It’s Almost Over for Us
We make our last trip to the Olympic Park to watch Women’s Field Hockey. I chat with a woman from Canada who is going to Stratford station in hopes of finding pin traders. She has lots of pins because she was a dancer in the opening ceremonies at Calgary. They practiced for a year and a half to get ready. Even though their costumes and shoes were lined with thinsulate, it was bitterly cold at dress rehearsals and the women stood on their partners’ shoes to try to keep their feet from becoming completely numb. Luckily, there was a Chinook for the opening ceremonies. When I ask if it is true that the Olympics are non-stop parties; her eyes twinkle as she says that at Calgary the parties were non-stop; they danced at many of them and in her costume people thought she was a figure skater. At Montreal where she volunteered, she met Sugar Ray Leonard and the other boxers. “They were crazy guys,” she said fondly.
On the path to the park, volunteer are everywhere and having a great time -- one greeted us by singing our entry instructions to the tune of “Ode to Joy.” We got a good view of all the building on our half hour walk from the underground to the Riverbank Arena at the far end of the grounds.
There are two pools of six teams who play round-robin with the two teams with most wins advancing. The crowd is routing for Japan 0-2 in the first match against China 2-0. If China wins they will tie Great Britain 3-0, but a loss will put Great Britain and the Netherlands in the semi-finals. It’s a young crowd with lots of kids; at half time, the commentators try to organize the kids to do the Wen-Roc dance while the rest of us sing along. It’s pretty lame. But the cheering seems to work and Japan wins 2-1.
Korea wins 2-0 over a much bigger Belgium team in the next game. Neither team will advance but they play just as hard.
We finish the evening at the giant, Abu Daubi owned Ex Cel Center to watch boxing. It’s huge, about 6 times bigger than Huntington Civic Center. There are even separate underground stops for its east and west entrances. There is lots of beer drinking going on and we have a chance to assess the crowd as they pass by to get beverages. A look at the noses of the guys who pass by shows that there are lots of ex-boxers here; even the ones with unflattened noses look like Russian Mafia. But it’s all good fun and a lively crowd; with no home team boxers, the British even cheer loudly for a judge from Great Britain.
There are no American boxers. The first Indian we’ve seen competing is here with a coach in a turban. Our favorite is a 60k boxer from Cuba who has an open style and dances around like a miniature Muhammad Ali, fighting aggressively to win his match19-11. We don’t like the Lithuanian fighter, Petrauskas Evaldo, whose style is to stay completely covered up then to tie up and lean limply on our boy, Valentino Domenico, from Italy.
In the Super Heavy weight 91k+ class, I see what punch-drunk means. Roberto Canmarelle from Italy, who I think is the reigning Olympic Champ, looks woozy, flat footed, with his head lolling to the side and even though I can’t see them I think his eyes are glazed and unfocused, in his match with Morocco’s Arjaoui Mohammed. I’m pretty sure he has taken a lot of hits and may be a few slices short of a full pizza when he seems to pull himself together and a real fighter immerges to deliver punches that go straight to their mark before the champion is replaced by the stumble bum. Still, enough of his former self remains to win the match.
And then it’s over. Tomorrow we’ll return to real life.