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Hangin’ in Hangzhou

Rob Davis reports on the World Cup opening from Hangzhou, China:

It was a warm evening in Hagzhou last night as I set out to get some measure of China’s reaction to the World Cup opening in this scenic town two hours South of Shanghai. The lake around which the town was built has inspired many great Chinese poets and writers over the years – would it have inspired a similar fondness for football?

Wandering into the main square in the centre of town, I see a crowd of around 500 people gathered around a huge video screen. The setting is beautiful: to the left of the screen, high up on the hills, is the illuminated temple of Lingyin Si. Amongst the fountains and gardens, 500 faces all turn towards one moving image. I look too, and realise that they are not watching France vs Senegal, but a gig by some Chinese pop idols.

I move on to the busy dining district of the town, and emanating from a bar I can hear enthusiastic cheering and shouting. I walk past the crowd of door greeters, who all follow me into the bar, and through an ante-room. There in a large room at the back sit around 100 lively customers at tables, drinking Jasmine tea. It is them that are cheering, their attention focussed on the centre of the room. Moving through the crowd to get a better view. I expect to find a television set showing the game, but there, sitting on low stools, are four slightly glum looking musicians playing traditional instruments.

I leave and at the end of the street spot a football-themed bar. All of the staff are dressed in China team kit and the walls are adorned with pictures of football players. Footballs are suspended in nets above the bar. I order a beer and look around. There is a bank of television screens. Is anyone here watching the football? No – they are all playing a dice gambling game whilst trashy music emanates from the stage.

Heading back to the hotel, I pass a small bar on a corner. It is almost deserted, but five men sit in rapt attention watching a small screen. This noble band of supporters was the only evidence I found of any interest in the World Cup here last night. I ask them what they think of the game so far and they nod their heads energetically and say “We like World Cup. Beckham, Beckham”.

Written by on Saturday, June 1st, 2002

2 comments on this post

  1. Sorry to hear you had little success in finding a place to watch the opening game. It reminds me of the apathy that the French showed towards the event in 98 – until their team started doing well, that is.

    Did you see the match in the end?

  2. Yeah – it was showing in my hotel room on cable all along!

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The Ball 2018 left England on 25th March 2018 and travelled to the World Cup in Russia.

The Ball 2014 kicked off from England on 9th Jan 2014 and headed to the World Cup in Brazil.

The Ball 2010 left England on 24th Jan 2010 headed to the Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Ball 2006 travelled from London to the Opening Ceremony in Munich, Germany.

The Ball 2002 was carried 7000 miles across Europe and Asia to the World Cup finals in Korea & Japan.