Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama & Tennis

Now that everything has settled with the US election I guess I should join the tens of thousands of other bloggers to voice my opinion on the results. First of all I was not really following the candidate's positions on issues. After all, I am not American so I was not really concerned with their policies regarding economics, social services, housing etc. I guess I should have cared about their stances on the economy given that their decisions would reverberate throughout the world's economy, but at the end of the day me caring or not caring is not going to have an impact on their policies.

I did however get caught up with the drama. The changing poll results, the shifting media focus from Obama to Palin to Obama again, the battleground states, the subtle racial, gender and religious undertones (will whites vote for Obama? Is McCain "Conservative Christian" enough? Will Hillary voters shift to Palin? The accusations that Obama is a Muslim.). I'm not even American and I can give you off of the top of my head the electoral votes for probably 20 states. What a bizarre election it was. I really liked how early on a guy on the street was talking to a reporter and said something to the effect of "minorities feel really charged about this election because for the first time you can vote for someone other than a rich white man".

So am I happy with the result? I would have to say that yes I am. Not because I am sure Obama has better policies, more because if I were an American I would have probably voted for him. Actually the truth is I would have voted for anyone who stood a chance of defeating McCain/Palin. Palin was a very conservative Christian who I believe was in favour of teaching creationism as a scientific alternative to evolution, and for that alone there is no way I could have voted for them. So Obama it is!

Obama has a tough job ahead of him and he is entering the presidency at a time when his country is really in a mess. On the bright side that makes his chance for reelection better since after four years it is highly unlikely things will have gotten worse so he will be able to take some credit for improving things (even if nothing he did caused the improvements).

I also forgot to mention that the season-ending women's tennis championships were in Doha a week ago. Thus I got to see the top eight women play which was awesome considering my tickets in the middle stands cost QR20 (~US$5.50). I saw Venus& Serena, Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva. No Sharapova though, she had to pull out of the tournament due to injury. By and large the tennis was good but I did not get to see the finals since I had to leave for Dubai that day.

There were three things about the tournament that were annoying though.

The first was people who brought babies to the tennis matches. Seriously, people actually brought their babies to an event where you have to remain silent while players are serving. The tickets specifically state that no one under two would be allowed into the stadium but obviously it had not been enforced. Not surprisingly at least once each evening someone had to run out of the stadium with their screaming baby. I do not think you would ever see that at any other major tennis tournament. Leave the babies and toddlers at home people!! With any luck next year security will enforce the "no one under 2" policy. Maybe it should be no one under 4. (And before anyone starts thinking that it was Arabs most of the people with the babies were Westerners)

The second was groups of schoolkids aged around 7-9 on some kind of evening field trip. Do you remember what field trips were like when you were that young? Right, we were all noisily laughing and chatting with our friends. And these kids were no exception. At one point both players stopped and stared at the umpire, who had to specifically tell the children to be quiet. Remember this tournament is broadcast by at least 20 major networks, so do have to stop play for something like that would be a real embarrassment for Qatar. The Qataris knew it as well, because after the umpire's comments security guards were up there in a flash keeping an eye on the kids for the rest of the set, and they were gone by the next set. There was another group of school kids the next night that security was there right from the get-go to keep them quiet.

The third was the distribution of tickets. At no point in time in the three nights I was there was the stadium more than 40% full, yet there were people waiting outside hoping to get tickets but the ticket booth didn't have any to sell. I know this because a friend of mine wound up with four extra tickets so went out front of the ticket booth and announced "who wants tickets?". 10 people surrounded him immediately. (By the way he sold the tickets at face value, he wasn't scalping). Obviously Qatar needs to take a look at this issue to try to figure out how to get more people in the seats. Since tickets for the middle and upper sections were so cheap (QR20 and QR10) I assume people were just buying a whole bunch and then not being too worried if they could/couldn't make it. But if the organisers make the tickets more expensive they probably won't sell them all so it is a bit of a conrundrum.

Now despite my comments above I have to say that this tournament was the best run out of the four major ones I have attended in Doha. Obviously the Qataris have been learning from previous tournaments and improving things. Hopefully next year's tournament will be even better.

And congrats to Venus Williams for winning. It was a shame that in her match with Serena that Serena's game fell apart in the last two sets (5-7, 6-0, 6-1) but it was still great to watch them.

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