Friday, August 29, 2008

lots of talk about the closing ceremony

Lately I've seen several blogs with commentary about Beijing's closing ceremony.  However, America's mainstream television media have discussed the end of the Olympics very little because they've been too obsessed with the Democrats' get-together in Denver, Colorado.  But the event was a great spectacle, even though some people are calling it "boring". 

I recently read a Chinese media blog that criticized the London 2012 team for placing Leona Lewis with Jimmy Page, alleging that Jimmy Page is simply not famous enough.  What?!  Jimmy Page founded Led Zepplin.  Not famous? And who was that Chinese guy that sang with Sarah Brightman?  And how many people in the world knew that the woman singing with Plácido Domingo was the spouse of China's vice premier?  

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Bird's Nest

taken a few nights ago in front of the famous Bird's Nest . . . on a rainy evening.  Very brilliant design!  Until again soon, Beijing!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Closing Ceremony was amazing!

We just got back to the hotel from Beijing's closing ceremony - it was fantastic!!!!  I will post more photos and details.

Quick point: lovely music, lights, and even some good Los Angeles representation via David Beckham and Plácido Domingo.

Mihir Bose of the BBC on the Beijing Olympics

Today is the final day of the Olympics in Beijing.  Mr. Bose of the BBC offers this essay on his blog:

China delivers an Olympics like no other

Mihir Bose - BBC sports editor

The Beijing Olympics was always going to be different from any other recent Olympics.
None of the usual questions that tend to surround an Olympics mattered here: money, organisation, level of government support and the public's enthusiasm - or indeed lack of it.
Instead, the question China faced was: should a regime like this have the honour of the biggest gathering of people in peaceful sporting competition without agreeing to change its authoritarian ways?
This issue was presented very clearly seven years ago when the International Olympic Committee voted for Beijing.
The leader of the rival Paris bid said China should get the Expo but not the Olympics. China's human rights record, he argued, ruled it out for the Olympics. Even though he himself was one of many businessmen who believed engagement with China was a good thing, giving it the Olympics was held up as an endorsement the country did not yet deserve.
In ignoring that advice, the IOC took the view that the Olympics simply had to come to the home of nearly a quarter of the world's population.
True, it nodded in the direction of human rights with its then director general Francois Carrard saying the IOC would monitor human rights in China.
But, as President Jacques Rogge put it to me, while China has had to open up as a result of hosting the Games, it was unrealistic to expect the Games to go where world leaders had failed.
It was always fanciful to expect that this 17-day festival of sport would completely change China, or that China would change a sporting system invented by a French count and now run by a Belgian count. Not in any fundamental ways at least.

Indeed, as Rogge also points out, the IOC came to China for its own reasons related to the Olympics.

It took the decision in the summer of 2001, when both the organisers for the 2004 Athens summer Games and the 2006 Turin Winter Games were suffering seemingly insurmountable problems.
Athens, having messed up its structure, was so behind schedule that there was real fear it might not be ready.
Turin, whose choice as the 2006 Winter Games was an unintended consequence of the Salt Lake City corruption scandal, did not have adequate facilities, needed more funding and was not certain the Italian government could or would help.
In contrast China simply told the IOC: "Give us the Games and we will do whatever you want."

And that is exactly what has happened.
China has given the IOC great venues - there can be nothing more iconic than the Bird's Nest, a true "object for the world" exactly as Ai Weiwei, its Chinese architect, intended.

The infrastructure development has been amazing, as anyone who has used Beijing's new airport will testify. The transport plan has also worked, making Beijing's previously impossible traffic more than manageable.
And the venues have provided some of the most memorable sports seen in many an Olympics.
We had a first week so dominated by Michael Phelps that we had to scurry through the record books to ask if he was a greater Olympian than Carl Lewis or Jesse Owens.
Then Usain Bolt stole the show in the second week, making the 100 metres once again magical and worthy of a race to decide the fastest man on earth.
And alongside all this, Team GB has broken free from the rather depressing British history of failing to deliver by enjoying its best Games for a century. In doing so, athletes have created some truly great sporting moments, which have been surprising and stunning in equal measure.
Many other countries have also had Beijing highlights to treasure. India, the world's most underachieving sporting nation, won its first ever individual gold, as did Panama and Bahrain, while Mongolia, Afghanistan, Togo, all won their first medals.

The Beijing Olympics will also have an impact on the United States. Since the collapse of the Wall and of the old Soviet Union, its dominance of the Games has not been challenged.
But China will top the gold tally this time round. And that has prompted Americans to ask whether their athletes should get government funding - the US is the only nation that does not provide it.
Indeed, as China and Asia continue to grow as world economic powers, America's sway over Olympic finances may also come under pressure.
Many in the Olympic movement feel that if the 20th century was Europe and America's great century of sport, then the 21st century might belong to China and Asia.
While China's presentation at many of the sporting venues was a pale copy of what you might get in the NBA or at a baseball game, the Chinese have been determined throughout the last two weeks to show they can do sport like the West.
And there can be no doubt that the Beijing Olympics have done just that.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gold medals or total medals?

Should the "top" champion of the Olympics be measured by acquired golds, or by TOTAL # of medals, including silver and bronze??  

Of course, China received more gold medals than the United States, but America received more medals of any color than anyone else. 

United States 36 38 36 110
China  51 21 28 100

Which is the appropriate means to determine who had the most success at the Olympics?

Any thoughts?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Best thing about this trip

The Toto toilet in our hotel suite in Beijing is one of the best things about this trip.  The lid lifts automatically as a person approaches and it provides a very warm seat.  It washes, cleans, and blow-dries too.  

Out of the country

I am back to this blog after little more than a week outside Beijing.  We were in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and then South Korea.   We had good food and enjoyed watching the Olympics on television.  I really enjoyed visiting Hong Kong, Taipei, and Seoul - all very great cities.  Now back in Beijing for more Olympic excitement.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

U.S.A's Michael Phelps = greatest Olympic athlete ever

This morning we watched (on CCTV) Michael Phelps receive his 10th (TENTH!!!) gold medal.  That makes him #1 in Olympic history in terms of gold medals. Wow and Congrats!!

See this:

Temple of Heaven in Beijing

Another tourist trap that we visited this weekend.  15th century structures... gorgeous!

Beijing and L.A. subways compared

When Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the Chinese capital had about as many --or maybe fewer--subway lines as Los Angeles.  Since that time in 2001, Beijing has moved quickly to lay several more subway lines.  The public transportation network in Beijing has been improved in a major way.  For example, Beijing's new Olympic subway line is beautiful and efficient.  Los Angeles' new subway lines and stations are quite well designed, modern, and beautiful, making it so that right now L.A.'s system is nowhere as extensive as Peking's!!  Take a look at this interesting article.

But, the bad thing is that some subway lines in Beijing have no signs in English and station names are not romanized.... Scary! 

Beijing Games are all about China

China may come out victorious in terms of the number of gold medals won, but the Olympics are much more meaningful than winning athletic events.  These Summer Olympics in 2008 are much more about China.  It truly is China's great coming out party - a celebration of China's aspirations, people, development, and accomplishments.  Sometimes I feel like we hear too much about China this time, and that maybe these Olympics are perhaps far too Sino-centric.  But it really is impressive to see everything that China has accomplished and overcome.  The development of China's eastern cities has been nothing short of a phenomenon.  

As we drive through 2nd Ring Road or the 3rd ring, we are constantly in awe at how Beijing has changed.  Not only are there gorgeous potted flowers and new trees lining the avenues and boulevards, the construction projects are breathtaking.  A good example is this fab office building complex pictured to the left.

2nd Ring Road is what I call "Century City on steroids".  Century City is a gorgeous and revitalized district west of Beverly Hills near Santa Monica Blvd.  Well, Beijing's 2nd Ring Road feels very similar, just on a much bigger scale.  As Paris Hilton would say, "Loves it!"  And at least Beijing was smart enough to redevelop the area with a nice subway system, while L.A. did not do that.

Greetings from Beijing!

Boxing match, fans, international fun!!

Last night following the lightweight boxing preliminaries at the Workers' Stadium, we wanted to get a shot with these Chinese kids who were cheering.  While we took the picture, we had them chanting "Meiguo Zhayou" (Chinese for "Let's go U.S.A.!!").  Lots of fun!!  We love the Olympics!!!!  I would love to be back at every Olympiad in the future too.

royalty at the Games

Spanish Prince Felipe and wife Letizia supporting Spanish athletes in the Olympic Village in Beijing.

singing girl in opening ceremony a fake

Apparently, that very cute girl who sang the patriotic song during the opening ceremony was actually lip-syncing.  The voice belongs to the original performer who was pulled for her buck teeth and replaced by the cuter 7-year old.  Read article here.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Go Gymnasts!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

America's new embassy in Beijing/新建美国使馆在北京


America's new embassy is gorgeous, state-of-the-art, and the largest embassy in Beijing.   We drove to it a couple of days ago to check it out.  On our way we saw the embassies of Germany, Canada, Israel, India, Australia, Spain, the EU, etc.  All are very nice buildings... then we arrived at the mammoth American mission. Much larger than the others... and a much more impenetrable wall surrounding the embassy!   

When we tried to take pictures, security guards freaked out.  So, no photos.  Anyway, it was fun to see.  President Bush was there on Friday morning to officially open the Embassy, but the guard told us it still is not "open".  Ambassador Randt, the current U.S. Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, declared on Tuesday that the opening of this large embassy (the second largest embassy building in the world - the first is America's embassy in Iraq) underscores the serious nature of the world's most important bilateral relationship in the 21st century: the U.S.-China relationship.

It is also interesting to note that Washington's largest embassy will soon be China's new facility.  

heavy rain . . . is the rain safe?

It rained heavily yesterday because the government fired rain-inducing chemical "seeds" into the clouds above the city.  And it poured.

Also, we have been relieved temporarily of the extreme heat.

The battle of the superpowers?

It is interesting to following the medals count.

As of right now, the U.S. has 11 medals, while China has 12.  In third place is Russia with 6, then Korea with 5.  Clearly, there is some rivalry between the U.S. and China . . . a kind of a microcosm of a future struggle of power and influence, perhaps?  

Brazilian TV press in Beijing

Last night while walking on Dengshikou street in central Beijing, I saw a van painted with the logo above.  I stopped to chat with the driver, a Chinese man.  He told me that he is working with a group of Brazilian journalists from Rede Globo, Brazil's largest media network.  

Safety issues in Beijing

With the tragic homicide and suicide here in Beijing on Saturday morning, people are wondering if it's safe to be spending time at Beijing's tourist locations.  Well, of course it is.

Beijing may actually be the safest city of its size in the world.  Public safety has never really been an issue of major concern in the Chinese capital.  And especially during the Olympics, the Chinese authorities have deployed literally hundreds of thousands of police and military forces to Beijing.
Obviously, some petty theft occurs in Beijing, but violent crime is really quite rare in Beijing. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the American family who lost their father this weekend in the brutal attack in central Beijing.

Monday: Clear skies in Beijing

This morning we are seeing clearer skies than we've been seeing in the last week.  Pictures to come soon.  Sunday we had heavy rainfall and winds.  That always helps clean out the gunk in the air!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tiananmen Square on the first full day of official Olympic activity

crowds were all over Tiananmen Square this afternoon.  Very hot and humid!

BOC put up gorgeous gardens all over the city - and lots of fancy exhibits on Tiananmen Square.

Russia launches attack on Georgia during the first day of the Olympics

As the Olympics begin, war breaks out in Eurasia.

On a day meant to mark international friendship and peace, Russian and Georgian forces clashed over the disputed region, South Ossetia.  More on that development here.  While visiting Beijing for the Olympic Games and the opening ceremony, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told press that Georgian forces would pay.  

This is really disappointing news, and I could go on for a while about this, but I will not here in this blog about the Olympics, Beijing, and related topics.

Friendly spectators in Beijing's streets

Yesterday while walking down Wangfujing Avenue, we were stopped by several Chinese Olympics enthusiasts.... sporting patriotic headbands, PRC flags, and painted faces.  They stopped to warmly welcome us to China, and asked to get a photo with us.

This is what the Olympics are all about!  Despite political and cultural differences, the Olympic spirit is meant to unite people from everywhere!

Great experience to be a part of the Olympics here.

Beautiful Opening Ceremony

Attended by 91,000 people (including 80+ world leaders), the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics showcased a magnificent cultural show that exhibited Chinese history, innovation, dance, and story.  The artistic creativity of the show was fantastic.

As I watched the show, I kept thinking about how much the program underscored China's destiny to become an even greater power and influence in the world.  The Chinese people are excited to boast their history and cultural heritage.  China's ambitions are clearly visible everywhere here in Beijing: at any of the Olympic venues or modern buildings throughout the city.

A large portion of the performances were dedicated to showing off Chinese achievements during the last few millenia.  They covered important Chinese inventions like paper and tai chi.  I wondered if they would showcase China's contemporary history: 20th century war and the Communist revolution... they didn't.  All in all, it was a nice glimpse of some of Chinese cultural and historical highlights.

Liu Huan's duet with Sarah Brightman was one of the highlights for me - a beautiful piece that embodied the Olympic spirit.

China invested over $100 million to make this show a spectacle to be remembered, and I believe that they were successful . . . it truly was a magnificent show.  
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