Beijing Beat blog with Mark Godfrey

Beijing Beat

Beijing Olympics Weightlifting Trial

Jan 23

Written by:
1/23/2008 10:48 PM  RssIcon

Cheery volunteers appear the real winners in an event that proves China’s ability to do big events well

The enthusiasm of the volunteers was the first thing that struck us on arrival last night at the Good Luck Beijing Weighlifting Inviational Tournament, a trial run for the Olympic event. We and our tickets and bags were greeted and checked at the entrance to the venue, the gymnasium of the Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, by a gang of bilingual student looking volunteers wrapped up in large blue coats against the biting winter wind.
You couldn’t get this customer-driven dedication to service – “good evening, may I see your ticket please” “enjoy the competition” – if you paid someone in China. I never got not even a grumpy greeting in Chinese from the cashiers in our local state-owned supermarket.
The venue looked great. All shades of blue, with the flags of the competing countries hung nicely from the roof. The toilets were conveniently located and immaculately clean. There were attendants going around at the breaks with baskets offering drinks and snacks. Everyone wore neat tags with photograph and title. Inside the venue the volunteer helpers had smileys on the sleeve of their three stripe white-black tracksuits.
There were hitches. Several lifters had to take a second shot after a mix up among stewards over timing and the sequencing of the competitors. Olympic officials in uniform chino pants and blue blazers conferred amongst each other while a bilingual Chinese announcer explained results and decisions, on two occasions sending the lifter back to the changing rooms because he was called too early. Frustrating indeed for anyone who's gotten themselves psyched up to lift 220 kilos.
The medals presentation was as finely choreographed as the rest of the show. Riverdance-sounding Irish airs filled the hall while the attendants got the podium ready. Clean-cut boys in immaculate white penguin suits led a procession of flags while very pretty girls moved on to the stage to present bouquets of flowers. That was a bit surreal, enormous 140kg weightlifters in lycra receiving little bouquets. There was something of a First Holy Communion outfit about the attendants while university president Li Wie presented the bronze to local man Gao Le, silver to Poland’s Grzegorz Kleszcz and gold, by a mile, to Matthias Steiner from Germany. He put 423kg into the air last night, in three lifts.
The fans were well behaved, mobiles seemed powered off and aside from good humoured cheer most noise seemed to come from the plastic multi-coloured hands on a stick which clap when you turn a swivel. They were handed out by Bank Of China, a sponsor. It was a pleasant evening and a good demostration that Beijing is ready for the Olympic games. We were 30 minutes late arriving though. Taxis were impossible to find near the office in Sanlitun and the local roads looked like noisy parking lots, hence a 25 minute walk to Dongzhimen subway station, 40 minute subway ride and 20 minute taxi ride to the venue. Great venues, lousy traffic. Good luck Beijing.

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