Dom Joly: Americans unable to win hearts and minds in battle of hands and feet

A Venezuelan woman beat an American up in Beijing yesterday – don't worry, it was only tae kwon do
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The Independent Online

Another breakfast of noodles and mushrooms laced with chilli – it can't be good for me but it sure tastes good. As usual I scour the Olympian, the local English language newspaper's Olympic supplement, for what I should go and see today. There isn't much of comic value on offer by way of sports – their little news articles however, do make me laugh as much as usual. They break down into two types:

1. The "amusing" story – like that of a baby that was born unexpectedly in the bathroom under the Beach Volley Ball Stadium. The child was named... Beach Volleyball. Not really that amusing, just a bit tragic really. Personally I'd have gone with Spike. Odd names out here are in the ascendancy – there's a spate of children called Manchester United and I even met a Cuthbert the other day at the coffee bar.

2. The patriotic story – there was a classic this morning about a group of plum farmers in Southern China who had made an image of the Olympic rings out of plums. They had even added a message written in plums: "Come on China!" This Herculean effort had taken them... an hour-and-a-half. There was a picture of the farmers with their plums out... on a mat in front of them. Stirring stuff.

I finish my noodles and make a decision to let fate take a hand in where I go today. I stroll out to the huge bus park where row after row of buses wait to whisk cosseted members of the media off to the various venues. Normally I'd check the huge information board or ask one of the volunteers which bus would take me where. Today I just jump randomly onto a bus (No 17, row 2) and off I go, into the great unknown. I look around me at my fellow passengers- there are quite a few Chinese, a man from Iceland and two Germans. What sport do they do in Iceland? I can only think of "World's Strongest Man" that always has a huge Icelander competing called something like Thor Siggunsssonnnn. Maybe I'm off to the weightlifting?

I don't have long to wait. A short journey – no more than ten minutes – and we arrive at tae kwon do. I'm actually quite pleased – I know nothing about the sport except that it's a martial art but I'm sure it's going to be interesting.

I arrive for the end of the Women's 49kg quarter-finals. Inside a huge yellow and blue square two women are kicking and punching the crap out of each other. The atmosphere is fabulous and America is fighting Venezuela so we have a bit of a geo-political bout to boot. Venezuela defeats the USA and the place goes nuts. I'm really enjoying watching but don't have a clue about the scoring. Once again I check the BBC website for help.

Tae kwon do literally means "hands and feet" and it hails from Korea. Pretty much anything goes except for low blows. Contestants have to wear either red or blue body armour known as "dobock" as well as groin protectors and head-guards. They need them as well – you can hear the thuds and thumps of the blows hitting home from high up in the stands. This is a far cry from the synchronised swimming that I had to endure yesterday.

Next up is the Men's 58kg quarter-final and an Afghan is up against a Mexican. An Afghan? Is there a big Olympic tae kwon do training facility in Kabul? If there is then it's very lucky not to have been wiped out by cruise missiles as a suspected Al Qaeda training camp. I can just imagine the Afghan tae kwon do team gym being raided by US special forces who cart them all off to Bagram Airbase for interrogation as enemy combatants.

"What're you training for?"

"We are going to Beijing to..."

"China!! So you're goddam' commie fundamentalist Muslims fighters then? Sergeant!!! When's the next flight to Cuba?"

The Afghan is defeated by the Mexican but eventually wins the bronze, Afghan-istan's first Olympic medal – well done sir, and do careful on the way home...

I've seen enough – I know when I'm getting bored because I start looking at all the national flags that are hanging around the place. Do you know which country is the only one not to have a rectangular flag? Give up? It's Nepal with a weird little double joined triangular shape thing. Don't ever say you never learn anything from me...