Reporters on the Job

Boundless Beijing Enthusiasm: Chinese are not the greatest sports fans, but they have enormous enthusiasm, says staff writer Mark Sappenfield.

Archery is not a glamour event in China like badminton or diving, but when a Chinese woman won gold Thursday, volunteers came streaming from every corner of the grounds, cell-phone cameras held aloft to get a photo of their new champion .

"In the media zone, she looked like a rugby ball amid a scrum, only the Chinese flag she was holding sticking out from a sea of seething bodies," Mark says. "It was the same the day before at gymnastics, where Chinese journalists came close to blows in the attempt to get near the girls."

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This enthusiasm can play out in less appealing ways, as is often the case at sports events. "Some 51,000 fans went to see Argentina play Serbia in soccer Wednesday night," Mark says. "They made it clear that they were there to see superstar Lionel Messi, chanting his name from the first 10 minutes onward."

But Argentina had already secured qualification for the next round, so the coach rested Messi. The moment Argentina made its three substitutions – and Messi was not among them – the crown began to boo every time Argentina touched the ball and cheer hysterically every time Serbia touched the ball.

Nevermind what's best for Argentina, Mark says – the fans wanted their money's worth in entertainment value.

– Amelia Newcomb

Deputy World editor

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