"Go to the men's trampoline final."
Those were the words of my editor Tuesday night. After a week of nightlife around the city, it was time to catch the nightlife inside the National Indoor Stadium, the site of many a gold medal for China.
But I knew this: it was man vs. trampoline. Is there anything more profound than that?
Here's my not-so-live running blog (or you can call it a Bill Simmonsian diary):
20:07: (all of China runs on military time): The trampoline girls, elegant, statuesque women in dresses, ceremoniously take the cover off the trampolines. What a difference a night makes.
20:09: An army of "volunteers" set up the trampolines with military precision, marching and shouting in unison. It looks like these volunteers were recruited straight from the People's Army. Odds are they were.
20:14: The medal ceremony for the men's horizontal bar, which I caught the last few moments of, is a raucous affair. China won — again. The gymnast from Italy, the event's last competitor, didn't hide his disappointment when he finished fourth after completing a pretty good (in my eyes) routine. I'm going to blame the new scoring system, even if it doesn't apply to trampoline.
20: 15 : A loud ovation for Zou Kou as he accepts the gold medal. The capacity crowd (finally, a venue that's actually sold out) sings along to the national anthem. I'm going out on a limb and predicting another gold medal for China in the men's trampoline. I'm sure China has invested millions in their trampoline program. Americans have trampolines in their backyards. You find Chinese trampolines in sports academies.
20:16: The woman sitting next to me in the press area is clapping and cheering, which is annoying. One thing about press boxes at the Olympics: there's more homerism than in a Red Sox broadcast.
20:19: The Chinese are so enthusiastic even the judges are walking out to intro music and applause.
20:25: Two of the trampoliners are China's Dong Dong (there's a joke in there somewhere, but I'm not going to make it) and Lu Chunlong. My prediction: both will win the gold in a 1-1 tie. Is that possible?
20:26: The competitors are eliciting gasps from the crowd — and this is only during the warmups. This might be a fun night after all.
20:29: These athletes are living the high life — which reminds me: time to head over to the concession stand for a 5 RMB (70 cents!) beer.
20:31: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of my favorite movies, "Big," here. The best use of a trampoline in a movie, ever.
20:32: The first competitor, Mikalai Kazak of Belarus, is up. I can tell he did well because he spun a lot. Let's see Tom Hanks do that.
20:34: Marino scores 38.10. I'm assuming that's a good score because he's in first.
20:36: Jason Burnett of Canada finished his performance with a fist-pump. Guess he liked how he performed. Personally, it looked exactly like the previous performance.
20:37: The judges know better than I, giving Burnett a 40.70.
20:38. The crowd is a little subdued, especially compared to the medal ceremony for Kou. They must be waiting for their countrymen, who perform last.
20:39: No Americans are competing in the final, so no Kobe Bryant, Team USA's No. 1 cheerleader. He's been everywhere. What? He doesn't want to throw his support to Belarus?
20:40: Russian Alexander Rusakov looks disappointed after his score of 38.50. These performances are short, lasting less than a minute. One beer might last the entire competition. Perhaps I should get another one so I don't have to pay 30 RMB for one at the media center. Officials are smart — they know they'll make money off thirsty reporters.
20:42: Ukrainian Yuriy Nikitin is incredulous after his score is announced, 39.80. Don't worry, buddy. I don't get the scoring either.
20:43 Russia's Dmitry Ushakov is jumping up and down for 30 seconds, which feels like a lifetime. Perhaps he's rattled by the big moment. His coach is holding a mat on top of the trampoline. I'm praying for him.
20:44: Ushakov finishes his routine, and the crowd breathes a sigh of relief.
20: 45: "Zhong guo, jia you!" The crowd starts chanting the ubiquitous cheer as Dong Dong takes the trampoline. I'm won't be able to get "jia you" out of my head for weeks.
20:46: Double-Dong thrills the crowd with a flawless routine. Twenty minutes watching the trampoline and now I'm an expert. That's the Olympics for you. I was in a dumpling restaurant two nights ago and everyone in the restaurant had become experts in women's gymnastics, judging each performance with analysis and criticism. Everyone's a Monday morning quarterback, even people in China.
20:47: Dong Dong places second. Burnett hangs onto first by .10 points.
20: 48: Lu Chunlong, the last competitor and favorite, somersaults and flips his way to a loud ovation. The Chinese can barely contain their excitement.
20:50: Lu vaults into first with 41.00. The crowd erupts. Honestly, the performance looks like most of the others. But hey, I'll trust the judges. Another gold for China. I called it, didn't I? China also wins the bronze.
20:51: Less than 30 minutes after the first competitor took the trampoline, the final is over. That was quicker than I expected. I'll have to finish this beer. I thought my pounding days were over once I graduated from college.
20:53: The coolest jumping of the night, Lu and Dong come out draped with Chinese flags and jump for joy on the trampoline.
20:55: Another medal ceremony, another chance to see the medal presenters in action. The women have practiced for this moment for months. And they sure look perfect. They tower over the trampoliners and they're not even wearing heels.
20:58: A warm ovation for Burnett, who is taking his silver medal well. Because if I was him, I'd certainly question losing by .30 points. I guess Lu C. kept his left arm closer to his body on that double somersault.
21:00: Two gold medals, two national anthems for China in less than an hour. It's been that kind of Olympics.
20:54: Well, here's a big thank you to my editor. It's an early night for this scribe. It's off to the Holland Heineken House for me. Excuse me while I jump for joy.