Friday, December 02, 2005

Think you can balance a basket of bread on your head for a 100 metre dash?
Fix a puncture in under five minutes?
Pedal a cyclo around Hoan Kiem lake with 200 kilos aboard?
Well then you could be a serious contender at the ...
The Steet Life Olympics

The skill, athleticism and hard work seen daily on the streets of Hanoi should not just be acknowledged, says Yorkie Pittstop, they should be celebrated in a competition

Watching the coverage of 23rd SEA Games in the Philippines is all very entertaining but I can’t help feel that life in Southeast Asia isn’t completely reflected through these sports.

Many of the events – not including the proliferation of martial arts – seem quite incongruously Occidental with a roll call that includes baseball, fencing, golf, snooker, beach volleyball and lawn bowls. There’s even a game of petanque going on somewhere in Manila.

Of course, the SEA Games is a wonderful opportunity to advance each countries sports development programmes to compete on the international stage, and so on so forth, but don’t you think a Southeast Asian Street Life Olympics would be just as much fun?

Perhaps, if one were to be organised in Hanoi it could inspire other places to follow suite. There could be street badminton with OAPs, U-12 football with one of those VND1,000 balls that levitates no matter how hard you kick it, xich lo races around Hoan kiem lake, plastic stool juggling, a 100m dash with banh my baskets balanced on people’s heads, puncture repairing time trials and instead of weightlifting you could have people tugging carts filled with sand or bricks, or women carrying those dual-baskets of bananas.

Many of the above events would be a tremendous way of promoting and rewarding all of those countless workers and low-income jobs that are the unsung heroes of daily life in Hanoi. Others would just be great fun. And anyone could join in any of the events.

Personally I’d be signing up for the bao ve (parking attendants) steeplechase. In this event, you get a ticket and one by one and competitors have to jump over the row of parked motorbikes, find the correct bike, squeeze it out from the tightly parked pack and wheel it back to the owner. Marks would be given for speed and presentation and there would be time deductions for dropping or scratching the bike.

If you think that sounds incredibly boring, or just plain silly, head on down to Dong Xuan market on a Saturday afternoon, pull to the side of the motorbike park and watch the parking attendants do their thing. Their showmanship, grace and effort really have to be seen to be believed. From dawn to dusk, they are hurdling bikes, snatching the handlebars with one hand, twirling the bikes on the kickstand and rolling it to the toes of the customer in the direction they’re about to be travelling.

Of course, it drives the middle-aged women waiting for their Honda Cub bananas, but that’s part of the fun. And perhaps the women wouldn’t be annoyed if they knew that the cheeky boy fetching her bike was no less than a bao ve gold medallist.

Yes, I can see it now, the Street Life Olympics. It’s not as silly as it sounds, you know.

1 comment:

James Sycamore said...

Banh My Pate Eating Competition? Banh My Beef Steak Freestyle Grease Skating Competition? Banh Khaoi Discus Competition? (Or better yet, that gigantic hard rice bread you eat with ground fried snake bones that I've forgotten the name of). Dangerous though - imagine how far one of them might fly at five paces!