Sunday, August 17, 2008
At the Olympics Part 2
This is the media centre at Olympic Green where all coverage emanates from apart from mine of course. It changes colour constantly at night. The media centre did not need to look like this. The fact that it does says a lot about China's approach. No expense has been spared on architecture. These will go down as the most architecturally extravagant Olympics in history and the buildings are magnificent.
Aside from the Olympic Venues, Beijing exhibits what could best be described as a fusion of styles. This holiday Inn is part Jensons part Flintstones in its appearance and looks like it might have been designed by the Simpsons.
The army of blue volunteers is everywhere. They smile relentlessly and throw themselves into service. They know their duty and they will do it regardless of the cost to themselves. These guys stand in a line all day to make a human cordon to direct travellers round the corner. Everything is done with military precision.
These are the volunteers collecting the tracksuits and belongings of the triple jump competitors. It looks more like the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace than "can you watch my sweats please mate". This is all good. Where it all goes horribly wrong is where any initiative is required.
This is most obvious when it comes to loading buses. This is a queue of several thousand people waiting to get on a bus. The buses are all lined up. They keep coming and there are at least 50 there at any time. It occurred to most of the people in the line that more than one bus could be loaded at a time. This had not occurred to the Chinese. So we wait and file past a line of buses until we and they arrive at a point where we can be legally married at the front of the queue. This wastes hours. The Germans should be responsible for the transport at ALL Olympic Games.
The fans take it all in good part and their is plenty of opportunity for international banter. The catering in the venues is dire. Every outlet sells exactly the same things (coke, fanta, tea, chips, snickers, "sausage" biscuit) at exactly the same speed. Jamie Oliver would have a field day. This must be the least commercialised games since about 1924. The Americans should be responsible for the catering at ALL Olympic Games (with a little input from Gordon Ramsey).
Getting through security is time consuming. Everyone needs to do exactly as expected. We arrived for the second hockey match of the evening and security was down to one lane. This would have been fine if anyone new which of the 10 lanes it was down to but they all thought it should be another one. There were over 100 security people there but no one could sort it out. There is a episode of Star Trek where a planet of robots are knocked out of action by the Enterprise crew asking them difficult questions. It was exactly like that. I have never seen that many people paralysed by such a simple problem. Ingenuity is obviously not a high value. The Kiwis should organise security at ALL Olympic Games. We were sitting along from Maki - famous Japanese singer who sponsors the Japanese team. She was in tears when they lost in the dying seconds (so fortunately we had got our picture and autograph at half-time)
We were at both days of Rowing finals. There was a great atmosphere and the full gamut of emotions especially on Super Saturday from Mahe Drysdale's valiant Bronze to Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell's Gold. We saw NZ win 1 Gold 2 Bronzes and GB win 2 Golds, 2 Silver and 2 Bronze.
The twins race was the most exciting. There is a line of bubbles at the finish so the crews and crowd can see the finish line on the water. No one knew and most of the Kiwis near us thought they had just missed out and there was a huge roar when their names came up as first on the scoreboard.
Steve Redgrave's family were in the same stand so we spoke to Anne or (Lady Redgrave) a few times and even more importantly in the celebrity meeting stakes GARFIELD. Garfield's minder wouldn't let us too close but he did say he was enjoying the games.
One race on day 2 had 4 crews in red and white so we just shouted "Come on the Red and whites". We were in the middle of Danish group and joined in their celebrations. There is a kind of camaraderie among small nations.
There are not that many children around. I hope we can all go to 2012 as it is a great spectacle. I also hope kids are watching at home. Certainly hope that the Hutt Team, St Marks and Wellington Bruins are watching the hockey. Amazingly most of what the British women were doing wrong against Japan is the same stuff the boys are working on. Connor, Jamie or Stanley could give some coaching input.
Whenever a Chinese team or athlete is in action the crowd make a lot of noise. There is a lot of pressure on the home athletes and they are responding well. It is incredible the investment they have made in developing their athletes. They will top the medal table. At the rowing we were all given red hats which say in Chinese on the front "China must succeed"
We are having a great time and it is a privilege to be here. It is also great opportunity and I am learning lots. It has been interesting staying in a Chinese hotel and not having access to Western TV or much English language on the premises. China is an amazing and complex country.
The sport is fantastic. We saw the best quality women's triple jump in history and also a World Record in the 3000m steeplechase.
Aside from the sport there is also time to notice (but not experience) the never ending bizarre sites of Beijing.