Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Olympic Mania

Today's one of the nicest days I've seen in Beijing. The sky's unusually clear today; not that I can see the sky, but at least I can see buildings in the neighborhood. In the picture at right you can see mountains in the distance; generally the two square towers near the middle of the picture are hard to see through the fog. As nice a day as today calls for being outside, so I decided to take a considerable detour on my way to the gym, and bike by the Olympic compound. As the big day gets closer and closer, every day new Olympic banners, signs, and security checks appear on campus. These days there are three checkpoints between my dormitory and the classrooms, and every lamppost I've seen lately carries a banner with the Olympic motto in Chinese or English. But as they say here, 百闻不如一见, so I'll go ahead and give you the pictures.

This sign appeared over the back gate to campus yesterday. The Olympics don't even need to be mentioned; the motto speaks for itself. Neither does there need to be a connection between the back gate of the Language University and the Olympic Games. The entire country is on board for the Olympics, and no area of life is safe from this slogan, from the Fuwa, or from that truly unbearable song "Beijing Welcomes You."
The gym on campus is still cordoned off for the Olympics, but it's been downgraded. It's now the practice venue for the Special Olympic basketball teams. This hasn't reduced the amount of security checks or guards on duty, but everyone seems a bit more relaxed now; sometimes if I'm carrying groceries the guards will even let me pass without showing ID.
Olympic themed advertisements are everywhere in the city; this one, at a bus stop on Chengfu Lu near the intersection with Xueyuan Lu, just struck me as particularly over the top, with its athletes standing on a podium built of... people.
All major roads in Beijing, and minor roads adjacent to Olympic venues, have had one lane reserved for Olympic venues. Zhixin Lu, at right, is only four lanes across to begin with, so traffic can get pretty bad. The government has attempted to reduce traffic by allowing only even-numbered license plates on the road on even-numbered days, and odd plates on odd days, but with half of many roads reserved for government officials, traffic can be as bad as ever.
At left is a cart built around an oversized tricycle, ridden many thousands of kilometers from Kunming by an Olympic enthusiast who has dyed his hair in the colors of the Olympic rings and had the official logos of all the Olympic events tatooed along both arms. From the little medallions atop each side of the cart, Chairman Mao looks down favorably on the whole thing; however silly Chinese support for the Olympics can get, it's nothing compared to what happened in his time.
And here's the stadium, looking a lot smaller than it actually is; in person it's as impressive today as it was when shrouded in fog. I would have liked to get a better picture, but there's no way I would be let into the Olympic Park. For 10 more days, ordinary people like this Foreign Devil will have no choice but to stand at the fence and gawk.

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