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.
My Olympic Flickr stream is here.