Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guangzhou Asian Games

A 3hr flight and I'm in Guangzhou, just up the Pearl Delta from Hong Kong. It's the third biggest city in China (11m) and is modern, prosperous and... warm. After chilly Beijing, it's a surprise to be greeted by palm trees and a balmy 24C. Guangzhou is halfway through hosting the 16th Asian Games which has all the facts and figures to rival the Beijing Olympics: 45 countries participating in 476 events in 42 sports in 12 new venues and costing 17bn dollars (more than Athens Olympics 2004). My hotel is full of athletes wandering around in lurid tracksuits.

I've just watched some highlights on TV while downing a pint in the bar: China's edging of Thailand in women's cricket (!), Malaysia's thrashing of Japan in the men's sepak takraw (which I used to love watching in Lumpini Park in Bangkok), a multiple pile-up in the velodrome and rivetting highlights of xiangqi which is a Chinese version of chess. Inevitably, China are in the lead with 109 golds, with South Korea a distant second with 37. Spare a thought for Yemen, who don't have any medals at all. Today they were knocked out of the Beach Volleyball by Sri Lanka but blamed it on the cheerleaders. "These girls are very beautiful. I think they had something to do with our losing the match", said Adeeb Mahfoudh. But far from being disgruntled by the distraction, he went on: "If I can, I hope to watch them at the next match".

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