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Searching for the Redeem Team at Block 8

I'm actually here, right this second, as I type. It's hot. Like, the temperature.

For those of you who have never been, this is what the Olympics are like, in exactly 500 words.

I'm writing this from the fourth floor patio of a Beijing club called Block 8. The beach volleyball venue is somewhere off in the distance, on the Eastern half of Chaoyang Park. We're on the park's Western edge.

The floor on level four is made of sand. The d├ęcor is blue neon and vodka in clear plastic iced cubes. The beat is bassy. The Olympics are being shown on flat screen TVs. Archery, just now. No one is watching.

Above me, the Australians TV folks are drinking green apple martinis. "I don't know what the [expletive] this is," one of their Swedish friends is saying.

The club's owner, 33-year old Sacramento native Alan Wong, is holding court in the middle of the fourth-floor beach party. "I opened the restaurant in 2006, and now it's just filled with beautiful women, everywhere," he is saying.

On the other side of the club are a collection of George Washington grad students. They
include Enrico Campitelli, Philadelphia's favorite sports blogger, and Chris Hedquist, who has a pair of canoeing tickets for Wednesday's session that he can't use. Someone else in our party quickly agrees to buy them. The cost is one beer. The Americans explain how easily they've gotten tickets to whatever events they wanted this week, including today's supposedly high-demand China-Spain basketball game.

"It's a joke how many empty seats there were," Hedquist says.

"It's like going to a stadium in D.C.," Campitelli adds, with typical Philly charm.

Hedquist, it turns out, was a traveling alternate on the U.S. 2006 skeleton team who's since retired from the sport but still has the itch. Like me, he spent some nights during the Turin Games at the Irish Igloo, a crazy bar high in the Italian Alps.

"Put it this way: I've lived the life of a millionaire on someone else's dime," he says, of his Olympic past.

In America, you might be surprised to meet a traveling skeleton alternate who's considering coming out of retirement. At the Olympics, you just clink glasses and move on with your life.

The rumor all night has been that the Redeem Team will show up eventually. In fact, I was brought here by a young American blog reader who had heard through a friend of a friend that this was their post-Angola destination. A friend of a friend told him the same thing about a Shanghai club called Racks before the Olympics began, and sure enough, he ended the night watching Carmelo and LeBron and Kobe play pool in the VIP section.

At this hour--a few minutes past midnight, Beijing time--there are no basketball players on the premises. But Evander Holyfield is reportedly on the way. Chris Tucker was here on Saturday. The Prince of Monaco ate dinner here last week. And oh yeah, over in the second cabana from the balcony is Microsoft co-founder and Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen.

"What about Garfunkel?" Swede Klas Hesselman asks, a quote that pretty much summarizes the Olympics.

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 12, 2008; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  NBA , Olympics  
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(breathlessly waiting for an update on the celebrity sightings and other related low-grade shenanigans)

Posted by: Nate in the PDX | August 12, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

And me? I'm up for a rant. "...and the ball goes out of bounce!" Early in my teaching career, I had an eighth-grader write that in her paper. I circled it and amended it in red: "out of BOUNDS." Rather than just take my advice and learn from it, said child felt it was worth a debate; much hilarity (on the students' parts) and frustration (on mine) ensued, before (I hope) my point was taken and the convo ended. Fast forward to these Olympics, and I have now heard that same expression uttered, once a few days ago and three times today, by one of the two dudes commentating the men's volleyball. I'm all "What the farkle, nimrod?!" Like, dude, how can you even BE mistaken on this? There isn't even a bounce to go OUT of on SAND for chrissake. I don't get it. I just don't get it. (What, you ask? Well, like, um, DUH!, how is it that those who barely speak the language can score jobs that will see their influence on speech far exceed mine, and I am PAID [however much less than they!] to ensure the greatest possible individual accuracy and clarity of expression. Again, what the farkle?) Ok, rant's over. Nice use of 500 words, Dan.

Posted by: Bobbie | August 12, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"It's like going to a stadium in D.C."

Yeah, totally. The seats are so empty in D.C. that the season ticket waitlist is only, like, half a century long.

Oh, maybe he was talking about the Nats. In which case Philly sucks. That is my response to that.

Posted by: Chris Mottram | August 12, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the 'Skins wait-list is now down to 11 years.

I signed up in '97 and just went to my first game as a season ticket holder on Saturday.

Posted by: NewSkinsSeasonTicketHolder | August 12, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I think the Mayor needs to weigh in here.

Posted by: JDP | August 12, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

@Bobbie: I'm an English major (GMU '99) and I couldn't agree with you more. I'm a huge fan of sports in general but the exceedingly poor use of English by broadcasters and so forth is beyond pathetic.
Of course, I'm discussing this in the Comments section of a blog, so--


(R.I.P. Proper Subject-Verb Agreement)

Posted by: Arlington Pimp | August 12, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

@'pimp--thanks for the reminder; where are my manners?




And thanks for feelin' me--commiseration helps, truly.

Posted by: Bobbie | August 12, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

There's definitely lots of action in the Chaoyong Park beach volleyball area. For all you Olympics fans, a new book digs deep inside the sport of pro beach volleyball to uncover all the behind-the-scenes stories about the life and times on the AVP pro beach tour - the largest in the world. All the struggles and successes are captured in this exciting and groundbreaking book. "Order On The Court", written by Tom Burke, is now available at and has been published just in time for the Olympics in Beijing.

Posted by: Steve | August 13, 2008 2:09 AM | Report abuse

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