Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bronze Medal Match

Olympic tickets initially went on sale in the UK just a couple weeks after we arrived in the country.  We were still living out of our suitcases in a temporary furnished apartment, but we were so excited at the prospect of living in the host city that we applied for tickets to eight different events.  We got nothing.  Boy, was that disappointing!

When the second round of tickets went on sale a few months later, we were only allowed to apply for three events.  By this time we were thinking a little more practically, so tried to limit ourselves to weekends so Josh wouldn't have to take time off from work.  Most of the events we had initially applied for were not available, but there were plenty of tickets for football (soccer) and beach volleyball, so that's what we ended up with.

Now it's easy to understand why beach volleyball might not be popular in a country with cool, rainy summers and rocky beaches (ouch!), but football?  Well, they may be devoted fans of their own local teams, but apparently there wasn't much interest in Olympic competition.  So that's how we ended up with tickets to two different football matches and beach volleyball.  (The rest of the events I attended were thanks to my sister, who had much more success buying Olympic tickets in the US.)

Our final event was the men's bronze medal football match between Japan and South Korea at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.  Yes, the one in Wales.  Why?  Well, we'd never been there before, so we figured we could make an overnight trip of it and explore the city.  It's only a 2-hour train ride from Paddington station, and everything was within easy walking distance of the train station...
All the signage in Wales is in English and Elvish... I mean Welsh
...Even our hotel, which we could actually see from the platform!
The conveniently-located  Maldron Hotel
I lucked out with the hotel.  Not only was it in a great location, but I was able to get a "family" room with a double bed and a twin bed for the three of us, and they put us on the top floor, which had a nice view.
We could see the Bristol Channel
And the Brains brewery...  Brains!
From the stairwell, we could see the stadium
We had some time to kill before the game, so we wandered down the high street to check out the city, which was bustling with activity.
Nice flower baskets
Shopping arcades
Cardiff Market
Cardiff Market interior - vendors sold produce, books, clothes, souvenirs, etc.
We saw lots of vendors selling flags and other accessories
for the football match
The police were out in full force, with some extra-tall officers on the high street
This trio was performing a Britney Spears song on accordion and double bass.
Another group of performers was setting up a couple blocks away
As we got closer to the stadium, the kookiness factor remained the same, but was more sports-fan-oriented.
A Japan fan poses for photos with a British family in their flag capes
Funny how the guy with the Japanese flag seems to be the
more oddly dressed of the two...
Plenty of Korean fans as well
After an early dinner, we hung out in front of the stadium to see if we could find a taker for our extra ticket.  We weren't the only ones with spare tickets on our hands, so we ended up giving it to a student from Shanghai for about half the face value.  He had come to Cardiff to study English and International Transport (I think) and he told us his mother was half Japanese, so he was rooting for Japan.  Nice kid.  I'd rather give the ticket to someone like him for half price than sell it to someone sketchy for face value.
Millennium Stadium
As with many other Olympic venues, they had one of the relay torches on hand outside the stadium so people could get their photo taken with it.  Of course, the lady in charge of the torch wouldn't actually let go of it, so she got to be in all the photos, too.
An Olympic torch
We had pretty decent seats, not far from the center of the field.  Although they sold beer in the concession stands, you weren't allowed to bring it to your seat, so most people hung out 'backstage' with their drinks until right before kickoff.
Josh and Sonia are ready for the game to begin
We had a very well-organized South Korean rooting section directly above us, complete with signs, flags, costumes, and drummers!
Those Koreans know how to cheer on their compatriots!
The teams gather for the national anthems...
And the game begins!
I had heard that Olympic football/soccer tickets didn't sell as well as many other events, especially outside of London, so I wasn't surprised to see empty seats at this game.  But I wasn't expecting them to be in huge blocks.  At one end of the stadium, entire sections were completely empty, while adjacent areas were completely full.  Huh?
Oddly clustered crowd
At halftime, we saw video clips of some of the entertainment from other venues, including Bananarama singing "Cruel Summer" at Horse Guards Parade before the beach volleyball bronze medal match.  No fair!  All we got were a bunch of guys in black walking around with yellow buckets.
Avant-garde halftime show, or just the clean-up crew?
We did get a kick out of the Japan fan sitting a few rows in front of us, wearing what appeared to be a Beanie Baby helmet.  Not sure what this has to do with Japan, but she gets points for originality!
Cute, but probably a bit warm for August, even in the UK
We chose to remain neutral and cheer for both sides, but South Korea appeared to be the stronger team.
South Korea scores a goooooooooal!
Final score: Korea 2, Japan 0
South Korea celebrates their Bronze medal victory
Japan wallows in defeat
The Korean rooting section goes wild!
All in all, it was a fun international experience for us.  Americans watching a football match in Wales between Japan and South Korea with a student from China.  Just to add a little more flavor to the mix, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant on the way back to our hotel for nachos and mojitos.  A prefect way to cap off the day!

No comments:

Post a Comment

To prevent spam and other inappropriate messages, all comments are moderated before being posted.