend. I'm meeting up with this guy, Herbert, who wants to open a cafe here in Beijing. He had sent an e-mail to Atlas randomly asking about importing coffee into China, and I answered it. We started corresponding and were able to coordinate our schedules. I may not post tomorrow since I'll be in town all afternoon and evening, but fear not, Gentle Reader...Al Sandiego will return shortly.