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Beijing

If they ever do get around to trimming tennis from the Olympics, I would like to suggest a thoroughly amateur activity to take its place: competitive spectating.

The game is simple: you watch as much live, in-the-flesh sport as possible within an allotted time.

Like cricket, there are shorter and longer versions of the game, but unlike cricket there is no time for lunch or tea. I believe the one-day format would work best at an Olympics.

It requires speed, planning and a change of shirt. I know this because I have tried it and I think I've set a new world record.

Beijing tour map

Between 10am and 11pm on Wednesday, I rode my mate's mountain bike (cheers Paul) to 19 different Olympic venues and saw world-class sport in 15 of them, world-class press conferences in three more and 20 Chinese volunteers pretend to be modern pentathletes in another.

I covered about 50km, drank 20 bottles of water, went through three maps and met the entire judging panel from the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles.

Perhaps the best way to tell that story, in fact, the whole story, is to start at the beginning. So I will.

Like all elite athletes I think breakfast is the most important meal, so I decided to skip the fare on offer in the media village and have a slap-up feed in a decent hotel downtown - they may now be reconsidering that all-you-can-eat deal.

Adequately fuelled and aboard my mode of transport, I set off from the Financial District and headed southwest for the softball. The thinking here was to start at my southernmost point and move around the city in a clockwise fashion.

Having meandered my way to Fengtai, I found myself at the top of the seventh inning with China pounding Venezuela 7-1.

I can't remember much about the game mainly because I was worrying about Paul's bike being destroyed in a controlled explosion.

Because while Katie Melua may be right about there being nine million bikes in Beijing, none of them are welcome at an Olympic venue. Not if you ask for permission first, that is. I would learn that as the day progressed.

From softball I rode north to Wukesong to taste two more slices of Americana, baseball and basketball.

Here my arrival was not particularly well received and my gestures to say, "Can I chain my bike to this please, officer?" were met by stern shakes of the head. Perhaps they didn't understand my gesture. Strange, I thought that one was universal.

In the end I left it behind some portaloos. I'm not proud.

I got into the baseball in time to see Canada's Stubby Clapp (honestly, look him up) pop up to right field and was looking at my map when one of his team-mates blasted a three-run homer minutes later. That made it Canada 3-0 China.

Canada's Stubby Clapp

I then went to the basketball and watched Spain's Anna Montanana drain a jumper for two of her 20 points in the win over the Czech Republic.

From there it was northeast towards the Capital Gymnasium and a dose of clothed women's volleyball. To be honest, even regular volleyballers don't wear much and there was a lot of leg on display in this clash between Russia and Kazakhstan.

The Russians were winning but the highlight for me was seeing Kazakh volleyball's answer to Peter Crouch. I didn't catch her name but she was wearing number five and you'd know her if you saw her.

Four hours in and I was at the Institute of Technology to see some gymnastics - the hundreds of people heading the opposite direction should have told me I was too late.

I went in anyway, though, and listened to two minutes of a Chinese press conference. As I left I heard a group of volunteers singing little ditties to each other through their megaphones. One of them might have been the girl who actually sang at the Opening Ceremony.

Table tennis was next and the hardest thing here was getting in. You see the staff are only trained to deal with very specific tasks. A journalist coming in through the main entrance (and not arriving by media bus) causes the system to grind to a halt. The fact he was sweating profusely probably didn't help either.

This would become a recurring theme but competitive spectators have got to deal with these kinds of problems so I was able to overcome all this and catch eight different games of ping-pong at once.

Too much of a good thing? Yes, probably. I tried to concentrate on Ma Lin's tussle with Panagiotis Gionis of Greece and not the cute Spaniard playing on the other side of the room.

China's Ma Lin in action against Panagiotis Gionis of Greece

It was judo next. Not much to say here except I filled my pockets with Oreo cookies in the media lounge and saw a Colombian beat an Italian in the women's 70kg category.

Six hours in and it was time to wrestle. To be honest, it was all starting to blur a bit now and the only real difference I can remember between the judo and the wrestling is the costume. And it's a big difference.

I also got lost in the bowels of the venue (I'd come in the "wrong" entrance again) and ended up in a room with 20 muscular blokes in blue blazers. They were the judges.

I eventually saw Steeve (usual spelling) Guenot beat Konstantin Schneider, apparently, and he would later win gold. Good lad.

I then pedalled hard past the Olympic Village and pushed on to my northernmost point, the Olympic Green Sports Cluster - archery, hockey and tennis.

This is where my ride started to become a cyclo-cross event. Bikes really aren't allowed this close to the heart of the "Green Olympics" so I was forced to park and proceed by foot.

The next 30 minutes saw me show my face (very briefly) at the tennis (Nadal was winning), narrowly miss Alan Wills' last-dart victory in the archery (I saw a Korea-Qatar match-up instead) and try to gain entrance to the Great Britain changing room at the hockey (it was locked).

That was 11 venues and 10 sports in just over seven hours. I was knackered. But then I remembered Emma Pooley's words after her silver-medal performance: "there's no secret, you just have to make it hurt".

So I headed south to the Water Cube for swimming, wandered around the corridors under the pool for about 15 minutes and eventually sat down to watch Malta's Madeleine Scerri win a three-woman, 100m freestyle heat. Now that's what the Olympics are really about, Michael.

From there it was a short trip to the National Indoor Stadium and an even shorter stay. It was locked. But the fencing venue was just across the road for me to bring up my dozen.

Fencing, by the way, is a great sport to watch. I wish I could have stayed for longer than three minutes. That was long enough, however, to see Yuki Ota of Japan win his semi-final and go absolutely bongo.

Japan's Yuki Ota on his way to a semi-final victory over Italy

I probably should have stopped now. It was dark and I was tired, hungry and smelly. But I wanted more and I really, really wanted to see some handball.

So it was south again to the Olympic Sports Centre cluster for five minutes of Norway's demolition of Kazakhstan (I think I was bad luck for the Kazakhs all day) in the women's event.

I will definitely return if only to hear more from the American announcer who ticked off a Norwegian player for "roughhousing".

The next 30 minutes saw me just miss the last water polo game of the day and follow my ears to the modern pentathlon stadium, where Olympic volunteers were pretending to be show-jumping ponies and the stadium announcer was practising his medal ceremony script (he thinks Cuba is going to win).

What happened next was an Olympic event of its own - the 20-minute time-trial to the Workers' Stadium for the last 10 minutes of the Argentina v Serbia football match.

And my lung-busting, salt-staining effort was rewarded when I flopped into a commentary position to see Diego Buonanotte curl a free-kick home from 25 yards out. Good night, indeed, Diego.

This was my 18th venue, 14th sport and 12th hour. It was time for the coup de grace. Step forward, you beauty, David Price.

Now is not the time to relay all that happened in the Workers' Gymnasium at around 2200 local time but suffice it to say Team GB's boxing captain hit the world number one from Russia harder than he had ever been hit before and he didn't like it.

Cue huge celebrations from Price and his loyal band of Scouse supporters. It was also great to see his team-mates James DeGale and Joe Murray jumping in the aisles too.

So that's the challenge. Can any of you top 15 different sports in a day?

Until I hear otherwise I'm going to assume it's a world record. I reckon it will be safe for four years at least.

Matt Slater is a BBC Sport journalist focusing on sports news. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


Comments

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  • 1. At 4:42pm on 14 Aug 2008, BenIsRight wrote:

    Nice for you that you could 'afford' all that. Im sure in 2012 very few people here could afford to see more than one event a day or 4-5 the whole olympics. Correct?

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  • 2. At 4:55pm on 14 Aug 2008, 'ChoNgA - MuFc ™© wrote:

    I must say..3 minutes at fencing is barely "watching a sport".
    Nevertheless, on that massive budget, i can imagine the spectacle of 15 sports in a day is rather good :)

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  • 3. At 5:09pm on 14 Aug 2008, Jordan D wrote:

    I'm fairly sure his budget was 'zero' considering he'd have a press pass and therefore have to pay zero to get into any of the venues. But that's a hunch.

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  • 4. At 5:27pm on 14 Aug 2008, ghwmcs wrote:

    Nice going!

    I'll beat you though. I have an Infinity pass and time to spare.

    Cheers.
    ;-))

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  • 5. At 6:15pm on 14 Aug 2008, MichaelMcL wrote:

    When you get home are you going to meet us all down the pub and show us all the photographs you took and show us the wacky t-shirt you bought, then bore us with stories of what you did on your 'hols'...wait, you are already.

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  • 6. At 7:00pm on 14 Aug 2008, raeisafudd wrote:

    Boring.

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  • 7. At 7:05pm on 14 Aug 2008, super_hype wrote:

    Matt Slater is a BBC Sport journalist focusing on sports news. Really?

    I thought he was just there to spout out big "headline" grabbing stories, filled with his personal opinions and little to no research. Oh and obviously have a jolly nice holiday bumming around Beijing.

    At least it gave the 5live/Internet crew something to constantly witter on about during the day however. In between moaning about various failures, showing their own ignorance/incompetence and very selectively reading out ever more banal texts agreeing with them.

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  • 8. At 7:23pm on 14 Aug 2008, HugeofWivey wrote:

    Ignore the sad gits above - I'm enjoying reading Matt's blogs - and this one has been excellent! Keep up the good work Matt.

    To be honest I'd rather read this than watch yet more gymnastics...

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  • 9. At 8:31pm on 14 Aug 2008, Ryushinku wrote:

    Yes, good fun to read about this 'multi-event' of your own and get a little slice of daily life in a typical Olympic day.

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  • 10. At 8:41pm on 14 Aug 2008, RiyaziFarook wrote:

    without a doubt your blog is the best.

    Yes Matt, as a Sri Lankan I always dream of CRICKET to be an Olympic game so that we can definitely go beyond the Silver medal (We got only 2 silver in Olympic history) to gold for raising flat at Olympics.

    Baseball, Handball, Softball, Volleyball,Basketball,Football,Hockey.......why not CRICKET?

    That is the only way we can win Olympic Gold very soon.

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  • 11. At 9:50pm on 14 Aug 2008, Bright Blue Shorts wrote:

    You've easily beaten my personal best of 17 events in 7 days at Athens 2004. I was watching events morning, 'noon and night.

    If it were for attending the beach volleyball four times I could have taken the tally up to 20 ...

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  • 12. At 11:18pm on 14 Aug 2008, thelovelyhotspot wrote:

    if i could be asked, i would go along to my local park tomorrow; ponderously bumble around for an hour, and smash your crappy record. Then I would go and tell all my friends about it, except, they would call me a loser, laugh at me then pity me before telling me to shut the hell up, a process of about 2 seconds.

    your meant to be at the olympics appreciating great sport and informing us about the news reletated to do with this. Of which there is no shortage of material, quite how then you can justify your pathetic excursion is beyond me. i hope there was not much licence fees payers money wasted.

    the funniest thing about the article, was your attempt at being funny, after that i got bored. im a slow reader so it took me 4 seconds

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  • 13. At 11:34pm on 14 Aug 2008, marc_england_efc wrote:

    I'm glad you got to see David Price. Some wise folks up here told me to lump on him when he was apparently 40/1 for gold about 2 weeks ago.

    I obviously never got round to it.


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  • 14. At 11:46pm on 14 Aug 2008, piechucker31 wrote:

    Lighten up you bunch of grumpy old men. It's a blog (wait for the pedants to say that is a technically incorrect term in this case, or possibly any case ever, yadda yadda), the point of it is to give a flavour of the experience and to help us imagine what it is like to be there. As someone who loves the whole Olympic thing but hasn't yet been to a Games I think that's great. The most boring people here are those who can't think of anything to say except the tired old rant about "waste of tax payers licence fee, harrrumph harrumph". How did you ever cope before the the advent of t'interweb and blogs or whatever the hell they should be called and the opportunity to make instant responses like this? All that anger pent up for so many years!

    Incidentally, just read and thoroughly enjoyed your article (in the "proper journalism" section) on Team GB cycling. Makes a nice change to learn about something the Brits are actually well known for doing quite well and how that has come to be.

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  • 15. At 11:56pm on 14 Aug 2008, smellslikesalmon wrote:

    I enjoyed the blog, you'll never please everyone. Gave me a feel for what was going on behind the scenes and some of the lesser known sports. For those of us unable to attend this sort of thing adds to the occasion.

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  • 16. At 01:53am on 15 Aug 2008, i_amAlena wrote:

    The article had some nice pics but that was about it.

    Well, also showed you were pretty good with a map, and it was probably a good map since it got you where you wanted to go.

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  • 17. At 01:56am on 15 Aug 2008, pt0608 wrote:

    Some of you guys should really lighten up.

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  • 18. At 02:46am on 15 Aug 2008, scudattack wrote:

    well i think it will be a golden friday and saturday for britain fingers crossed x!

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  • 19. At 09:57am on 15 Aug 2008, Matt Slater wrote:

    Hello all, lovely day here, perfect for a bike ride, in fact.

    Bit rushed at the minute as Cuba have just beaten the US at baseball and the Yanks didn't take it particularly well.

    Just to round up, nope, I didn't have to pay for any tickets as I've got a press pass.

    The map I used was a normal map. I just used it properly.

    Piechucker is right, there is a difference between "proper" journalism and blogging. I know some don't like it but many do.

    And superhype, you're also right. There's no "sports news" in this piece at all. That's the day job, I'm here doing this "flavour of the Games/Behind the Olympic curtain/what the punters can't see at home" blogging stuff. And do you know what? If you look through my usual stuff in the main search you'll find a fairly unremitting diet of scandal and outrage. And do you know what? Blogging is much harder.

    And Marc, you would have loved the Price fight. His band of supporters were like a harder version of The Coral and I had to translate DP's post-fight quotes for the person doing the official news service - "made up" caused some confusion.

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  • 20. At 10:12am on 15 Aug 2008, EastlyGod wrote:

    I'd like to see you try to do that in London Matt - try avoiding the traffic and the events will be spread all over the city....

    Loving the blogs though, some people need to lighten up...

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  • 21. At 12:51pm on 15 Aug 2008, Moutarde wrote:

    Good blog, Mr Slater. It's also great to see that the vast majority of readers who enjoy your blogs are now speaking up and drowning out all those Murray and Tour de France fans you've upset in the past. Jeez, they know how to hold a grudge, eh!

    To the Sri Lanka, I too, would love to see cricket at the olympics, although if you are talking about Muralitharan playing, I think he's already eligible for the javelin!

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