Friday, August 29, 2008
So, the games are over and all the videos we made are compiled on English, baby! here, and my written record of the trip is indexed here. But for all that documenting, I realized the other night when my friend Kurt said, "How was China? Tell me a story!" that my most Olympic moment from Beijing didn't make it to the Web anywhere. So I'll finish this topic with that.
As my only non-work-related indulgence, I bought ping pong tickets months in advance because I always thought it would be cool to see Olympic table tennis. It was nice to look forward to too since the session I had tickets for was on our last day in town.
When Zach (aka Captain Jeff) and I arrived at our seats, we realized they were incredibly shitty. We could only see half of the 8 tables on the floor and the ones we couldn't see included the only matches with American and Chinese participants.
But, as covered in my scalping video, there were a million empty seats because all the "sold out" Olympic events had tons of unused tickets. So we tried to move down to better seats but were stopped by the ubiquitous Olympic volunteers.
After about 3 such failures, Zach was ready to quit, but I figured we should just try every section and eventually we'd find someone not paying attention. As we approached another section entrance, I said, "OK, stay close, walk fast, don't make eye contact, and sit down like you own the place." We did and it worked.
A tanned and fit guy in his late 40's who was sitting next to our new seats in the front row said, "Americans?" As it turned out, we happened to plop down next to the American tennis coaching squad. They knew enough about table tennis to enlighten us on the rules we didn't understand, even though they said the tennis and table tennis players don't kick it in the village.
Suddenly, one of the coaches sprang up from his seat while looking at his phone. "Phelps won a fourth medal!" he shouted. "He broke the record!" By the end of the ping pong session, Phelps had a fifth as well.
It wasn't until afterward that I realized that that was the most Olympic moment of my whole experience. I mean, with tickets to swimming harder to get than a tan in Portland, what better way to learn about Phelps' fourth medal than from the Olympic tennis coaches in stolen seats at a table tennis match? The only thing that could have made it better would have been if the American woman had managed to top Singapore on the table that day.