The games are on.
In Beijing, crowds assemble in the evening in open spaces with large electronic displays. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs have either televisions or projectors screening the matches on walls. Friday night I attempted to walk home from the subway by cutting through The Village shopping mall in Sanlitun, which has a large open plaza in the middle. I had to walk around the tightly packed crowd gazing up at the monitor that usually displays the latest fashions in stock at local shops or listings for the cinema in the basement.
Last night friends and I started out the evening with dinner at Vineyard, a British-owned cafe, where diners glanced up at the game on the television. From there we went to an Italian cafe, Aperitivo, where we had espresso or aperitivos as the Argentina-Nigeria game started amidst cheers and groans. After greeting other friends there we made our way to nightclub Kokomo, where friends were DJing and we planned to spend the rest of the night dancing to mark the summertime departure of a good friend. A projector had been strung above the dancefloor using wire, a piece of flat cardboard or plastic to hold the projection unit, and plastic twine to hold it all in place. A group of Beijing's Nigerian residents danced while watching the end of the game, which their country lost.
When the US-England match started a group of people placed themselves on the dancefloor so that we'd have optimal viewing positions. Cheers went up when England scored their goal, minutes into the game, and everyone knew who supported which team. At some point some dancers knocked the projector out of position when they had their arms raised. Groans went through the crowd as we tried to watch the action now displayed against the speakers or the top of the DJ's head. There was widespread relief when the projector was shifted back into its optimal placement, in time for everyone to watch U.S.A. score against England and bring the match to a tie.
Last night, even more than usual, the question everyone asked new acquaintances was 'where are you from?". The World Cup celebrations, and citywide displays of national pride by Beijing's many groups of foreigners, will continue until July 11.