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Note: for Loyal Readers who tried to follow the basketball jet on the Flightaware map, much of the Anchorage to Shanghai segment was outside of the website's tracking area. So we did get data, but not the moving map.
✔✔✔ The Duke basketball team and dozens of fanatic supporters should be nearing Shanghai airport after a grueling trip that included a delay of more than 24 hours because of a mysterious malfunction that prevented the original jet from taking off from Raleigh Durham Airport.
Mysterious because FC could not find out all day Monday what went wrong.
Luckily the replacement jet had some business class seats for the lanky team members. Yes luckily, because most of the possible replacements on charter operator North American Airlines did not. And the word "some" -- meaning only 20 comfortable seats versus the 40 first class and business class seats that were in the planned jet.
And in coach, everyone had to sit 3-3, meaning you had a one in three chance of getting a middle seat. Remember these fans paid between $12,000 (double room) and $14,000 (single) for this, but they were on notice. This is the plane originally scheduled when the trip was in the infant stages. Later a more comfortable jet was advertised and this is the one that failed.
Shanghai Airport: The next step, after customs, is a bus trip that we estimate will take as long as three hours. The airport is on the East China Sea, and the team must negotiate a teeming city of 22 million people and then travel thru outlying rice paddies to a hotel west of the backwater of Kunshan. We anticipate arrival at the hotel just before midnight Tuesday local time.
And then a whirlwind. Because of the loss of a day of rest and light practice, the planned visit to one of the ancient watertowns (think Amsterdam and canals) in the region apparently has been scrubbed; that's a shame because that's the only thing to see for dozens of miles around Kunshan.
There will be on Wednesday (local time) a quick visit to the construction going on for the planned Duke Kunshan University, and then later in the day a game in a 6,000 seat arena in town. This is not on the campus as some reports have indicated.
As of this writing, the precise time of the game is up in the air. So is the opponent. Originally billed as China's national Olympic team, all the best Chinese players are in London for a tournament. So we'll see who dribbles onto the court.
The first game was not scheduled for TV, as later contests are. There will be games in Shanghai and Beijing, and then Dubai.
The second contest is also a whirlwind. After playing on Wednesday, the team and its entourage will not return to its hotel outside Kunshan, but will bus into Shanghai, for a different hotel and different arena for a game on Thursday. Whew.
✔ This concludes Fact Checker's breathless coverage of this publicity stunt -- made newsworthy only because of the travel delays. We do not know if the two Duke administrators who brought this absurdity to fruition are on the trip. One is Greg Jones, who had to resign as VP for global strategy because of ill health. The other is Blair Sheppard, who departed the Dean's chair at the Fuqua Business School on seven days notice.
The trip was conceived in the go-go days. Duke would have a second consecutive national championship! And it was rah-rah Kunshan, as Duke proceded oblivious to the risks and extreme costs of the Kunshan adventure.