Wednesday’s rains flushed the skies and last night’s weather for the opening of the track-and-field events was more than perfect, almost freaky perfect, with a big full moon climbing out of the southeastern sky, and the Fragrant Hills orange in the sunset.
I woke up this morning to more of the same. Sweet. I was beginning to think I’d never draw a chestful of air again. Here’s hoping this sticks around for the marathon. Have a press panel today on the impact of blogging on the Olympics, then have to switch back to the old hotel, then onto the big marketing push (even bigger than the one we’ve unleashed) to close out the rest of the Games. Ten days and I’m home. I think this is exactly the mid-point.
Huge thanks to Nicole Estebanell at Neo, Gary Milner and Rahul Agarwal at Lenovo. They’ve accomplished a miracle in the last four days and they know what I am talking about …..
I just returned from the National Stadium at the Beijing Olympic Green, aka the Bird’s Nest, site of the well-watched opening ceremonies last week, and where today athletics debuted for the first time on a floor where Chinese director Zhang Yimou blew away the world with 2,000 drummers, dancing calligraphers, and the unscrolling of 5,000 years of Chinese history. Being the Olympic purist I am, all the psychic unrest caused by my first Olympic event – Beach Volleyball in the Rain – was undone in an instant when I saw the women’s heptathalon heats and disci flying, sprinters, sprinting and shot puts putting.
The only medals final was the men’s shotput. Big beefy guys launching 16 pounds of iron as far as they could, while on the other side of the stadium a dozen gazelle-like sprinters limbered up for the 3,000 meter steeplechase. Radio controlled cars returned the discus to the thrower. Choreographed squads of helper set out hurdles for the 400 meter men … it was an amazing spectacle of multi-tasking track-and-field with announcements made in Mandarin, French, and English, replays on the huge displays at each pole of the gigantic bean shaped stadium.. The crowd was nuts. Face painters and flag wavers … it was hard not to start yelling for the American shot putter Chris Cantwell as he threw for a silver medal tonight. I may have to be a face painter at rowing on Sunday.
I tried to take it all in, first with the camera, then with the video camera – there was always something going on some place in the vastness of the stadium. Finally I just let it sink in, pretty blown away by my utterly perfect seats 20 rows back from the track on the 50-meter line.
I have some 500 photos to process, and as the Florida fishing guide told me once after I caught a fish: “Even a blind squirrel bumps into a nut now and then …” there might be three or four worth posting. But, alas, to bed. Photo work will have to wait until after the Games.
Left turns and directions: there are few things more exciting in Beijing than a left turn in a cab in the face of an ongoing tour bus with no intention to ever slow or stop. I am now squeezing in behind the driver’s side of the back seat, figuring that gives me a couple feet of dead air when the right side of the vehicle gets stove in. All cab rides are high drama. Non-Mandarin speakers must carry a card with the destination written on it. The drivers always, without exception, scrutinize it, look puzzled, shrug, and then take off with great determination. I spend the ride worrying I am about to get launched into an episode of Lost. I always make it and have started to relax.
Score: I hold rowing finals tickets: that’s right, I was all freaky this morning, looking at the number one resolution I made with myself which was to see Elle Logan and Caroline Lind row in the US Women’s Eight in the rowing finals on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t looking good. I was searching scalper sites and the damage was going to be ugly, then lo and behold our “Ticketmaster”, Steve Crutchfield said, “I think we have rowing tickets.”
Well, Lenovo did have tickets and I am now holding them because no one else wanted them. I am going to Shunyi Sunday afternoon at 3:30, ready to cheer and see my first Olympic rowing, the medal finals for both men and women.
Wuatodetwect: when I log into the hotel network at the Grand Hyatt sites like Google assume from the origin of the IP address that I am in China (which is correct) and therefore want to see their site in Mandarin (which I do not). I can’t find the link on the mandarin page that says “change the language” so I end up blindly clicking until I get to where I am now, which is Elmer Fudd.
I also see that Google thinks I am in Hong Kong, which I am not, but which leads to me think of the conspiracy theory something is going on with IP addressing that will insure people in high end hotels like the Hyatt see what they want to see when they are online (I literally have nothing firewalled or blocked right now).