Saturday, August 09, 2008

The First of... posts on some Olympic adventures in Beijing.

As some of you might know, I was invited by clients to spend a couple of days at the Beijing Olympics. Over the weekend that just went by.

It was a pretty big opportunity. To be honest, I'd have never thought of doing it myself - the soccer or cricket world cups were bigger events in my wishlist. Now that I'm back after my magic weekend, I'm putting the Olympics on top of that list. With a couple of reservations. Of course, I haven't been to a soccer or cricket world cup. Yet.

Overall, it was a superlative experience, and it was far better than I expected.

No, I didn't get to watch the opening ceremony - I'm nowhere near that important. I heard from people who were there that it was hot as hell. Literally. You can insert your own bird's nest soup joke here. But, all of you who saw it on TV must have witnessed the sheer grandeur of it. And the lip-syncing drama.


I was part of this complete packaged do that The Client had, for a whole bunch of different levels of business partners and employees. Everyone but me spoke Mandarin, and I felt like a gatecrasher at a stranger's wedding that evening. We were in this buffet, which was a phenomenon in itself (more on that later) - and we could watch the show on television screens, or go down to the street, where we had passes to a cordoned off area, where the interested could watch the proceedings on this big-ass screen.

I stuffed my face till blue. Went down and soaked in the atmosphere while watching the shindig. And stuffed my face again, when the blue subsided. Across two stuffings, I barely must have touched upon a fifth of the available choice - and that on a small-helpings-more-variety strategy.
Coming back.

From that evening, I come away with two insights. The Chinese love to eat. And they love to cheer. The opening show was pretty special, and though I was only watching it with a thousand strangers, I had myself a good time. Downstairs, the ethnicity was more global, but everyone got into the Chinese habit of cheering everything vociferously. It was all good.

And, in the area where I was, they had a center selling commemorative pins, which are to be traded, like cards. They had a stage, with some entertainment. They had a bunch of other stalls and display thingies - all very grand and shiny. There were newscasters everywhere. One of the European TV presenters was so HOT that people had actually queued up to have their photos taken with her. No one knew her name. It wasn't a planned thing.

While leaving for the night, after the ceremony, I got another taste of the local jingoism - we were piling into our tour buses to be shunted back to our hotel - I was trying to get out of there on one of the early buses since I was pretty tired, and feeling bored without anyone to talk to. Suddenly, on the bus radio the entry of the Chinese contingent into the stadium was announced; the four-fifths full bus just emptied! It didn't get going till the entire team had been cheered into the stadium.

More posts on their way.


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