Monday, August 11, 2008

Watching the Games from Singapore

Several friends from the US have expressed surprise that we didn’t make plans to watch the Olympics in Beijing this year. True, we’re closer to the Olympics than we’d be if we were still in New Jersey. But we’re at the equator, whereas Beijing is up around the latitude of Philadelphia. So it’s not exactly a quick trip.

Plus, by the time we got our visas approved, the Olympics would most likely already be taking place . . . in Vancouver. (The problematic visa restrictions, incidentally, are not just for Beijing; a number of Joey’s colleagues have had trouble even getting into Shanghai for business trips.)

And we’ve seen Beijing already, with its dust and haze and noise and construction and ancient structures and creative new architecture. From what we’ve heard, it’s already much different from what we saw less than a year ago. But would we get a better sense of Beijing’s character by going there during the Olympics? I doubt it. Not with the disappearance of so many hutongs - and, according to all the press, the artificially revamped manners of its residents.

That said, being able to watch the Olympics live, in your own time zone, is a beautiful thing. And while we do miss the ubiquitous trumpet fanfare that accompanied the NBC coverage in the US, here in Singapore we get to see parts of the Olympics we’d never seen before (read: parts in which no Americans are participating). I just don’t remember Bob Costas covering sports like archery, shooting, judo, fencing, or badminton in depth. And yet all of these are surprisingly compelling – and sometimes spectacular – competitions to watch.

It’s also interesting to cheer on two countries instead of one. Of the 204 countries parading through the Bird’s Nest last Friday night, the two we were most interested in could hardly be more different. The US, of course, showed up with hordes of athletes confident of winning piles of medals. Singapore showed up with a couple dozen athletes competing in six sports – and hoping, with a bit of luck, to bring Singapore its second Olympic medal, ever. And what’s Singapore’s best shot at such an honor? Another sport you’re not likely to see too often on your nightly highlight reel: table tennis (that’s ping pong, to you).

Edit: They did it! Singapore squeezed past Korea to make it to the final of the women’s team table-tennis event. They were flattened by China in the end, unsurprisingly, but their efforts secured the silver medal for an ecstatic Singapore.


stephanie said...

I so relate coming from Australia - another sporting nation... although this year I'm tuning out (political opinion, but this is not the right place to air it).

Love your blog and great to see someone else commenting on and from Singapore!

Anonymous said...

Hello ,

Anonymous said...

I also watched it on channel 5 (a Singapore TV channel)