BEIJING (Reuters) – There has been little in the way of the traditional raucous ‘roaring game’ atmosphere at the curling rink at the Beijing Olympics but the mixed doubles teams are grateful to have had any spectators watching at all.
The National Aquatics Centre, built for the swimming events at the 2008 Summer Games, has seating for 4,600 people but actual attendance for the Winter Olympics has been capped at 20% of capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions.
With only some 200 fans spread out over six sections of blue seats, and dozens more dotting the opposite side, the venue is eerily quiet but for the curlers shouting, the brushes sweeping and the granite stones clanking on the ice.
However, Britain’s Jennifer Dodds said there was still a little bit of noise coming from the stands at the “Ice Cube” and that it made a nice change.
“It’s nice to hear the crowd again,” she added.
“The world championships last year was in a bubble, it was dead silent. So it’s nice to have that kind of background noise.”
With the men’s and women’s competitions on the horizon, other curlers have started to arrive at the arena to support their Olympic team mates.
“It’s always nice to have (support) when you have trained so much for something,” said Italy’s Stefania Constantini, who had the support of the men’s team when she and Amos Mosaner won the mixed doubles gold on Tuesday.
“I really enjoyed it, it’s really cool.”
Chinese spectators have been waving small flags featuring ‘Bing Dwen Dwen’ — the panda mascot of the Games — and clapping only at key moments.
“The last time I played in a major competition there were cardboard cutouts of people in the stands and that was a bit weird,” said American Chris Plys.
Plys, competing alongside Vicky Persinger, bowed out of the mixed doubles in the group stage but will join John Shuster’s rink for the men’s competition from Wednesday.
“We’ll take crowds any way we can,” he said.
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma; Editing by Peter Rutherford)