The roads leading up to the venue of the world championship were lined with posters and flags advertising the competition. Players entering the park on the opening day were greeted with a flag-lined road and a drumming display.
The championship was played in a purpose built "gateball theme park," its entrance marked by this spectacular gateball statue. Beyond the entrance, a winding road leads through a beautiful landscaped park to the new gateball museum and courts. Inside, there are twelve outdoor courts on grass and four underground courts on artificial turf.
Friday's opening ceremony was heavy on official speeches but ended with a spectacular dragon race. (See the Underhill Video.)
GATEBALL TABLE GAME
A number of equipment manufacturers peddled their wares at the competition. In addition to the usual range of gateballs and mallets, there were surprises, such as this gateball table game which, incidentally, gives you a good overview of the three-wicket court layout. There were gateball shoes (complete with grooves in the sole to help position the balls when sparking - known variously in croquet circles as "sending the ball" or "tight croquet") and mallets with angled heads (to assist with backspin and jump shots). All the manufacturers were Chinese, and prices were rock bottom, with mallets costing approximately $40 US.
Chinese teams dominated the championship. They had the most teams, theirs were the majority of the teams making the finals, and they won first, second and third places. The Chinese display highly developed defensive tactics and near perfect execution. The home teams varied in age and gender, and the crowd favourites were a Chinese primary school team that made it to the semi-finals.
In addition to the print journalists, several TV crews cruised the championship looking for likely subjects. Here's the host of the weekly Japanese TV show 'Super Gateball' interviewing a Chinese team who had just won a match in the finals. The number of cameras around each court suggested that there was at least one Chinese TV show also filming.
CROWD FOR THE FINAL
Many hundreds of people watched the grand final. While several VIPs (including CERN Croquet Club's David Underhill) had front row seats, others sat on stands or stood several rows deep to watch the two Chinese teams battle for the title. The crowd was rewarded by a tight match, in which a 'length of the court' maverick shot turned the game in the dying minutes. The winners were a mixed Fujian team with both male and female players of a variety of ages.
For more information about gateball in English visit www.gateball.com.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like any information or assistance to help you get gateball started in your part of the world or connect to an existing club.
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