Cheering crowds celebrate opening Chinese win

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The Independent Online

A tremendous roar echoed through the white vaults of the Olympic football stadium in Tianjin when Xu Yuan scored the first goal for the Chinese women's team six minutes into a game against Sweden.

A thick mist hanging in the stadium obscured the view of the other side but the 79 per cent humidity did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the local crowd as China won their first match of the Olympic Games which formally open in Beijing on Friday.

Cheers of "Go China!," clapping and stamping resounded every time the Chinese team got the ball, building to a fever pitch as the game progressed. Boos for the Swedish team got louder and louder.

China won 2-1 to the joyous acclaim of a standing crowd outfitted with flags and noisemakers.

"Its very exciting!" said Wang Li, watching with her husband.

Local radio commentators objectively discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams but their voices rose with emotion when China neared the goal.

"I'm very tired but it's great," said Zhang Li, a volunteer with a blue shirt and ponytail.

Other hot and grinning young volunteers helped the crowd through security checks at the entrance to the airy stadium, while older security guards in white shirts kept a wary eye on two foreigners waving a large Chinese flag.

"I'll cheer for them all the way," said Ramon, a Pakistani medical student in Tianjin, as a group of young Chinese parading flags through the stands said "thank you" in English to him.

An American teenager was the only voice cheering for Sweden.

"I figured I'd even things out," she said.

But the home audience could also be a tough one. A groan of disappointment greeted the Chinese goalkeeper when she failed to stop the Swedish goal.

The Chinese women's team will have a tough fight ahead, said Zhu Chengfa, who wagered they would only make it to the final four.

"The Chinese team is in good condition, but it's not as easy as it was when only the U.S. and China had good women's teams," said Johnny Chan, a Tianjin native and football enthusiast.

"I think the pressure on them is too high with all the eyes of China on them. Sometimes we Chinese expect too much. I will be happy if they make the top four."