These are Olympic moments.
The media relations maven known only as The Czarina, crack COC photog Mike and yours truly arrive in Tianjin, grab a cab and have no freaking way of letting the guy know where we were going.
After much gesticulating, including Mike getting out of the car and pretending to kick a football and The Czarina trying to draw a soccer ball on a piece of scrap paper (and she’s no artist, as it turns out), we decided to call back to Beijing, find a Chinese-speaking member of the COC staff and let her tell the cabbie where we wanted to go.
Not sure what she said but there was lots of ‘ho, ho, ho’ from our jolly driver, who got us here in no time flat and who was astonished to get a 5 Yuan tip at the end of the journey.
Much thanks, many smiles and I have no idea what the guy said but we are now, I believe, bestest of friends.
Here’s one for the GO Train people. And VIA Rail, too.
A gaggle of us took the bullet train down to Tianjin from Beijing, a distance of something like 120 kilometres or such. The speedometer in our car topped out at 343 kilometres an hour, which, my friends, is travelling.
Made the journey in 32 minutes, which was far better than the two- or three-hour bus ride we could have taken.
I don’t know what it is about the Spanish but their top athletes don’t ever big-time anyone, it seems.
Remember Raffa Nadal the other day? Marching himself through the airport throngs with a beat grunt following the crowd?
Well, flipping through the TV dial, I come across what I like to call The Airport Arrival Channel and there’s Pau Gasol doing the same thing, pushing a cart with some of his luggage, inundated by cameras and autograph seekers and the like.
I can pretty much assure you a lot of other NBA stars – hello, USA! – won’t quite do the same thing.
The trip to Tianjin began at the nicest train station I’ve ever seen: Beijing South. Palm trees in the lobby, a grand piano right over there and a place that’ll sell you a cocktail for 5 Yuan. Yeah, they do do some things right over here.
In what might be a shocking development to some, I enjoy a good dinner and thanks to our Beijing expert B. Schiller, I’ve now had one to remember.
He and Lovely Lili The Minder set up Team Star at a local place the other night and it’s got to be in the top 10 road meals all time. Not entirely sure what we had but the fish was spectacular, the lamb outstanding and another course of duck makes me want to be a duck guy all the time.
Toss in the revelry of a table for 13 and it’s one of the good nights.
The restaurant – name – was formerly a palace, we were told, it stretched forever from the street through a hutong and then with two more rooms.
And every time I think I’ve got a questionable job, or you think you do, I’ll remind you about the guy we saw cooking the duck over an open flame in what had to be about a billion degree heat. Aside from working in, oh, maybe a dry cleaners, that has to be the ickiest job I can imagine. Duck was damn good, though. Way better than the main press centre.
But there aren’t too many nights when you can get out for a good meal at things like that, work tends to get in the way, and an evening before it all begins to get you rested is a welcome event.
All along, we’ve been hearing about the small city of Tianjin we were going to for this game.
Hmm, it’s like more than seven million people.
Guess small’s all relative over here.
But you gotta see this stadium. Seats 60,000, looks like it was built yesterday, is surrounded by a creek or a moat or something like that and is very, very neat.
Sort of Olympic-related mail:
Q: While in Beijing will you have time to hoist a few or 'get some fresh air' with the other columnists from the home paper? I can imagine that you and Rosie could have some pretty interesting conversations on a variety of topics.
Anyway, have fun and learn lots. We await your insights.
Richard Y, Kincardine
A: Hell, yeah, we hang out. I’ve had several great conversations over fresh air and cocktails with Rosie over the six Games I’ve been at now and hanging in the courtyard outside the condo with Perk to end a night with a Tsing Tao and a cigar is to live like you’ve never lived before.
Topics? Often what we did that day and what we’re doing tomorrow. But sometimes we stray and – don’t tell anyone, okay? – bust on our bosses and jobs.
I’m pretty sure a whole bunch of Team Star teammates are a bit jealous. The days leading up to something like an Olympics can be mind-numbingly unexciting, with access to athletes limited, no games to cover or such.
Me? I got the very first thing of the Beijing Olympics at the women’s football today. Sweet.
Hey, I’m going to toss this out for all your Raptor fans who are lost and reading this hoping for some news.
The NBA sked’s coming out today and all I’ve got are a couple of nuggets.
They open in Philadelphia (if it’s on The Score do you think Leo interviews Sam Dalembert?) and the only home game I know of for sure right now is New Year’s Eve against Denver.
But stay tuned, when or if I get a chance during the day, I’ll scribble a little bit here to let you know what’s up.