So, this past weekend, the guy who runs the VietClimb climbing gym organized the 2012 Gravity Games to highlight the urban sports in Vietnam. The opening ceremony had some folks demo their skills riding their BMX bikes, doing their parcour flips, working their push hands, precisely inline skating around small obstacles, and juggling the soccer ball.
There were more activities, but … climbing is what consumed most of my time. I entered the competition to show that Hanoi does have a climbing community. I’m happy to say I completed all the routes I attempted, which put me in the final 8. Yes, the final 8. Before you think that means I can actually climb well, let me attribute it completely to a slightly strategic series of decisions on my part to take advantage of the scoring system. There was no value in trying a hard route you couldn’t complete. If you didn’t complete the route, you got no points. I completed much easier routes and got points every time. Like I said, there were much better climbers than me who should have been in the top 8, but I didn’t push myself like they did … and I was rewarded.
Just to be clear though, there were 9 competitors …. Just kidding. We actually had about 20 or so men and women. It was great to see. The original plan was 10 routes, but then Jean cut it to 5, then to 4 due to time constraints.
Between rounds of climbing, I did manage to see a few of the other events going on. There were parcour kids jumping over obstacles, BMX and in-line folks doing the half-pipe bringing back childhood memories of not ever being able to skateboard. There were also the skateboarders. What was neat, for me at least, was that the folks doing this really were kids. Just give them about 10yrs and they activities that put them on the fringe of Vietnamese culture and society may become quite mainstream.
I got this clip of some kids in the popping (I think that’s what they’re calling it) demo.
At the end of the day, you could see the traditional Vietnamese culture pressing on the urban sport culture. There is little open space in Hanoi, so people squeeze their activities into any space they can find, hence the appeal of activities like parcour, climbing, and theatrical street soccer skill displays. The more traditional Vietnamese past times, by traditional I mean what I see everyone doing since I’ve arrived, include badminton, walking, and gyrating in unaesthetic, inathletic ways that leave me wondering how they haven’t dislocated their back or shoulder.
The two worlds collided when the skaters had to move their platform to make way for the folks setting up the badminton nets. The park which had been open enough for skaters to get speed quickly filled with people from the neighborhood using the park.
Overall, it was a beautiful day weather-wise and it was fun to be there, feeling the energy from the competitors and the participants. Next year, mark the 2013 games on your calendar.