id797-It rains on Thursdays(A Beijing Olympics Diary)

Written by Mike May   

On-the-spot report from Mike May.

It rains on Thursdays (A Beijing Olympics Diary)

By Mike May

Day 1-2 (11th to 12th August)

London Heathrow to Beijing via Hong Kong – find my roommate, Graham at the Heathrow departure gate (single room supplements for two weeks can really mount up, so it pays to be flexible about sharing a room), and also chat to Mike Fleet, (Martyn Rooney’s Croydon AC coach) who is also in the Centresport Tours/British Athletics Supporters Club group. Don’t sleep too well on the flights. Beijing’s new airport very impressive, in size and efficiency. Our hotel, the Redwall, is just round the corner from the Forbidden City.

Day 3 (13th August)

My roommate has tickets for all sorts of sports and dashes off to them, but as the athletics doesn’t start until Day 5, I join the group’s sightseeing tours to the Imperial Summer Palace (very beautiful, next to a large (man-made) lake, full of dragon prowed ferries, alongside which is the longest corridor in the world, with 14000 paintings on its wooden panels – Mike Fleet taking photos of everything), followed by a rickshaw ride into the Hutongs (alleys) and lunch in someone’s home, after which the hardier among us tackle the Forbidden City, which is magnificent and goes on forever (only problem is that similar décor everywhere means I won’t know which photo is which when I get home).

Have dinner with Mike Fleet in the Sichuan Hotpot restaurant near the hotel – we get the ordering wrong and end up with a lot more than we bargained for (a 10 yuan bowl of soup turns out to be a meal in itself – exchange rate is about 13 yuan to the pound – food in Beijing is excellent value, and the £200 of currency I brought out lasts most of the trip, though hotel draught beer prices turn out to be similar to London).

Day 4 (14th August)

Morning – do a dry run to Olympic Park on Olympic Bus Line #2. As I don’t have a ticket for that day, I can’t go through security into the Park, so take same route back. In the afternoon go to main shopping street, souvenir hunting. Come out of Olympic Flagship Store to find it pouring. After 20 minute wait for it to ease off, I start mall-hopping and then wait in Haagen Daz until it abates enough to make it to the hotel. On last block, a kindly old Chinese gentleman offers to share his umbrella the rest of the way. The Chinese were very friendly even when vocabulary we can use to talk with one another is very limited.

Day 5 (15th August)

Athletics starts with 9am morning session (all my tickets for athletics are in Tier 3 (ie the highest) of the Bird’s Nest – they have an uncluttered view, though you need binoculars to identify individual athletes on the other side of the stadium, and the GB kit is not very distinctive from some other countries (eg the French), but some people in lower tiers with more expensive seats have their view cluttered by hammer cages, tv cameras etc. Food in the Olympic Park is limited in range, and there is a ban on bringing in your own food and drink. Getting through the queues for security checks can take 20-30 minutes , and have to be endured twice a day if you have morning and evening tickets, as there is a limited amount to do in the Park if staying the best part of two weeks. Apart from snack kiosks, the only place to have lunch in the Park is McDonalds (!!!). I won’t go into a day by day account of what I saw in the stadium as the BBC will have told it better, just a list of highlights (and some disappointments). On that first day in the stadium, I stayed until the end of the Womens’ 10000m , and returned to the hotel using the Beijing Subway. Needless to say I got to bed very late, and had to get up early the next morning for the next morning session – lack of sleep was the theme of the whole trip.

Day 6 (16th August)

Highlight – Usain Bolt’s 100m (the following morning I learn that Kingston and Poly won BAL promotion at about the same time I had been watching that)

Disappointment – Kelly Sotherton – rather flat in her best events (SP,HJ and LJ), though did unusually well in the Javelin – must have lost too much fitness to her illness.

Day 7 (17th August)

Watch womens’ marathon on TV over breakfast – Paula Radcliffe finishes, but had lost too much training to her injury.

In the evening, 3 British men qualify for the High Jump final, and the Jamaican women do a clean sweep of the 100m medals.

Day 8 (18th August)

Up early to catch mens’ 400m heats – Rooney and Steele progress well to semi-finals, and Idowu and Achike make it to the Triple Jump final. Our 200m men also progress, but the 110m Hurdles is disappointing because of Liu Xiang having to pull out ( the event had been spread over 4 days, so as many Chinese could see him compete as possible – when Robles eventually won, his medal ceremony was held very late when the stadium was emptying). In the evening we get another world record from Yelana Isinbayeva (what a great show-woman), and a huge roar erupts when she makes it on the third attempt.

Day 9 (19th August)

There was not a lot on in the morning session, so I did not rush to get to the stadium, but I did see Emily Freeman qualify for the second round of the 200m, and then about 30 seconds apart, Goldie Sayers got an automatic qualifying distance for the J avelin Final, and Jade Johnson got into the Final 12 for the long jump with the second last jump of the qualifier. In the evening, just when we wondered if GB would get any Track and Field medals, Christine Ohurogu won the 400m, and Germaine Mason got the High Jump silver (and Tom Parsons and Martin Bernard did well also).

Day 10 (20th August)

No morning session, so I go to Beijing Zoo to see the Pandas. In the evening Bolt does 19.30 in the 200m, and Tasha Danvers gets GB a bronze medal in the 400 hurdles.

Day 11 (21st August)

I follow Awde’s progress in the Decathlon, wondering what he is good at until he finishes fastest in decathlon 400m. Goldie Sayers gets close to a medal in the Javelin final. Felt Rooney was unlucky to have Neville of USA in lane outside him, as latter set of at a ridiculous pace, and Rooney had no-one to chase down in middle of race. Main disappointment though was the mens’ 4 x 100m fiasco.

Day 12 (22nd August)

Awde does better on day 2 of Decathlon, eventually finishing 21st. 4 x100m women are knocked out of race (literally) by Jamaicans. There is a thrilling finish to the mens’ Pole Vault, and Usain anchors Jamaica to another World Record in sprint relay.

Day 13 (23rd August)

Last day in the stadium. In the morning, go the the Temple of Heaven, where I have lunch, and find the 5k point of the Marathon course. Come out via a portico, where there are people practicing their singing and dancing, and others playing cards and Majong. In the evening, there are good High Jump and Javelin competitions to watch. On the track both GB 4x400 teams don’t quite make it to the rostrum.

Day 14 (24th August)

In morning go into Jinshang Park to north of Forbidden City (near hotel), and climb hill to get good view of that palace and surroundings. On way down, hear singing, and find more singers and dancers, as well as some poets/reciters accompanying themselves on something like maracas. In evening watch Closing Ceremony over dinner in the hotel.

More elderly Brits in our tour not very impressed with London 2012 contribution.

Day 15 (25th August)

Tour to Great Wall at Mutianyu (access by chair lift), followed by banquet including Beijing Duck

Day 16 ( 26th August)

Fly home via Hong Kong.


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