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Olympics heat up in New York bars
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It was a busy night in "Landsdowne Road," a popular sports bar in central New York, not only because it's Friday night, but also because of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The bar manager, who only identified himself as George, looked quite happy with the flow of people. "It is vacation season now in America, and the town is usually quiet between July and September. But we still get as many customers as before, thanks to the Beijing Olympic Games," he said.

"There were so many people here last night to watch women's gymnastic all-round. Most of them were girls. They like gymnastics," George said as he was interrupted by a big cheer from the crowd of visitors who were watching U.S. players competing in the tracks on the bar's TV screen.

At around 10 p.m., as Michael Phelps was warming up for the men's 100m butterfly, a middle-aged couple rushed in. "It's not too late," the woman panted, trying to comfort her male companion, visibly irritated.

Then they just pushed up to a screen, ignoring the presence of a waiter who wanted to serve them the menu. "Wait, wait!" the man cut in, staring at the screen.

The game started. Phelps was not in the lead in the first 50 meters and after he turned back, he was still not among the first three. The crowd began to worry. "Go, go, go!" They chanted.

Phelps started to catch up as if he could hear the people in the bar cheering for him. As he was swimming neck-and-neck with his rival Milorad Cavic of Serbia, everyone in the bar was silent, holding their breath, and their eyes fixed on the screen.

The result seemed too close to call. "Who won?" The nail-biting moment did not last long. When the scoreboard showed the name of Phelps, the crowd burst into loud cheers.

Around 20 people scurried into the bar just before the "Phelps game" started. Some of them were still excited as replays of the final moment were shown on the screen. "It is a narrow win, but Phelps won big," one commented. "He will get the 8th gold and set a new record in Olympic history."

"I have been trying to watch Olympics as much as I can, so do my family and friends. If I miss the live broadcasting, I will turn on the radio to get the result," said a young man who called himself Mike.

Steve, a loyal fan of the New York baseball team Yankees, said: "I love baseball, but it is Olympic time now. I have to make the choice, and tonight I am here for the Olympics."

They all noticed that China is now leading the medal charts. "Chinese athletes have been doing really well. Yang Wei deserved the gold in men's gymnastic all-round, and we've gonna watch Liu Xiang as well. And Chinese basketball played strong, they have Yao Ming," a man called Bob said. "But with the track and field kicking off soon, the U.S. will catch up."

It was almost mid-night. New York's early autumn rain cooled down the streets outside, but it could never dampen people's enthusiasm for the Olympics.

(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2008)

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