Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bike race

Minsk is hosting the 2013 UCI Track Cycling World Championships this year, and I’d never seen a track cycling race anywhere. Naturally, I wanted to go. When I tried to figure out the schedule of events, however, I only managed to find very generalized advertising on the web. I knew the dates of the competition, but not the times of any events. Finally Alla plunged in yesterday and found a very nice page in both Russian and English explaining everything. I don’t know how I failed to find it two weeks ago.

Anyway, I went on down to the Velodrome after an early dinner and bought myself an excellent seat right over the finish line. That was the last time I actually needed to know any Russian. When I entered the building the guards had an interpreter to make sure I understood the procedure of metal detection and bag inspection. Once past the security force, I met another smiling (and very pretty) delegate who told me in English where I could hang my coat and how to find my seat. I laughed about how she immediately recognized me as a foreigner and she reminded me that it’s completely obvious.

Inside the spectator area I saw lots of promotional tables operated by hosts and sponsors. Most of them wanted to speak English with me, though I generally continued to answer in Russian. I found one exception to this linguistic rule when I decided to buy a program. I found an official chatting with two uniformed underlings and came over to interrupt them. The official turned to me as soon as he noticed my approach, and I told him I wanted to know where I could buy a program. He replied in Russian, “These girls can answer you in your native language.” “Oh,” I replied in Russian. “You can speak English?” The girls giggled with a trace of awkward caution and looked at each other. I teased them, “Can you speak English better than I can speak Russian?” Neither wanted to try, telling me in Russian where to buy a program.

I had a great time watching the races and an OK time watching the awards ceremonies. I really came to see bike races, and the Ice Girls don’t float my boat. The Ice Girls perform at hockey games and other sporting events. They’re cheerleaders, and I think they’re supposed to be sexy and tame at the same time. It’s an impossible task. I found myself wondering why these no-doubt well-paid entertainers would come on stage with dye jobs grown out weeks ago. (Actually, I think I know the answer. I think it’s a look here. It’s just another cultural difference, but it still surprises me on stage.)

The big awards kept going to Great Britain. I cheered hardest for the Mexican girl who won a silver medal in the scratch race, pleased to see somebody from my continent do well.

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