Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Olympics Post part I

Although I still have a number of posts of trips and stuff to write, I felt I had to publish this one first, lest the subject get too dated!

The Olympics. My nightmare. Or at least so it seemed, since we'd have thousands of tourists, and my job description includes assisting them, from simple things like just offering advice and orientation to (knock on wood) informing their families of their unfortunate demise and helping arrange for funerary details. I dreaded the games, because of that, because of the prospect of having a multiplied possibility of disaster striking; I truely dreaded them. And yet, the games came and passed by, and work was, with few and unimportant exceptions, quiet and smooth. Whew!

Of course, mixed right there with dread was excitement! We were going to actually watch the games! live! We just managed to secure tickets for 4 things: Greco-Roman wrestling, athletics, diving and the closing ceremony (only one ticket, though, which was dutifully assigned to the man who had been dreaming of this since he was a child: my habib).

The Olympics are a complex thing, in many ways, so I'll have to split this post into: the sports we saw, the venues, what we thank the Olympics for, and the negative side of the Olympics. So let's get started!

THE SPORTS




Wrestling - I found it so exciting I would have joined a wrestling club right away if I had had the chance. Until I saw someone bleed, that is. Still, amazing sport. My respect for those athletes.

Athletics - We saw 400m races, relay races and long jumps, but what caught our attention was, of all things, javelin throwing! Why? For 5 rounds, a Russian athlete was the undisputed best thrower. She was one passionate athlete, watching her put her all into the throw was awesome. And then, in the 6th and last round, a Czech woman threw the javelin just somewhat farther than the Russian's best throw! All of a sudden, the Russian's chance for gold was pending from just one more throw, one and only one chance! Honestly, it was so intense... we were all watching, intently, acknowledging she had been by far the best, until that throw by the Czech athlete. She ran, threw it, growled and yelled from the effort, the javelin flew... and didn't fall far enough, the gold medal was lost. Who on earth could have figured that my most intense experience at athletics would come from javelin throwing!

Diving - And here, unexpectedly, as javelin throwing surprised us, diving bored us. Maybe we have TV to blame: on TV, you get a close up of the face, you see the diver concentrate, then, you see him preparing, flexing, tensing... he jumps, you follow his every twist and turn, see him enter the water, and even get to see him swim underwater, out of the pool and into the showers. Now, when you're there, you follow the same things, but from afar, and from the SAME angle all the time! Not quite the same experience. Weird.

THE VENUES

Please just look at THIS and repeat with me: GOOORGEOUS



Do I know anything about architecture? Only what my travels have exposed me to. Am I particularly interested in architecture? Rarely, except as part of a bigger cultural experience. Was I dying to see the Bird's Nest Stadium (鸟巢)? Nah. Did I make an effort to see it while it was being built? Not at all! Well, I LOVED it. I loved the nest-like structure, I adored the intense metallic-hell red colour, I raved about how the stairs were nestled in the structure, and the torch was magnificent - I LOVED the thing. Period.

And what about THIS!


It's easy to say "you've never seen anything like this". But really, you've never seen anything like this, the Water Cube (水立方) It's beautiful. It's... out of this world. I won't even get into the technological and architectural details of how they got to build it, marvelling at the result is enough for me. While competitions were taking place, it maintained a deep acqua blue colour, intense, rich, like from deep seas. When the competitions were over, it started changing hues, sometimes softly, sometimes violently, always mesmerising.

THE OLYMPIC GREEN

And just in case that were not enough (yet HOW not!)...



That imposing red gate is... the entrance to the subway, ladies and gentlemen, to leave the Olympic Green. I was taken aback. As simple as that. And the flame-shaped tower? A 5 star hotel, with the name Pangu (盘古) on top, which was the first living being and creator of all in Chinese mythology.

OK, as many times before, I've written too much, and still have more to write, so the gossipy (and critical!) side of this will have to wait just a couple of days! (and videos will follow, too!)

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