BEIJING (Originally posted on Aug. 12, 2008) – Rain. That’s the story here last Sunday. And it’s both amusing and quirky. On our Day One in Beijing, an envelope of grey skies and haze greeted us upon arrival at the airport. On Day 2, the sky was as clear as a light blue swimming pool while the sun roasted this city like a Peking Duck. But two days ago-our third day here-it turned opposite: gushing and pouring buckets of rain on Beijing. Thus far, the weather here has been fickle and volatile.
Last Sunday was our first day to watch the outdoor sport of tennis. The Beijing Olympic Green Tennis Center-middle-named “Green” because it sits on the Olympic Green Forest-is massive. It has a total of 10 tennis courts: one Center Court, two main stadiums and seven smaller rectangles.
My wife Jasmin and I entered the Center Court. It’s enormous-but not monstrous. With a seating capacity of 10,000, it is dwarfed by, for example, the colossal feel of the 30,000-plus-seater Arthur Ashe Stadium of the US Open. Which is good because, even if you sit at the top-most row, you’ll still get a superb view.
We sat at the lower row of the Upper Section-which puts us at the halfway part of all spectators. Not bad. All bunched beside us were, as expected, Filipinos. (We bought our tickets last year from the Philippine Olympic Committee.)
Finally, after a rain delay wait of over two hour hours, at 1:45 p.m. the Beijing Olympic’s opening match commenced.
James Blake, wearing a blue Nike shirt with a small flag of his country’s stars and stripes printed on the chest, played the world no. 19 Australian, Chris Guccione (donning his national colors of green and yellow).
Guccione is a left-hander with serves exceeding 203 kph. He blasted aces on every corner. But when Blake got himself into a rhythm, he looked on the way to victory-which he did, winning 6-3, 7-6.
We hopped to Court 2, where Fernando Gonzalez, the Chilean who reached the Australian Open finals last year, played a home-crowd favorite, Sun Peng of China. Inside the 4,000-seater arena, it roared as the Chinese translation of “Go, China!” reverberated across the stadium. But Gonzalez quieted the crowds and won.
The outer, smaller courts Jasmin and I preferred more. Why? Because instead of watching the players from a hundred feet away, there you can see them 15 feet afar. Tomas Berdych, the 6-foot-5 Czech behemoth who beat Roger Federer four years ago at the Athens Olympics, is, based on all the reports I’ve read, as advertised: hard-hitting, intense, forceful. His opponent, another Chinese named Xinyuan Yu, he torpedoed with his serves.
Guillermo Canas we saw next. If you follow tennis and love Federer, you dread to hear his name. That’s because last season, he beat RF two times in a row-the only player, other than some Spaniard with initials RN-to beat the world no.1 back-to-back. Canas played an unheard-of Canadian family-named Niemeyer.
Then after, we trooped back to the Center Court. Wow, guess who was whacking two-handed backhands and banging cross-court forehands: Serena Williams.
Jasmin loved what she wore: a blue jacket which she took off to reveal a white dress laced with red and blue trimmings. She also donned a red bandana and, under, white Nikes with the red swoosh — all colors of the country she represents, USA. But that’s not all. Because while she was draped in red, white and blue-there was one other color that glittered in her attire: a bracelet that glistened as she marched. It was, of course, made of gold.
After Serena won the first set, 6-3, her match was halted by severe rain that washed out all the other remaining matches of the day.
But, by wearing gold, it’s clear-cut what medal color Serena aspires to win in these Beijing Games.