Saturday 18 October 2008

Happy and Sad

The English Ladies team won the Gold medal by just 1 IMP ... Just ONE ! It was a marvellous achievement and I am so so proud of them all ... but I confess to being just a bit sad for the Chinese Ladies ... to miss out by such a tiny margin must have been heartbreaking.

I was also furious because the medal ceremony was held in the BICC which is about a 10 minute bus ride away. My bus left late and I missed the awards for the Women's medals which really did not do much for my joy :-( But at least I was there to see the English Open Team get their Silver medals - another great achievement, losing to the mighty Italians but not heavily - they really acquitted themselves well.

Now I am just packing up - the internet will be "switched off" in a few minutes and then my computer and I will return to the hotel, ready to head for the airport tomorrow morning.

For those of you waiting patiently for Sim pairs results and things like that, accept my apologies and assurances that "normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!" ... but I do plan to sleep for a couple of days after this marathon!

For my family and friends back home ... I can't wait to see you. 
For my many friends here, old and new alike, it was great to be with you in Beijing - a memorable championship indeed for many reasons. I wish you all a safe journey home - keep in touch and I will see many of you next year in Sao Paulo!

Signing off from Beijing - goodbye and in the immortal words of Douglas Adams "thanks for all the fish"

Friday 17 October 2008

Down to the Wire

The WBF official photographer, Ron Tacchi came to our office today (he manged to find a quiet moment which was nothing short of a miracle) and took a picture of the 3 of us for your education and delight !! 

As you look at it, Carol is on the left, Christine in the middle and I am on the right ... normally Christine sits at the desk at the back, but she joined us for the "photo shoot"

It has actually been an incredibly busy day ... having expected it to be fairly quiet but how wrong can you be ! First of all there was a meeting and we had to rush around getting the air conditioning switched off so they could hear themselves think, never mind speak ! Then get it put back on again - the Chinese Organisers think we are quite mad !!

Then there were the speeches to prepare - three of them, and the documents to transfer to memory sticks for the members of the Executive to take home instead of the great heavy files they normally have to lug back. The invitations for the Closing Ceremonyhad to be collected, and distributed. All our machines to back up, each to the other so we are all sure to have all the documents we need (and for security!). We all have individual back up devices of course but there is nothing like being a bit paranoid for safety!

We managed to escape all three of us for lunch which was nice - normally it is a sandwich in the office - but today we went to the restaurant together for a change

Then back to the office and a constant stream of people with questions about different things while we tried to pack up and destroy all the papers that we no longer need - such a full bin we have!!

But no chance of getting fully packed up - we will be back tomorrow morning I have no doubt. 

It isn't often I actually watch bridge on internet but the matches this evening are actually quite exciting. I will probably have to finish and upload this before the end, but of course all the results, bulletins etc are on the World Bridge Federation Site, and you can find all the bidding and play records etc here

You may (or may not) hear from me tomorrow - just depends how the day pans out - but you can think of us tonight at the medal ceremony, and then the Closing Ceremony is tomorrow evening and I fly back to England, home and beauty on Sunday ... where Mark will pick me up from the airport and in the evening my daughter Vickie & son in law Nick are coming over complete with supper so we don't have to worry about cooking. A glass of wine or two and I will tell them ALL about it! Unfortunately my grand daughter Jasmine is away, so I will have to wait until next week to see her. I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone again - I have missed them all so much.  Next weekend my younger daughter, Catherine, and her Mark (who have just got engaged to my delight) are coming up to discuss wedding plans, and so life will get back to normal ... lovely !

But even if I don't contact you tomorrow, I will be in touch soon no doubt so ... watch this space!

Thursday 16 October 2008

Getting there ... (but where is there ?!)

Last Executive Meeting this morning, the Committees all sorted out and their minutes ratified, and all the "paperwork" being put onto memory sticks to make it easy to take home.

We are still not sure about how the medal ceremonies will be organised tomorrow but the Chinese assure us they have it in hand, and they are dealing with the Closing Ceremony tickets etc which is wonderful as that is usually a MAJOR job that Carol, Christine and I get landed with and we HATE it !! So we are really feeling quite relaxed - I would be a bit more relaxed if my poor little legs weren't quite so stiff after the steps at the Great Wall yesterday!

But I will certainly be getting to the medal ceremony because our English Open & Women's teams will be "featuring" with at least a silver medal in each event !! Wonderful ....

We are suffering a bit today to say the least - the air conditioning (which was asthmatic at best) had to be switched off completely this morning because it was so noisy in the meeting room that  no one could hear themselves think ... and we daren't ask them to switch it back on as there is another meeting tomorrow and as it took them 4 hours to turn it off today (and "the boss" was nearly going mad!) we have decided to leave it off until after the meeting and suffer! 

We are all a bit jaded, but everyone is looking forward to getting home I think, and being able to relax ... there is a lot of frantic last minute present buying, and I confess that I have finally got around to writing four postcards to my "nearest and dearest" which will doubtless get home long after I do but - hey, there you go ! Shopping has been the last thing on my mind, so my case will sadly be devoid of prezzies! Several people have managed to nip out and get tailor made shirts and suits for incredible prices ... and I am told the silk market is just lovely (well, you would expect that of course). I am not bemoaning my lot on this front though - shopping is not in my top 10 favourite pastimes I am afraid ! 

Right - time to go and do a bit of work before heading back to the hotel - going out with a great friend tonight, Ron Tacchi, whose sister lives here ... I am told we are going to a restaurant where the food is great but the surroundings are a bit unsalubrious so I think I am looking forward to it ... tell you tomorrow !!

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Escape to the Wall !

Well, yesterday's blog was a bit patchy, but hopefully this will make up for it !

Armand Trippaers, President of the Netherlands Federation invited us to go to the Great Wall to do some sightseeing. Christine didn't want to come, but once he had asked "the boss" if he could take us, Carol and I were delighted to accept. It was agreed that we should leave early in order to be back in time to do some work in the afternoon, so our alarms duly buzzed at 06.30 (mmm ...) and at 7.30 we boarded the minibus and started on our way. We were all delighted to note that it was obviously going to be a "blue sky day" ... there was a little mist, but it was clearing and it looked as though it was going to be glorious, as indeed it turned out to be.

It was a very interested journey - abut 2.5 hours, first of all out of modern Beijing, heading North on the toll road - an excellent road if a little alarming as you can overtake on either side, something that we don't get happening (legally) in England. 

After about 3/4 of an hour we reached the end of the motorway and headed out into the country, and this was China much more as I remember it from 1995 when I was last here. The road was dusty and bumpy, the overtaking was (frankly) terrifying, and the lorries were heavy haulage and VERY old! Alongside the road there were vendors selling fruit on the hard shoulder, something I certainly wouldn't have wanted to do, as occasional cars "overtook" lorries on that side! Some of the vendors just had hand carts, but there were also donkey carts and a few with the small three-wheeler flatbed carts. I was surprised at how dusty it was, and the rivers were very low. We passed by one big town, where there is masses of construction going on, and past a massive school where the children were in the playground in straight lines, looking very disciplined then past an area with row upon row upon row of aspen trees at various stages of development - miles and miles of them.

Then we came to a gateway over the road, guarded by two of the dogs of Fo, onto a smaller road that led through "the Jing Herb Art Park" and the "Purple Park" where they grow herbs, and there were swathes of purple flowers - I don't think it was lavendar, the leaves looked wrong, but it was beautiful. We started climbing up into the mountains, and the Virginia Creeper was tumbling down the rocks in rivers of scarlet leaves.

Then finally we came round a corner and there on the top of the mountain was the wall ... wow! It was just fantastic. 

We all piled out of the bus, and went to the cable car - two people in an open car and we swung slowly up the mountain, with the views changing and the wall getting ever nearer. Out of the car, and up some steps to the small railway which hauled us up the next bit ... looking down was a bit like looking down one of those terrifying water chute rides at fair grounds!

Then - oh my god then ... I think it was 9 LONG flights of steps, carved out of the rock face, with a chain for a "hand rail" and the roughest climb I have ever done. And I didn't take my trainers to Beijing so was wearing leather soled shoes. My poor knees hated it but I made it .. and the view from the top was ... unbelievable. You could seek the wall stretching for MILES - 6,500 kilometers I am told though obviously we couldn't see that far ! We were at the bit called Simatai, which I was informed is the highest point that tourists can get to (after that climb I can well believe it!).

We sat in the sun and drank in the beauty. There were some wonderful little leaf bugs crawling around, but very few birds. The leaves on the shrubs (too high for trees I guess) were turning to the golds and reds of autumn and far below we could see a small village, with a farm carved out of the mountainside in steppes. On the other side, the cable car looked like tiny flags swinging across the valleys and away and away in the distance were more and more mountains.

Then it was time for the descent, down those rough steps, down the scary little train and swing our way across the terrain in the cable car. Back to the bus, where Armand had thoughtfully arranged an excellent packed lunch for us to enjoy on the way home. 

Pictures are here

We arrived back at the Convention Centre to find that no one had really missed us, but we both had a pile of papers to deal with and things to type, but it didn't take too long. Now it is 7.45 and - well ! What a great evening for the English Teams! Not only did our U-21 team win silver a couple of days ago, but tonight both the Open and the Women's teams qualified for the Finals, so are guaranteed medals as well. I have seen some of the players and obviously they are delighted, as am I. Details of the team can be found on the EBU Website ...

Tuesday 14 October 2008

very quickly ...

I have to go to a meeting, even if it is 6 pm, so this is really just to say I haven't forgotten you all , but it has been a bit busy here to say the least ! And I left a bit early last night becasue I was invited to a cocktail party with the ACBL, then out for dinner with two of the Irish ladies, which was wonderful (thank you Kay and Mary ...) !

Now I have been asked to go and meet Anna Maria and talk about Women's bridge, and I have to be there in 2 minutes so I am going to love you and leave you and will tell you more tomorrow !

sorry ...

Sunday 12 October 2008

I am NOT very happy !

The air conditioning has given up completely and it is 33 degrees in here - that's 91F for us old-fashioned ones. It is humid, the sun is glaring through the non-see-through glass and it is like living in a sauna! And now security has closed off the lifts and the exits so we cannot move around the building (there is one cool room and we keep going to cool off) becasue a "very important person" is coming to look round. I do appreciate fully that security is of paramount importance, of course I do, and I would rather have it properly secure of course, but it is very annoying at the moment!

We are tied to our desks until 8pm tonight, as we have to wait for the start of the transnational teams to make sure everyone has paid ... then there is going to be a very quick rush to the bar I am sure! Jean Claude Beineix saved us earlier by going and buying us all ice creams! And David Stern has saved our sanity throughout the championships by bringing with him a Nespresso machine so we have been able to have good coffee in our office - thanks David, you are a star :-)

Oh - there is hope. Some Chinese men have just come in with temperature gauges and looked at the thermostats and examined the ceiling (which is all pipes) very closely. Maybe, just maybe, we might get it a bit cooler. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

I left you last night to go off to the IBPA dinner, where I had a really great evening - it was held at a Brazilian Churrascaria and was such fun! they bring the meat (and yummy prawns!) round on skewers to the tables, and you can eat as much as you want. There is an array of salads on the buffet as well which were lovely. Then back to the hotel, a quick drink with friends and so to bed ...

Now I am sitting quietly in the office - the frantic registration of the Transnational Teams has calmed down, and there are just a few that we wait for as they still have to pay - play will start at 20.00 hours at which point I am going to disappear rapidly to the bar and thence to the restaurant for a bowl of spaghetti followed by a much needed shower and an early night - provided the amount of coffee I have consumed doesn't keep me bouncing off the walls all night of course :-) 

Oh - and the air conditioning has managed to get the temperature down .... by 1 degree !!! Not what you would call a great success - ho hum. Maybe if it keeps going all night it will be cooler in here tomorrow.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Doldrums ...

At every championships there are a couple of days when you wonder what on earth you are thinking of, being here and not at home, and why on earth do you do it ! Well, that's where we are now - it will probably pick up in a day or two, as the general excitement builds up towards the end of the competition, but at the moment, to be honest, all I want to do is get on a plane and come home! Not helped by the fact that I have toothache - not drastic but enough to be a bit of a worry ! Everyone is starting to look decidedly jaded though ... it isn't just me. It is a long and hard schedule. Many of us start before 8 in the morning and work till 8 in the evening without any days off, and the playing schedule is also heavy. I am sure we will all perk up in a day or two, it is funny how this tends to happen at every tournament though.

Anyway, the transnational teams are coming to register and pay now, which is giving us plenty to keep us occupied. There are the various committee meetings being held ready to report back to the final Executive Meeting next Thursday, so Carol is busy with sets of minutes etc. 

Tonight I am going out as a member of the Press (well I write blogs !!) to the International Bridge Press Association dinner - it is their 50th Anniversary as well, and so it should be quite fun I think. Anyway it will make a nice change from eating in this hotel ... I am told we are going to a South American Restaurant which seems bizarre here in Beijing so it will be interesting to see what it is like!

For those of you waiting for Sim Pairs to be finalised, I can only apologise for the delay, but doing it from China isn't so easy ! I will do it all as soon as I can I promise. I think holding the Olympics here must have worn out their internet connections, because ours is decidedly slow :-))

Time to go and do a bit more work before heading off for the dinner ... more soon ...

Friday 10 October 2008

And I thought it would be more relaxing today !

How wrong can you be !! There was me thinking that with the big meeting out of the way, and the 50th Anniversary Dinner that it would be more peaceful ... how wrong can you be!

anway, let's start with last night - we went to the Crown Plaza hotel, for what was really a most enjoyable evening! I was on a table with Carol, Mark Horton, Patrick Jourdain, Per & Britt Jannersten and David Stern from Australia, and we were then joined by the Vice President of FIDE, so had a chess player in our midst. I didn't manage to pronounce his name at all - it is Zurab Azmaiparashvili and he is from Georgia; he and his wife were excellent company and very interesting to talk to so I had a really lovely evening (the food was good too !). We were presented with special medals to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the WBF which was lovely as well, and I am delighted about that as well. 

This morning started with the WBF Women's Committee Meeting - I am secretary to the Committee so was there to take the minutes (memo to self - get them typed up!) and it was a very lively meeting with decisions made about Women's Online Tournaments (for more information and to go on my Women's Bridge mailing list, just email me)

Then I had to get all the invoices ready for the Transnational Mixed Teams and get some of the later entries into the database, while at the same time fielding questions from teams, individuals, Executive members etc about various things.

Now it is just about time to close down and head to meet an old friend in the bar to catch up on some gossip ... I am just waiting to see if I am needed after the Captains' Meeting which is going on next door to my office, where they are deciding who-plays-who in the Round of 16. Nailbiting stuff it seems ... all very intense in there with the Bulletin Staff and press waiting to get the news of the draw.

Oh - I am told it was ANOTHER blue sky day today ... they are coming thick and fast !!

Right - time to leave ! more tomorrow ....

Thursday 9 October 2008

Big meeting day ...

Today saw the WBF Meeting of Congress, attended by a record number of delegates from the competing countries here in Beijing. The meeting went well, and was rounded off nicely by a very enjoyable cocktail party (they do know how to do good food here !) ... it was great to have a chance to talk to the respresentatives of some of the NBOs and to socialise with them for once. It is also lovely for me to have the chance to put some "faces to names" as I communicate with so many of them by email on a regular basis but often haven't the faintest idea what they look like. And even, I confess, whether they are a man or a woman, as some of the names are so very different to the names I am used to! I have had one or two surprises in the past, expecting to meet a man only to find out it was a woman - very disconcerting I can tell you.

Anyway hopefully I have managed to persuade a few more countries to join us for the World Wide Bridge Contest in June, which would be fun !

I have taken one or two photographs around the place - nothing exciting, but if you want to look at them, I have uploaded them to my flickr account and have added some descriptions to tell you what and where they are.

tonight is the 50th Anniversary Dinner - the WBF is 50 years old this year - and I will try and take a few pictures there and put them up. But that also means that I am typing very fast at the moment as I need to go and change and put my "posh frock" on !! And maybe even treat myself to a bit of eye makeup !

Mark and I got our webcams working today as well, so now he is in real trouble if I don't see him in the office in the mornings ... he may live to regret having done that :-) ... 

Now I must go and change ! more tomorrow ...

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Another blue sky day ...

It looked glorious out of the windows this morning - brilliant blue skies after all the rain yesterday. Everyone is hoping it will be nice again tomorrow as it is a free day for the players and I know a lot have trips planned to places like the Great Wall.

For us it is the big Meeting - the WBF Meeting of Congress, attended by delegates from all the countries present, and followed by a cocktail. It takes a lot of organising and we are going to be running around from quite early in the morning I expect ! Carol has been photocopying agendas and papers all day, and we have all been working on making sure everyone knows about it.

As it is the 50th Anniversary of the WBF we will be showing some wonderful old photographs of the players as a slide show - you can see some of them by clicking here (you will need to download and install Silverlight) as Mark has done a special Deep Zoom application with them. We are running the slideshow on a computer here in the office, and it is fascinating to see the pictures!

After some initial problems of the computers not talking to each other properly and thus not displaying all the scores, this seems to have been sorted out finally, and that side of things is running smoothly. The noise levels in the corridors between sessions is rising as the players get more excited because of the tension ! You hear them coming with very animated discussions going on about who should have bid or played what differently :-) I am so glad I don't play any more !

The time differences are disconcerting  as Mark only comes on line in the afternoon local time, but it is early in England ... my daughter Vick and son in law Nick come on channel at about the same time and we all have a nice natter (Vick is a dance teacher and one of my favourite things is to see her and my granddaughter dancing ...) through MSN. Then come about mid day their time it is time for me to think about closing the lid and going off to get some food and a night's sleep! It seems very strange.

So - it is 6.30 pm now, and I am going to stop, do a little bit more work (having messed up an important import into the main database, I have had to delete all the records I imported and do it all again, so annoying and so very stupid). Once that is done I am going to stop for the day ..

more tomorrow ...

Tuesday 7 October 2008

It's very late ...

 So this is just a short note tonight - I am hungry and tired, but there was some work I needed to do on Simultaneous Pairs, never mind stuff for here today!

The championships are hotting up and I am told that the bridge is getting quite exciting ... it certainly seems quite tense now as I walk through the playing rooms, and everyone is coming along the corridor discussing hands - well, shall we say - vigorously !!

Work in the offices continues much as normal - the main meetings finished today, and we have been working on delegates lists for the WBF Meeting of Congress which is on Thursday, to try and ensure that as many countries as possible are represented as it is important for everyone to know what is going on in the WBF and how things are going to develop in the future.

Our coffee machine (we have one in the office courtesy of lovely David Stern from Australia who brought it with him) is being overworked now that we have been able to get some extra capsules of coffee, but it is keeping us all going especially at those moments after lunch when you really start flagging - nothing like a good espresso for waking you up !

I shudder to think how many photocopies are being made - I will try and get hold of some statistics for you before the end of the event, because the numbers stack up like you would not believe!

and now ... I am going ! more tomorrow !

Monday 6 October 2008

Monday Monday ....

It seemed a bit calmer today somehow, though the office was humming most of the day. The problems seem to be lessening a bit, and we are getting into the swing of things. Carol had meetings again, but only in the morning as in the afternoon they all went to the other Centre where the Youth Games are being played, so she was back in the office with us and the "witches coven" was complete again :-)

The sun shone in Beijing today - it was what they call one of their "blue sky days" which I gather are few and far between because of the pollution ... the rain yesterday settled it down and the sun today really shone. Shame I couldn't get out in it really as it looked beautiful. 

By the way, on the Beijing information page I have put various links to the results, vu-graph and other blogs, so do go and have a look at them - and if you are doing a blog from the Championships, send me the link and I will add it.

Last night I went to a fabulous Indian restaurant with some friends, mainly from the Bridge Press ... we all ate far too much but it was delicious. Quite a long taxi right to "downtown Beijing" but at least we could see something of the city by night and that was good. And we were lucky to find a taxi on the way back with a driver who actually knew where our hotel was - it was built for the Olympic Games and very few of them can find it !! We know people who have been in taxis for over an hour as they try to get here on a trip that should take about 10 minutes :-) 

So - now it is the end of a long day so I will once again call a halt ... more tomorrow !

Sunday 5 October 2008

Long and tiring day ...

So, it is Sunday - it has been raining most of the day though obviously that hasn't affected us. There seem to have been a lot of niggling problems today, that have really prevented us getting much real work done. The technical problem of no results being available on the web until last night was duly solved thank goodness, though there are still some glitches - getting different systems to "talk" to each other seems to be the problem!

The venue for the Youth Games  is quite a distance away, and that in itself causes problems with the shuttles and makes it difficult for people getting here ... the traffic is very heavy but we are told it will improve this week now that the Chinese holiday is over - it seems that the world wanted to visit the Olympic site during their holidays and it has been incredibly crowded and busy.

I assume the bridge is going well - the playing rooms are enormous as I know well, since I have to cross them to get to the area where we can get our lunch! It seems like miles.

I am sad to be here today, though because I am missing Mark's birthday - again! I was in Shanghai last year and this year it is Beijing. The good news is that next year, when we are in Sao Paolo, it is much earlier and I will be back in good time to celebrate with him ! So - HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mark!

The Executive Meetings started today, so Carol (Carol von Linstow, the WBF Secretary) was in the meetings all day "minuting" which Christine Francin (the Assistant Treasurer) and I dealt with the various things that came up during the day. 

So now I am quite tired. And I am off out of the hotel for a change, going with some members of the Press to an Indian Restaurant they have found and I am really looking forward to it. I hope I won't be too late to bed, as it will be an early start again tomorrow (07.30 in the office this morning - yuk! ) 

Saturday 4 October 2008

Let the play begin!

Well, we are underway ! All the Championships have started. 

As I finished my blog last night, I was leaving for the Opening Ceremony - now I would be the first to admit that Opening Ceremonies are ... not my favourites! But last night was really excellent. 

First of all, the Open, Women's and Senior Teams were hosted to a Welcome Cocktail in the hotel, which was most enjoyable and then we (i.e. all staff and officials) went on a slightly chaotic bus ride through Beijing to the National Indoor Sports Arena for the Youth Teams Opening Ceremony.

First of all, there was a parade of flag bearers for each competing country - 143 of them, with delegates from the five Mind Sports represented here in Beijing. Most of them were carried by Junior players from bridge, many in National Dress and it was lovely ... the youngest was 13 years old! Then there were, of course, the speeches, and after that some great dancing, which I thoroughly enjoyed ... I confess that the symbolism of some of it was lost on me but it was lovely all the same. And then there was a special ceremony with a representative from each continent bringing a container of water, the source of life, and pouring it into a container to show harmony between nations. All very well done. Then back to the hotel for a bite to eat and so, in the words of the great Dr Johnson, to bed!

This morning was fairly hectic, with all the teams arriving in droves but play started on time and is going well as far as I can tell (though to be honest I rarely get through into the playing area!). It is lovely and peaceful when play starts though ... they all sit down and silence descends.

My plan is for a quiet evening tonight - the Executive Meetings start tomorrow and I am hoping for an even more peaceful time so that I can get the Transnational Entries done (otherwise someone is going to kill me !)

Watch this space ... there will be more

Friday 3 October 2008

Safe in Beijing

Well, I arrived in China safely after a very uneventful if somewhat boring flight … I am lucky as jet lag doesn’t seem to affect me. We landed at about 9.20 and were taken by shuttle to the Beijing International Convention Centre to collect our badges – unfortunate that, as someone else had collected them on our behalf and brought them to the hotel and the other convention centre, the CNCC, so off we shuttled again over to our hotel. I am very lucky to be staying at the Beijing Intercontinental, and very nice it is too – my room is enormous with all “mod cons”.

The usual chaos greeted us of course – it is amazing how everything seems to come together though, and as I write this we are heading for the Welcome Cocktail which is being held here for the Open, Women’s and Senior Teams and then we go off to the Opening Ceremony for the Youth Teams which is being held at the Indoor Sports Centre.

We are right in the heart of the Olympic Village here – there is a “bridge” between the hotel and the CNCC and as we walk across we can see the Birds Nest Stadium and the Water Cube – not much to look at during the day, but spectacular at night.

The playing rooms are in the area that was used to stage the Olympic Fencing competitions and is enormous, very well lit and a great area for the teams games. I haven’t had a chance to get to the auditorium where the vu graph is being held but I am told it is magnificent!

I will try and keep a blog going (and get some pictures up) so that you can get a bit of a “behind the scenes” flavour of the event. So do come back for more !