Beijing Olympics memories - August 14, 2008

Waiting out a rain delay on center court

Rain, upsets and disappointment - that was my Olympic tennis day on August 14, 2008. The quarterfinal day was meant to get started in late afternoon, but a lengthy rain delay is all fans were treated to for hours. I believe the 4pm session got started around 7pm - it was hard work. The center court wasn't entirely covered, but we sat for hours hoping for action. The center court matches were Rafa/Melzer and Federer/Blake then Venus vs Li Na and court 1 was Serena and Elena Dementieva.

When we finally got live tennis, I remember watching just a bit of Federer/Blake and then I ran off to watch Serena and Elena. I was/am a huge Serena fan and she was cruising a set and 4-2 up and it looked like she was on her way to the medal rounds in singles. And then all of a sudden she lost 9 games in a row I believe and lost in three sets. The few times I loudly cheered for Serena, I was on the receiving end of some mighty unfriendly glares by Chinese fans around me (either they didn't like the sound of my voice, or they really wanted the pretty blonde to win).

As I said before, this was a challenging day - rain delay, then I had to watch Serena self-combust so I was very bummed when I found out that Blake upset Federer and I missed seeing it!.I loved Blake and never loved Federer so to have seen that upset would have been amazing. Ah well.

Venus' match with Li Na was really insane. The crowd was insane. To be blunt, the Chinese audience at that time (maybe still) really didn't know how to watch tennis. They laughed when Venus caught her ball toss, clapped hard for faults and screamed out during play. At one stage, Li Na got so perturbed at the crowd she turned around and gave someone who'd called a ball out during play the evil eye. It was not Venus' night, tho she led 4-1 it was  not enough to beat Li Na and the crowd and she lost 7-5 7-5.

I still don't know why the organizers didn't start the session earlier given how backed up they were due to the rain delays but the 4pm start and three-hour delay meant live tennis was still going on at 1am. I went to an outer court to watch Serena and Venus play doubles against the Japanese team of Ai Sugiyama and Ayumi Morita. The court was very small and intimate and given the late (early?) hour there was a sparse crowd. Play had barely gotten underway when rain came again to end the night around 1.30am.

Some photos:

Serena with a lead, and then she'd start losing 9 straight games.

Blake taking on Federer

Rafa playing Melzer in the quarterfinals
Venus battling Li Na

What a crowd - 10,000+ screaming loud Chinese fans.

Very late night doubles action.

Outside view of center court

Beijing Olympics memories - August 12, 2008

So I arrived in Beijing the day before the Opening Ceremony, and had hopes of getting more tennis tickets.

Buying tickets was actually quite easy if you were willing to spend the money. Craigslist and The Beijinger websites had so many tickets for sale so I spent NZ$300-400 (each) for a few extra sessions of tennis tickets, so there I went with my pricey ticket for the first day.

And it rained. Hard. We stood in the rain for hours waiting for updates before they finally cancelled the session. Sigh. That was an indication of what was to come and rain continued to make life difficult for the tennis tournament so much that my gold medal women's singles match became a men's doubles gold medal match. I'm still bitter.

My first day of proper tennis (for second round action) was crazy hot tho, and it was a baffling day in terms of organization. See the order of play above - everyone was trying to scribble down matches as they didn't have any available for fans and this was the only schedule anywhere!

It was a busy day but there were an incredible amount of seats free for the matches. I started with Serena against Sam Stosur and then moved to center court to see Venus Williams versus Iveta Benesova. My seat ended up being in about the fifth or sixth row on center court which was amazing.

Without any displays showing what was on each court (and with no programme or order of play handed out (and believe me I tried to get a copy) it was tricky to catch all the matches I wanted to see. I caught glimpses of Dinara Safina, Tomas Berdych and Lindsay Davenport (in doubles action before she pulled out).

Some more photos:

Venus warming up

Serena takes the court for her first round match

Serena easily beat Stosur

Venus playing Benesova

Pretty empty stadium

I had a great seat to watch Venus

Lindsay Davenport signing autographs - just missed seeing her play

Olympic fever!

In Olympic Park, Sydney
Growing up watching the Olympics on TV was a normal part of most people's lives, at least in my world. I remember being glued to the TV every two years to see this sporting extravaganza, eating up the amazing personalities from countries I knew little about. Coming from a big sporting family, we all came together to marvel at gymnasts, divers, skiers and the like.

Like most, I never thought I'd be able to ever attend an Olympic Games. It seemed like a faraway dream that would always remain just that, a dream. But to whet my appetite for all things Olympics, I visited as many host city venues as I could. In 2002, I drove through Lake Placid to see what remained from the 1980 Winter games and got goosebumps when I saw the ski jump and training center. In 2003, while living in South Korea, I spent a day at Olympic Park in Seoul which has a great museum and is a popular park for rollerblading and picnics. During a visit to Sydney in 2004, I went to the Olympic area which was much less a tourist attraction than a working sporting venue but was still amazing to be on site.

I used to live in Beijing, so when the city was awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics, I thought this was my chance. I knew the city well and had lots of friends left there so I figured I would have a place to stay and people who could help me get tickets. Long story short, my friend got two tickets to the women's gold medal tennis match so I headed to Beijing for three weeks of Olympic fun!

Olympic Park, Seoul
Some of my tennis memories from Beijing include watching Li Na play twice in front of her home country, Roger Federer winning the gold medal with Stan Wavrinka and Serena Williams losing to Elena Dementieva. I saw Dinara Safina's coach lose it against the Chinese crowd's treatment of Dinara in her semifinal against Li Na and waited out one rain delay after another.

With the London Olympics mere months away, I thought it would be fun to look back at my 2008 Beijing Olympics tennis journey, so stay tuned to a few posts and photos!

If you have any questions for me about my Beijing Olympic experience (regarding the tennis or overall experience) please ask and I'll include my responses in my next blog!