Argentina-Brazil and the Super Bowl
Bearing in mind that I didn't attend the Opening Ceremonies or any of the Phelps Phest or any of the gymnastics or the 100-meter final....And apologies for repeating myself from the disastrous live blog, but this is for newspaper purposes.
One way you know you're at a top-notch Olympic media event is when you see the three-man Japanese television crew holding two stuffed creatures with gold and silver medals around their chests and a sign in Spanish, asking the victorious Argentine footballers which they'd prefer.
Another way is when, for the first time since you've arrived in China, you're threatened with arrest. In this case, the threat was for attempting to enter the media seating section of an Olympic semifinal between Argentina and Brazil with your official media credential.
"If you don't leave here I'll have to call security!" the press official said as angry media folks from around the world gathered in a stairwell, attempting to proceed to a media seating area that was reportedly out of seats. This was Messi vs. Ronaldinho, and so the threat didn't work, and the mob pushed through to the next stairwell, a babel of free-press-loving, sweat-spewing outrage.
"Anyone who goes past me will be arrested and ejected, it's very simple!" the press official said this time, as the mob continued to surge.
"What the [expletive] are they talking about?" asked a late-arriving journalist, which pretty much summed up the mood. The mob surged again, a woman screamed, and some younger volunteers came to form a human wall against the media horde. I was ready for the photo-op of these Games, sports writers in a brave push towards the freedom to watch sports. And then, suddenly, the officials decided to let us upstairs, where the media seating was rather full but would get fuller.
The reason for the excitement wasn't just that this was Argentina-Brazil. Unlike Phelps Phest or the Opening Ceremonies, this wasn't a ticketed event, meaning anyone with a media credential could enter, and just about everyone on that list did so. And so there were media members sitting on concrete ledges, and watching from tunnels, and standing on top of chairs, and, of course, cheering for one side or the other, with hugs, on occasion.
The mob formed again after the match, when officials decided the post-game interview area was too full and must be closed down. They formed another human wall of volunteers to keep out the dozens of late arrivals, and constructed a second mixed zone outside with temporary barriers. Human rights in Tibet are one thing, but keeping the media from getting canned sound bites from footballers is an affront that shall not stand.
"This is full," said an official, gesturing to the room.
"But this is Brazil-Argentina, it's a semifinal game," an Italian journalist complained. "This is Olympic Games. Everyone is here. What is full?"
"This is not fair. This is not Olympic spirit," seconded Han Xiao Peng, a translator for Japan's Fuji TV.
The Italian eventually made it inside, meaning he missed the crew from NTV's "Zoom-In!" a Japanese show starring a blue creature named Zoomin. Or something. The crew had already managed to pass off a stuffed Zoomin to Usain Bolt and was hoping to do the same with an Argentine footballer, but they didn't speak Spanish. Hence, the sign (in what I thought they said was Spanish, but which is apparently Portuguese): "Quella Medailla Usteo Tiene Preferencia? Ouru o Plata." Suddenly, it was Super Bowl Media Day at Workers Stadium.
"We fail to pass," said Ryutarou Sasa, one of the staffers, as the players ignored their plush offering. "Go near bus: final fight."
Ah yes, the bus. As the Argentines waited for their teammates inside their coach, they began singing and clapping and dancing and pounding on the windows and singing and dancing some more. If you've ever seen a high school softball team celebrate an 8-0 no-hitter, you pretty much know what the inside of this bus looked like. Since everyone within 100 meters immediately swiveled and turned on their camera phones, expect grainy YouTube footage shortly.
Among their song choices was apparently "Un Minuto de Silencio Para Brasil que Esta Muerto," according to an Argentine journalist. "A moment of silence for Brazil, which is dead," more or less.
As they finally drove off, a Hungarian radio broadcaster clapped. I asked him why.
"They play very well," he said.
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