August 2, Saturday

The initial omens didn’t bode well…..

First of all, I had got a colleague based in Santo Domingo to buy tickets at a Supermercado Nacional. Turned out that 2 out of 3 times he was there, the computer network was down. This was a couple days before Opening Ceremony.

Finally, the tickets were obtained on Sat morning, after another “no hay sistema” frustration.

The Brazil vs Colombia had changed from 7pm to 3pm on Sunday. I was also able to get tickets for the soccer final (August 15th) and individual men’s gymnastics final August 3rd). The system went kaput when I was about to buy ticket for the same day’s gymnastics team final. So I decided to head to Parque de Este to try my luck.

After crossing endless cars in the parking lot, I made my way to one of the entrances and waited briefly while being patted down and wanded. I also had to get through an airport-style security door.

The Parque was huge. Little trains “Gardin Botanic”-style were running around taking passengers from one venue to another. I decided to walk instead. This was about 4:30pm on Sat afternoon and the Parque was surprisingly unpopulated. I was shocked to see no more than 100 people spread over several bleachers watching grass hockey. Outside the Pabellon de Gimnasia, I asked a “watchiman” where to buy a ticket. He simply waved me in. I had to go through security clearance again and when confronted for ticket, instead of quoting the watchiman, I said the network system was down and was let in on the spot.

The Gym was enormous with vaulting metal-arch ceiling and a seating capacity (my visual estimate) around 2,000 with the huge arena flanked by audience on both sides. There were probably only about 300 people when the game started but reached close to 80% capacity just before closing as people continuously streamed in. There was no air-conditioning (except in the glassed-in press rooms overlooking everything where journalists typed away on computers) . As a result, it was very stuffy.

The arena had distinct sections for floor exercise, parallel bar, overhead bar, saddle(?),…etc so teams can rotate en masse upon completion of a section. Teams of US, Canada, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Chile participated in the first round and teams of Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, in the 2nd round.

The game started at 5pm. Around 5:30pm, there was a commotion and lo and behold His Baldness entered with his entourage. There were scattered boooo’s among the standard applause. I supposed he wore a baseball cap to obscure his shining baldness as an easy sniper target. He made himself comfortable by an open window at the press room while a stream of Dominicans ascended the aisle to greet him, creating quite an annoying distraction from the games. A middle-age father with his toddler daughter sitting behind me boo’ed him. Two teenagers sitting in front of me were discussing whether to ask for his autograph. One said” If it’s Pedro sure. But Hipolito ? No way!”
As if on cue, Pedro Martinez appeared and was loudly cheered. He was soon mobbed for autographs. Rounds of “Pedro ! Pedro ! Pedro!” broke out when Pedro was leaving. His Baldness smartly seized this chance to make exit just a few feet in front of Pedro, thus averting further boo’s.

Within the context of the game, there were some mini-dramas. The jury members were loudly boo’ed for assigning low scores to a few Cuban athletes who had just performed some eye-popping feat on the overhead bar.

Interesting, the Dominican athletes always received the loudest cheers. Alas, cheers alone were not enough to raise their standing as they finished dead last among all participating teams.

The competition lasted until 9:30pm ! I didn’t wait for the award ceremony was I was starving and wasn’t keen on forking RD$40 for the hot dogs on sales on Game’s premises.

More later.