Changing China

Giant on the move

Chinese fans not shy in picking sides

August 21, 2008

China fansChina had just lost to the U.S. but even though their team was out the crowd’s cheering, jeering, floor stomping and plastic stick drumming was just warming up on a 14-hour day of men’s volleyball play.

One match later, the Chinese fans were wildly rooting for Egypt over Russia.

“Is it politics? I don’t think so,” said one baffled Egyptian player. But he had no better ideas. 

Later the crowd roared for Germany over Serbia and every time Japan tossed a ball in the air to serve against Venezuela that evening, the still largely Chinese crowd of 7,500 booed and stomped until the stadium vibrated.

It’s not just about volleyball, or about that day, Aug. 16. Chinese spectators loudly cheered both Germany and Italy as they faced Japan in fencing finals earlier in the Olympics. In men’s badminton, masses of local fans booed a small group of Americans who chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!”.

Is it pure adolescent fun? Or do Chinese “add oil”, in the words of the official chant, to underdogs like Egypt just because they want to watch a good fight?

Fans say they choose more carefully. Western Europe often comes out ahead.

“At the Germany-Serbia volleyball match, you’d find that there are people who have studied German or attended school in Germany and come back,” said 36-year-old volleyball spectator Li Jing.

PHOTO: China fans cheer for their team during their Group B men’s basketball game against the U.S. at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 10, 2008. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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