Beijing rises to the occasion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 12:00am

Whether it was a direct response to the complaints of AFC general secretary Peter Velappan or the efforts of the provincial cities to look good at the capital's expense, Beijing seemed to respond positively.

Despite a violent downpour that finished less than an hour before the night's first match - a 1-1 draw between Bahrain and Qatar - that had officials worrying about a possible postponement, the Workers' Stadium was full with close to 50,000 fans, a significant improvement on the 30-35,000 who attended the opening ceremony.

'It was very appreciated,' said China's Dutch coach Arie Haan. 'When you play at home you need your fans behind you otherwise there is no advantage. This was a crowd we could be proud of and I think the players gave them what they came for.'

The ambience was a vast improvement on Saturday's, which led Velappan, to call the Beijing people rude and to question whether the 2008 Olympics would be successful.

'Congratulations to the people of Beijing for such a splendid result,' said Velappan in a statement, adding that the win over Indonesia 'was inspired by their 12th man - their fans on the terraces.'