BACK & FORTH: Table tennis fans cheer Day 1 action

Aug. 13, 2008, 10:46 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) AP reporter Anita Chang is covering table tennis during the Beijing games and blogging about the rapid-fire action at Peking University Gymnasium.



Imagine watching a pingpong game in your basement, following the tiny ball as it bounces back and forth, back and forth. Now, multiply that by eight. Then add 16 of the world's best athletes, who are capable of slapping the ball to speeds of 60 mph or more.

That's Olympic table tennis. It's exhausting to watch!

Today is Day 1 of the competition. Table tennis is the national sport of China, so this will be one of the most fun and most Chinese events of the Beijing Games.

The Chinese fans at the Peking University Gymnasium are really into it. Of course they cheer for the home team with shouts of "Go China!" but they'll cheer like crazy for any exciting back and forth.

"Waah! Waah!"

The tricky part is figuring out which of the eight tables they're directing the cheers at.

The stands have been pretty full, though I was surprised at the many clumps of empty seats. When I went out for lunch, I saw about a half-dozen scalpers under a pedestrian bridge leading to the spectator's entrance. One guy had six tickets and was selling them for 5,000 yuan (about US$730) each! "Some people are thinking about it," he told me.

Something I noticed not directly related to table tennis: The official song, "Beijing Welcomes You," which is being played over and over in the city. I felt like I had truly arrived at the Beijing games when they began blasting it over the loudspeakers before the matches began.

It's one of those horribly catchy songs that stays in your head all day. It was sung by many famous singers from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. If you watch the music video, you will see how organizers of the Beijing Olympics want the world to see the city.

Check it out: