Welcome to the Beijing Olympics – but not yet

with 3 comments

New CCTV headquarters in the smog

Smog envelops Beijing's new CCTV headquarter

The online weather forecast was for sun and blue skies in Beijing on Friday. But on the ground, things looked quite different.

It was so hazy when our plane touched down that I thought we were still high up in the clouds. I could only see the ground a few seconds before we touched down on the runway.

I wonder how they want to get rid of the air pollution here in time for the Olympics, which will begin in less than a month’s time.

Olympic sites fenced in

Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing

Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing

Right after we’d checked into our hotel in Beijing, we wanted to go out to the Olympic stadium. I’d driven by it last year and it looked fantastic even then. Much bigger than it did on pictures or on TV.

So this time, I wanted to see it up close. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to go inside, but at least I thought I’d go around it once. Touch its steel beams that make it look like a bird’s nest.

The drive from downtown Beijing to the northern part of the city, where the Olympic sites are, is pretty far. The ride in the taxi wasn’t cheap for Chinese standards.

So you can imagine how disappointed we were when the taxi driver just dropped us off at a fence on the side of an eight-lane highway. The stadium was visible in the distance, but it was still pretty far off.

Unfortunately, however, that’s as close as anyone gets to the stadium and the other Olympic sports arenas at this point. The whole huge Olympic area is fenced in. And there are uniformed guards every 300 feet or so, making absolutely sure that no one dares climb the fence.

I was a little pissed off

The friend I’m travelling with rightly pointed out that anywhere in the West, the organizers would already make the construction site part of the spectacle: there’d be posters everywhere explaining what stage of the construction we’re in. People might even be invited to tour the new constructions – even if they’re not finished yet, because everyone would want to see the “work in progress”.

Here in China, however, the attitude seems to be a little different: keep the ordinary people out for now. Don’t let them see what those in charge are doing. Don’t let them interfere, don’t let them ask questions. Let them see everything when it’s finished and ready for the big party.

The Chinese seem to take this as a given. In front of the new Olympic stadium, they happily take pictures of each other in front of the metal fence. Never mind that the the Olympic arenas were merely visible as a hazy backdrop in the distance.

WordPress is blocked in China. Therefore I was only able to upload this post after having left the country.


Written by Thorsten

July 13, 2008 at 7:32 am

3 Responses

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  1. Would that be possible to know about the exact local time and date when each of these five photos were taken? With many thanks.

    Kuo-Ying Wang

    July 14, 2008 at 4:12 am

  2. Dear Kuo-Ying Wang, all pictures in this post were taken on Friday afternoon, July 11, 2008.


    July 14, 2008 at 7:20 am

  3. Thank you for the eyewitness report. We can’t wait to go.
    If you are going join our Olympic group.


    Hugh Browne

    July 16, 2008 at 7:58 am

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