The players called it madness, insanity, a circus. A clash of cultures as the sedate and sombre world of snooker jarred with the raucous chaos that is modern China. But with the world's most populous nation hailing their new teen hero Ding Junhui it seems the strange bedfellows are nestling in for a long-term relationship. Already more than 50 million Chinese play snooker on a regular basis, but with the 18-year-old Ding quickly assuming cult status after winning the China Open last Sunday that figure is expected to double or triple in the coming years. The top stars are household names here. Some taxi drivers could tell you how many times Stephen Hendry has hit the magic 147 (eight to date), and marvel at the staying power of the evergreen Steve Davis. That fame translates into frenzy as voracious autograph hunters work in packs. When the players arrived for the China Open last week they were swamped by adoring fans - stampedes that literally threaten life and limb. Just ask Steve Davis. The 47-year-old former world number one smacked his head off a door-frame as he tried to sidestep a descending horde of zealous admirers just before his game with Ricky Walden. He suffered mild concussion and had to withdraw from the tournament. All stressful stuff for the players but it was in the arena itself that they found the biggest cultural differences. The reverential silence they are afforded back home does not gel with the Chinese idea of a good day out. They tend to like noise - and plenty of it. The standard snooker sounds - the gentle clicking of balls, the rustle as it slides down the pocket, the referee's dulcet tones - were all but lost on many occasions this week in the cacophonous, carnival atmosphere at the China Open. Mobile phones provided a shrill backdrop, constantly shattering the silence and the players' concentration. Oblivious to the pleading and haranguing of the referees, phones were left on and when they rang, as they so often did, they were answered with an audacity that both bemused and amused the players. 'I can't really talk now, I'm at a snooker competition,' was the most-heard hushed line that reverberated throughout the arena all week. Despite not 'really' being able to talk, many did so anyway, feeling that putting their hand up to their mouth while they gabbled away was showing sufficient decorum. Flash photography was another major irritant for the players. Time and time again, as their chins hovered over the cue and they lined up the angles, they would be blinded by a flashbulb as a member of the audience attempted a surreptitious snap before shoving the evidence deep into a bag. Even the professional photographers, who do not use flash during the games, kept triggering noisy shutters while players were taking shots, despite referees' protestations. Almost every match was stopped on a number of occasions because of crowd disruptions. The referees had to physically throw several people out of the stadium during the course of the week. The security staff weren't much help, often adding to the noise by chatting and joking among themselves. One fell asleep during the first semi-final and proceeded to snore heavily for the best part of a frame. Stephen Hendry called the atmosphere 'madness', while Chris Small said it was 'a joke - it felt like a circus out there'. Small's match with Adrian Gunnell had to be held up more than 10 times. 'It was a big match for me but it didn't feel like it. We ended up just laughing at each other,' he said. 'I don't think we should come back. They don't know how to behave and the venue isn't up to much.' Beijing's own mayor, Wang Qishan, attended some games and was also livid at the behaviour of the fans. He later slammed the 'rude public behaviour', saying the city drastically needed to brush up on its manners before welcoming the world to the Olympics in 2008. With the Games only three years away he said it was 'a problem Beijing cannot afford to ignore'. The mayor said the crowd's bad behaviour was in part down to 'confusion over various sporting cultures', where fans think they should behave the same way at all sporting events. 'For example, they treat snooker games like soccer matches, which is not appropriate.' The organisers and most of the players feel that the problem boils down to the fact the game is relatively new in China and it will take time before fans become familiar with the game's etiquette. 'We just need to be patient and understand how things are here and realise that it will improve with time,' Hendry said. 'But the fact that snooker is taking off here and they are producing players of Ding's talent is wonderful for the game.' The 36-year-old Scot also has a personal reason for wanting to come back to China: for reasons he has yet to establish the fans here seem to like him. This comes as a pleasant surprise to the seven-time world champion. 'It's always great to come here because I'm one of the crowd favourites. In most other places nobody likes me,' he said. The Chinese certainly like him, and not just for his potting technique. Giggling girls around the stadium were rushing to get photos taken with him and many considered him to be the best looking player on show, although Paul Hunter's name also kept cropping up. The tournament wrap party ended up in Beijing's infamous Maggie's Bar, a den of iniquity frequented by hordes of Mongolian ladies of the night. Hendry, a living legend in Ulan Bator by all accounts, was drawn towards the tatty pool table where he held the table for several hours but struggled in a few games against some of the hustling prostitutes. 'Some of them were really good, I was surprised. They should consider a change of career,' Hendry said. The girls say they normally demand US$100 for their sexual services but the debate whispering around the table was on how low they would go - price-wise - for the snooker legend, should he be so inclined. Most reckoned money would not change hands at all, while Tsagaan Otgontungalag, who only lost out to the champion on the black on a couple of occasions, went even further. 'Yes, yes. He is really sexy. I think I would pay him US$100 to sleep with me. But unfortunately he doesn't seem to be interested. He keeps talking about his wife and two kids.' In a similar vein back in the arena, many of the female fans were on the hunt for more that just autographs and snapshots with the stars. Fairy Ling, a tall and attractive 25-year-old from Beijing, was one of the many hovering about backstage after the games. When Ding trounced Ken Doherty in the semi-final on Saturday evening the TV cameras were trained on the local boy but Fairy was one of the many focused on the Dubliner. 'He is just gorgeous. I really, really like him. So, so cute,' she said. Her 'personal business card' that she was intent on giving him was embellished with two red love hearts pierced by cupid's arrow. It not only listed her contact details, but also gave her date of birth, her star sign, blood type, height and weight. When the world number eight was shepherded out the back door by a gaggle of minders Fairy was left behind in despair. 'No, no, no,' she shouted, while banging her forehead against a wooden door. 'He's gone.' But the glint in her eye quickly returned. 'I know where his hotel is. Do you think he might go to the bar? Do you think I should go there?' She left before there was time to answer.