Today was the fifth day of Olympic competitions. We spent the morning doing our tourist stuff and the afternoon watching some great rowing.
Tourists on the Prowl
Today we met up with a couple friends from Thames Rowing Club and their friends to tour the Forbidden City, eight of us in total. While it was a bit unwieldy to see the sights with that many people, we managed to work it all out.
The Forbidden City is really impressive. It’s a mammoth complex, and has a really rich and interesting history. I enjoyed just walking around the huge structures and plazas, imagining how life must have been five hundred years ago during the emperors’ time. The architecture is interesting, and the buildings are richly decorated.
We went through a few different exhibits that were recommended by the guidebook. While they were kind of interesting (museum-style presentation of old clocks, jewelry, artifacts and the like), I felt like they just filled the time and space. My favourite mental pictures are of the little courtyards and trees and buildings scattered away from the main buildings, but how they integrated into the city as a whole. While the gates, entrances, and plazas were certainly on a massive scale to impress, there was also a very human and day-to-day dimension, as well.
After our visit we caught a cab to one of the main shopping areas to walk around and grab lunch. We tried a duck restaurant which told us they had a table for us (we thought). But after going to the floor they specified, we realised that they didn’t, and in fact there was a massive queue on each floor for lunch. We went across the street to a different restaurant, which seemed a little dodgy at first but turned out okay.
At the Races
Lunch and finding a taxi afterword took a while, so we missed the first bit of racing. Luckily we just missed the C/D semifinals for the men and women’s singles, but made it just in time for the A/B semifinals. Michelle Guerette of the USA did really well in her single, and there were some surprises on the men’s side. Most of the usual suspects made it through to the A final, except Marcel Hacker. We heard later that his father passed away last week, and the funeral was literally the day before the first heats. That must have been a terrible thing to deal with on top of the Olympics stresses, so it was admirable that he made it as far as he did, considering. It looks like it should be an exciting final.
The GB men’s four was really great today. While they weren’t miles ahead at the finish, they just kept right on paddling back to the warm-down lanes while all of the other crews looked like they were dead. They’re clearly a fast boat, though they’ll have to prove that on Saturday in the final.
Perhaps the oddest final today was the C final of the Men’s Double Sculls. It featured two competitors: Iraq and the United States. The United States took it with a good margin, but the Iraqi crew clearly rowed their hearts out and got a lot of hearty cheers from the crowd. After crossing their line and getting their breath back, they raised their arms in triumph and it was clear that even though they were 14th out of 14 double sculls, they had achieved their dreams.
The scariest race today was the women’s eight. Five boats raced, and four of them went on to the A final. Essentially: don’t come last. The GB eight, which has two Thames Rowing Club members (Ali Knowles and Beth Rodford) was last at the first 500 mark. I’ve heard they don’t have the most consistent start, and it didn’t seem to go well for them today. But they dug deep and made up for lost ground. By the end it was still quite tight, but they crossed the line in third place and will be in the A final on Sunday. Both the German men’s eight and the German women’s eight lost their repercharge races, which has got to be a bit of a shock to their national rowing team.
Finally, our flatmate for the week arrived today, and that’s going well. We had dinner at a local restaurant and enjoyed chatting to someone who knows a lot about British rowing. Starting tomorrow we’ve got a bunch more events scheduled (wrestling, gymnastics, weightlifting, athletics and triathlon) so I have a feeling this week is going to fly by.