Monday, August 25, 2008

Report from Beijing

My friend JP is in Beijing working at the Olympics. She sent me this report:
The city is much different then I expected and even better then I thought it would be. I will say all of it is better then Athens was in 04. I am able to read the Lipstick & Dipstick blog here, I had heard anything with blog would be blocked but you are readable in China! They are being more lenient on the online stuff since the international press complained.


Beijing isn’t what I expected. I expected people everywhere, crowds everywhere you walk and it isn’t that way. There are areas where things are more crowded but it’s so spread out, that it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

My first experience at Olympic Green was not the best. There were not any signs in English, we didn’t know what entry we were going through, what venues we would find and since there are 3-4 at each complex we really didn’t know where we were going. None of the volunteers seemed to speak English, the little they did, they just kept pointing us down the road, and we had no idea we had to walk the entire complex and cross a bridge and enter a new complex to get to the Water polo venue. Oh and it was pouring rain that day. But we did make it.

I think it’s amazing that so many countries travel to the games and support their country. My friend Roz and I went to Men’s Water Polo and saw Hungry vs Montenegro. We found ourselves sitting in the middle of a huge group of Hungarians, all with flags, painted faces, horns, signs, everything you could imagine. They all knew every player’s name, chanted, screamed, yelled, it was very entertaining.
I’ve also seen swimming, but it was just a qualifier. We sat so high, I couldn’t get any good pictures. The Cube is amazing from the outside and incredible to watch at night, with the lights. I’ve been lucky enough to be up there two nights in a row. The inside isn’t that impressive, there is a neat hall between the venue and the practice pool and you can stand up there and watch all the athletes warm up and practice. Each country has its own area with massage tables, tv’s, etc. The US is under the bridge so we can’t see them. I did get to see some swimmers out there talking to family members, none I recognized.

At night up at Olympic Green, the Cube is going with its constant change of colors and the Nest is across the way and it’s all a glow in red, with the torch and the moon it is an amazing site.

We also saw diving 3m springboard qualifier which was great. We had great seats, sat behind the judges in row two and were on tv the whole time. Had it been the actual event, you could have seen us.

We also got to catch the end of the Today show and met Meredith, Ann, Matt and Al.

Yesterday we went down to the Velodrome and it was so much fun. So far they win the award for the nicest venue and best staff. It’s a bit out of town and at the end of a subway stop so a bit of a ride to get there. The winner was this woman Rebecca Romero and she became the first British woman to win two medals in two different sports. In Athens she won a silver in rowing, she returned, switched sports and won the gold, it was awesome.

Anyway, the event was fun as every seat is great, every staff member said hello, welcome, have fun and when we left they all stood in a line and clapped and said thanks for coming. Anyway, the one thing I will say is Beijing and China is very proud to be hosting these games, they feel it is their welcome party to the world.

The people here are nice, I have not had any bad experiences or anything that I would consider to be any different then the US. They do have a few customs that are a bit different, like kids wear split pants and no diapers, so when you have to go, you just go. I joke that not only do they take the dogs out in the morning, they also take the kids. Then the squat toilet is a bit of a hassle, I’ve used them a couple times but you can usually find a western toilet in the hotels or major restaurants.

People’s fashion sense here is hysterical, the men will wear plaid shorts and striped shirts and then crocs. Crocs are big here and the women wear like nude nylons with sandals.

The food has been much better then I expected. We live in an area full of embassies, so there is a German place, a great Thai place, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, everything you could want, oh yes and a Irish pub downstairs. I have enjoyed the Chinese food, you just make sure you are going to a good place. It is usually family style, everyone orders a bunch of stuff, you use your chopsticks and eat, just pulling from the dishes, etc.

There is one great place that has some awesome tofu, it’s the Bellagio and every server has the same haircut. It’s all girls and it’s short and it’s a requirement to have the haircut to work there. It is considered one of the nicer places and the food there is good. Food is also more spicy here then I expected it to be, they like spice.


Photos by James from Miami

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