Ending leaves some feeling cheerless

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 August, 2008, 12:00am

Sports writers and historians will discuss the legacy of the Beijing Olympics for a long time to come but the end of the event yesterday left many who contributed to - or profited from - the Games with mixed feelings.

Soojin Cho, hailed as the 'founder of China's cheerleading', said she felt empty as the end of the Games approached.

'We've prepared for it for over a year and suddenly it's over,' Cho said while on her way to the men's gold-medal basketball game between the United States and Spain.

The Korean cheerleader, who moved to Beijing 14 years ago, and her Soojin Dance team trained Chinese cheerleaders whose moves impressed even regular NBA viewers.

Cho said this was the first year cheerleading had enjoyed such a big presence at the Olympics, and she hoped it would become the catalyst for cheerleading to grow in China.

'We performed almost four times a day and the audience loved us,' she said.

'Even though there aren't that many sports events in China, cheerleading as a fitness dance should become very popular after the Games.'

Li Ping, the leader of a yang ge, or peasant dance troupe of 50-something women in the Beihai neighbourhood, agreed.

'We feel very honoured to see China so united in the stadiums,' she said.

The troupe came seventh in a cheerleading competition in Beijing last year but did not get a chance to perform in the stadiums.

They cheered once during the torch relay and were called in twice to shout chants such as 'Go, China' at two sports events. They also volunteered at the 'Bird's Nest'.

Even so, Li said they were not disappointed. 'It's all about participating. We were happy enough to be at the torch relay and to have helped out in the stadiums,' she said.

For those out to make money, the Games proved more profitable for some.

Mr Zhang, a ticket scalper from Shenyang, Liaoning province, regretted that the Olympics ended before he could learn to do business in a foreign language.

'I was really disappointed to see many scalpers selling their tickets to international visitors for dollars, while I could only deal with Chinese people,' he said.

Mr Zhang saw a man sell a basketball ticket to an overseas visitor for US$400, while he could only sell an equivalent ticket to a mainland buyer for 1,000 yuan (HK$1,144).

He managed to get through the past fortnight speaking a little English, but not all foreigners were willing to deal with his limited ability.

The number of good matches taking place guaranteed scalpers were in demand.

'At other events [held in the city before], it felt like we were running something like a food stall, but this time I definitely felt like we were running a supermarket and we could offer plenty of choice,' Mr Zhang said. 'I really wish the competitions could go on for another month.'

He said he did not run into problems from the highly publicised crackdown on ticket scalping, which he put down to knowing how to 'play within the rules'.

For people doing honest business, such as Beijing taxi driver Shi Shuo, the anticipated boost to business never materialised.

Because the venues were sealed off and only a limited number of taxis were awarded special entry permits, he and most other drivers did not benefit from spectators in need of transport.

'We normally tried to avoid the stadium areas,' Mr Shi said. 'And the congestion situation did not improve too much due to the creation of a special Olympics lane.'