It started and ended in chaos. On the first day of the competitions, queuing up outside Brighton Centre half an hour before The Taekwon-do Worldcup 2012 was about to commence, I wondered where it would all end, or rather, when would it all begin? Just a trickle of people was able to get through the door, not more than a crack in the wall that had been opened a little earlier. Most contestants, along with coaches, supporters and spectators were still waiting, shifting restlessly from one foot to the other, checking the time on their iPhone or ditto device, moving forward at an agonizingly slow pace. The tingling anticipation and the camaraderie worked their wonders, though, and one by one everybody seemed to succumb to the situation, enjoying themselves, each other and the beautiful day.
All of a sudden, as by divine intervention, several large doors swung open. Soon everybody was inside. People were swarming all over the place, like ants eager to finish work before a night with the queen. Contestants finding the place where they would “pitch tent” and camp down for the duration of the events. Getting into their gear, the right mindset, warming up or settling down to mentally prepare. Coaches resembling secret agents or body guards with their headsets glued to their ears, running back and forth, receiving and sharing information about who, where and when. Supporters and spectators stocking up on coffee, pastry and patience.
The games could begin. Which they did, after a smoothly performed opening ceremony topped off with a tenor’s goose bump triggering interpretation of Nessun dorma, None Shall Sleep, from Turandot by Puccini. The ending “At dawn, I shall win, I shall win, I shall win!” also befitting the occasion.
Of course, not everybody wins. And people do sleep; in between matches, on the floor, curled up in their seat, on top of their sports bags or companionably entwined with a teammate or three. Chaos continues to prevail; matches are constantly delayed for undefined periods of time. Even though the staff seems to have an overall plan, it more often than not appears to be developed or changed on an ad hoc basis. The details not always communicated to the coaches who develop an intricate system of nimbly darting in and out of the competing area, picking up bits and pieces from colleagues or an informed member of staff, immediately conveying what they know to the eagerly awaiting contestants next in line to enter the ring.
Despite confusion and disorder the contenders adhere to the appeal of one of the introductory speakers; to do their very best. And when their best isn’t good enough to win, or even go beyond the first rounds, they stick around. With genuine good will supporting, comforting or spurring on their mates. The well-wishing paying no heed to age, taekwon-do “standing” and often not even nationality.
Of which there are a quite a few. No less than 45 countries are represented by 1600 competitors and an additional 900 coaches, supporters, umpires and officials. Watching and interacting with people from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Nepal, Colombia, India, Japan, Jamaica, Argentina can hardly fail to have an impact on you. All have found their way to this five days lasting “universe” where everything revolves around the competitions, doing one’s best, having a good time and socializing, optimally making new acquaintances and friends in the process.
When the last day arrives, with team sparring on the agenda, feelings are running high. The undersigned who enjoys watching, but in general claims detachment to winning or losing, finds herself all worked up as the day proceeds. Nails get shorter by the second, hair bids an early goodbye to the morning’s grooming, heart beats as if in a middle of a marathon, voice soon takes on “a Johnny Cash”, and anyone who happens to stand near risk violent back, butt, head and arm squeezing and patting.
As more and more teams are literally kicked out of the ring, focus is on the remaining ones, till at last only two are left. At this point there is little indifference to be spotted. As the winners (and some of the supporters…) eventually jump on top of each other, hugging, kissing and laughing, one realizes that the Taekwon-do World Cup Brighton 2012 is coming to an end.
The following dinner at the excellent Brazilian Preto restaurant is brightly tinted by this and previous days’achievements. Happy chatter fills the air, photos are taken of the winning team, alone and with friends, coaches, kitchen chef, waiters and a publicity craving stray cat. An early departure in the morning is lurking around the corner, however, and soon people start drifting towards the exit. Where an immense line is forming in front of the lone person expected to deal with the bills of a couple of hundred people.
Again, chaos prevails, as so often in life. Still, it doesn’t have to ruin the day. On the contrary, if we let it, good may ensue from jumble and disorder. It provided the contestants of the cup with unexpected challenges and experiences, and in my case supplied me with great travelling tips that I otherwise would have missed out on. After half an hour I have, however, had enough, stuff some money into my travel informant’s hand and kindly ask him to settle my bill. Leaving the premises, the day after leaving Brighton. Full of pleasant experiences and a wish to savor them again, both Brighton and the next World Cup, wherever that may take place.