Aug 24, 2008

Olympics: water polo finals

Today was the event that I think I looked forward too more than any of the other sports: the men's gold medal water polo match. When I bought my ticket in the first application round, about a year ago, I had expected I would be watching Hungary and one of Serbia or Montenegro.

It was a wonderful thing indeed that the US team had its best Olympic performance in 20 years and made it all the way to the final match. As another added bonus, my ticket not only included the gold medal match, but also the bronze medal match, and the 5th-6th place classification match before that. So I got to see:
You couldn't ask for a more interesting day of world-class water polo. I've never seen such a high level of water polo play in-person before.


Here's Croatia on offense against Spain:




You can see the Croatian team's Borat-style mustaches a little bit in this photo:




Montenegro on offense against Serbia. This was an interesting match to see, but it seemed too much like a scrimmage without a lot of meaning for the players. They didn't seem that into the game.



I've heard that water polo is the national sport in Montenegro, and that kids grow up tossing around water polo balls rather than baseballs and footballls. I've also heard that it's similar in Hungary. Not having been there to confirm it for myself, I can tell you that these Hungarians are really into their water polo. It would be great if we could have this much interest in the US and not have participation focused so much in California only.

For the gold medal match, the Hungarian fans outnumbered American fans by 5-to-1, I'd say. I had my American flag of course, but the Hungarians went a lot farther than that. They had their faces painted with Hungarian flags, Adidas track suits in their national colors, and there were more than a few Hungarian guys that showed up in the caps of their favorite players. Check out these two:








During the first two matches, the audience sat normally. For the gold medal match, however, everyone was standing the entire time. The Hungarian fans had some standardized cheers that they would all do together. Too bad I couldn't understand Hungarian, but probably something like "Go Hungary".

There were quite a few American flags and USA! USA! chanters, myself included. Team USA got a turnover and scored on Hungary in the first quarter at one point, and I started yelling out USA USA, and I got what I think was a snide remark from a Hungarian fan. Not really sure what he said, since he was talking that Hungarian talk, but he sure looked snide. I guess that's the abuse you've got to take when you're a US fan in a sea of Hungarian red, green, and white. The snide guy didn't give me any more guff after we continued to score goal after goal in the first two quarters. Too bad the second half of the game didn't go as well.

Overall, the game had a really loud and passionate atmosphere, exactly what you'd expect at a gold medal match. Here's team USA's pregame huddle:




Hungary on offense against USA:




USA on offense against Hungary:




Hungarian fans with their banners and flags. This one says "Csurg├│i KK", which is apparently a handball club in Hungary. I guess he didn't realize this was water polo, not handball.




Final score:



Not a bad finish at all. 14-10 is pretty respectable against a team like Hungary for a team like the US that wasn't expected to get anywhere near the finals.

Here's the medal ceremony, with the US team on the board:

2 Comments:

Blogger Ben said...

1) You are just jealous that you don't have any scarfs that have any kind of US colors or team on it.

2) Water Polo is not a national sport i nMontenegro and Hungary. Soccer is. Even though they are not good at it. Water Polo is just popular and has a good farm system/history.

3) If you went to any other event where Hungary played you would of noticed the large, coordinated, standing, Hungarian cheers. Not just at water polo. There is a culture of cheering at a sporting events (NOT sitting the whole game eating popcorn) Also there is at least 10 different cheers that you heard, not just one.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

@ben:

>> 1) You are just jealous that you don't have any scarfs that have any kind of US colors or team on it.

I agree, it would have been nice to have a scarf. I noticed that a lot of fans from Serbia, Russia, and Hungary especially would have scarfs at the Olympic events. All I usually had was an ordinary flag.

>> 2) Water Polo is not a national sport i nMontenegro and Hungary. Soccer is. Even though they are not good at it. Water Polo is just popular and has a good farm system/history.

Good to know, thanks for the correction.

>> 3) If you went to any other event where Hungary played you would of noticed the large, coordinated, standing, Hungarian cheers. Not just at water polo. There is a culture of cheering at a sporting events (NOT sitting the whole game eating popcorn) Also there is at least 10 different cheers that you heard, not just one.

Good to know. I agree, the Hungarian cheering was very well coordinated. I'd compare it to the cheering that goes on during Big 10 football games in the US, equally loud, and with some very specific chants. It would be interesting to know what the specific cheers were and what they translated to in English, for future knowledge. I would have liked to have seen better organization and coordination from the US fans.

6:06 PM  

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