Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all our friends and family back home!

Sent from my mobile device

Monday, August 25, 2008

Closing ceremony thoughts

We watched the closing ceremony last night on TV. This is an anticlimactic moment in any Olympics, but was even more so after all the glamour and hype of Beijing. Having watched the Opening Ceremony in the US with English commentary, we had a harder time following the themes and cultural aspects of the Closing Ceremony. We liked the 8-minute piece by London's Olympic Committee, and thought it was an accurate representation of the city.

That's about it! We are going to use the next couple of days to relax and go around the city a bit. And then it's back to the good old US. We will post more detailed photo albums most likely after we return.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Volleyball Finals Recap

Our last Olympic event took place last night at the Capital Indoor stadium northwest of city center. OW and I saw the women's indoor volleyball final game between Brazil and USA. There was an equal number of Brazilian fans and US fans, but the Brazilian fans were by far more vocal and outrageously costumed. The Chinese had no qualms cheering for both teams. However, I did find it amusing that the Chinese would cheer most loudly for Lang Ping, the USA coach, who was one of China's best volleyball players in the 80's.

The first set was clearly dominated by Brazil whose attackers delivered incredible spikes, leaving the US team on the defensive. Brazil also blocked much more intuitively than US, succesfully reading the setter. Brazil took the first set 25-15.

In the second set, USA executed much better and also started putting up blocks of their own. They won easily, 25-18.

Set 3 went to Brazil. I noticed that the US team made many service errors - this is one of their weaknesses and is especially important given rally scoring. Brazil won 25-13.

Set 4 was the closest, with each team taking turns with the lead. However, towards the end, Brazil suddenly won 4 points in a row, winning the match in a matter of minutes (25-21). In my opinion, the US team relied too heavily on one person --Logan Tom. They set her for the last 3 points, and the Brazilians anticipated it each time, putting up a 3 person block, and winning the point off the block. If you look at the stats, the leading scorers in women's volleyball during the Olympics were Logan Tom (USA), Wang Yimei (China), and a Cuban player, you can see that each of these semifinal teams had one superstar attacker. Brazil, on the other hand, is much better at setting all of their players --which also makes them harder to block. I think the US team had it in them to take it to 5, but those last points closed the opportunity.

I found the coaching styles of the two teams to be completely opposite. Lang Ping sits back in her chair, says nothing, and frowns occasionally. The Brazilian coach paces the sidelines, gesturing wildly, and actively coaches his team. He looks like he may have a seizure at any moment. When his team won, he was intensely emotional and worked the crowd to a frenzy during their victory lap.

It was an exciting game and we were able to see the medal ceremony with China, US, and Brazil.

Then, today, we saw the men's indoor volleyball final match --also USA v Brazil. We saw the first game, where Brazil was leading by a large margin. They were putting up ridiculous blocks and looked to be in their element. We left for lunch, and caught the last two points of the match on the bus. Looks like USA came back and won sets 2, 3, and 4, vindicating the women's team.

New pictures are up!

Click the link on the right for new pictures! We are at Starbucks again, this time at an enormous mall on Wangfujing St., a few blocks away from Tiananmen square. We did find the Baleno store, but it is definitely not what we remember from two years ago. It got all high fashion on us! The supply of cheap clothes in Beijing is definitely dwindling!

Athletics finals

We visited the Bird's Nest stadium for the last time on Friday to see the athletics finals. The evening's program did not disappoint, and we saw one world record and one olympic record broken. By far the most exciting event was the men's 4x100 relay. We knew Jamaica would be strong, but after Usain Bolt received the baton from his teammate, it immediately became clear that the race for the gold was over and the race for the world record was beginning. By the time Bolt passed the baton over they were nearly a second ahead of the next team. Three golds and three world records for this amazing athlete.

We also saw the finals of the men's pole vault, which we realized is the slowest track and field event ever! It was going on the entire time the other events were on and then some. In the end the contest was between Steve Hooker of Australia and some Russian guy. The Australian was definitely the dark horse because he barely made it out of the qualifying rounds. But he clenched the gold medal by completing his jump of 5.90 after the Russian had failed to clear this height. The Australian boxers in our section went nuts and everyone was cheering loudly, but the show was not over. Hooker decided to try to break the Olympic record by clearing 5.96,
one cm over the record. He missed the first attempt and took a scratch on the second to give himself and extra 5 minutes to prepare. The atmosphere was electric and everyone was filled with anticipation. The third jump came and he cleared it! New Olympic record and we were there to witness it!

We also saw the final two rounds of the men's decathlon. American Bryan Clay came in leading by a good margin and maintained it to take the gold! In fact, he was so far ahead going into the 1500m run that he finished last and still took the gold. Congratulations Bryan!

The USA women long jumpers did not deliver any medals, and Brazil took the gold by 1cm over Russia with 7.04.