The Olympics begin Friday, and they're in China, so, you know, it should be a rather fascinating world event, if you're into fascinating world events. And we are proud to welcome back our Deadspin Beijing Bureau, our own trio of correspondents living in China and reporting on everything they see, Olympics related and otherwise. The Deadspin Beijing Bureau attended the USA/Russia basketball game on Sunday. They were spectators. They were spies. They were flmmakers. See the fruits of their labor after the jump. The Dream Team stopped off in Macau and Shanghai recently for a few final Olympic tune-ups. For vague patriotic reasons, we decided to attend their game against Russia in the sweaty metropolis of Shanghai. On a dripping Sunday afternoon we made our way to the inconveniently located Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena, a modern arena amidst the factories of Xinzhuang Industry Park in suburban Minhang district, which oddly reminded us of the Bureau of Iowa… except for all the scooters and pick-up trucks carrying crops of lotus root. This weathered map just about sums up where we were, both literally and mentally.
This was the first basketball game we’ve attended in China and it was a starkly different experience from the MLB exhibition series we attended in Beijing in March. Unlike the ambivalent confusion we witnessed in Beijing, Chinese fans are more than familiar with basketball and the Shanghainese in the crowd appeared to enjoy themselves…not that we blame anyone for being bored at a Padres-Dodgers split-squad Spring Training game — during a dust storm, no less. The game was competitive early on as the new Dream Team struggled a bit with Russia’s match-up zone. Andrei Kirilenko had his way down low at times — especially when Dwight Howard was on the bench — and J.R. Holden, of all people, had about 14 points The crowd was decidedly pro-American, although Chinese fans tend to cheer politely for either team at sporting events when one executes a nice play ( which we think is pretty cool) . Kobe was clearly a fan-favorite (see above video) both during the game with raucous M-V-P chants and after, as handsy fans frantically surrounded the guy as he tried to exit the court.
China consulted with NBA officials in the hopes of creating, for better or worse, an NBA-like atmosphere for the Olympic basketball games. This meant the afternoon was replete with dancers seemingly plucked from the bar tops of Monmouth’s finest Ladies’ Nights, booming, dated pop music and, ruefully, thunder sticks for every last man, woman, and baby. There were a few kinks (be gentle with those squatter toilets!) but beer was accessible and plentiful and this was the closest the Bureau has ever felt to being at an American sporting event in China… whatever that means.
After the game, yapping vendors pushed everything from $1 Kobe posters to $12 “massages” in the arena parking lot, and, while VIPs boarded private cars and those literate in Chinese scrambled to packed buses, others (we) were left to walk over an hour to the subway. That part sucked. On the next post of the Deadspin Beijing Bureau: The Bureau is banned from entering bars in Beijing. Remember, you can contact the Beijing Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org