Monday, August 11, 2008

Well-contained Excitement: The Olympics begin

Another update from Colin Hanna '11, who's in Beijing for the Olympics:

And the Olympics are underway! Olympic fever has gripped the city. During the Opening Ceremonies, I was told 50 percent of the city's taxi force (the method of transportation most foreigners use to get around) was glued to their TV sets. Let's just say getting a cab that night was as easy as getting into TI on members' night. I watched the Opening Ceremonies at a pub in the north of the city. While the TV was small and the speakers wimpy, during the Chinese national anthem, our entire pub stood up, hushed anyone still chattering, and respectfully remained quiet throughout the entire song. The nationalism in the air here is pungent.

So far, I've had the good fortune of attending two of the swimming sessions. Traveling to the Olympic Green was relatively easy using the subway, and once I arrived, it didn't disappoint. The Bird's Nest is MUCH bigger than it appears in photos, it's positively massive. The Water Cube's bubble-inspired structure is also awe-inspiring, especially at night when neon lights and letters can be projected onto its transparent walls. The swimming has been quick. Much has been made of the fact that the swimming finals are being held in the morning. And while I'm sure NBC paid handsomely to "convince" the IOC that this was in the best interest of the Games, I'm not sure it was. While it doesn't seem like much has been sacrificed in terms of swimming performance (though this morning's women's 400 free final was considerably slower than last night's heats), the atmosphere of an evening final cannot be replicated in the morning.

More photos after the jump, including two pictures of Princetonians in Beijing with Olympian Doug Lennox '09.

I had tickets to Sunday's (Aug. 10) finals in the morning where Michael Phelps smashed his old world record, but even though me and my hosts arrived more than half an hour early we got into the Cube 5 minutes late thanks to the ridiculous security measures taken here by the Chinese. As you walk through security, they ask you to use every piece of electronic equipment on your person. If you have a camera, take a picture, a phone, make a call. Multiply this by thousands and you have lines extending out the wazoo! A significant portion of that first final's spectators weren't in the stadium by the time the heats started.

The Games have really seemed to gripped the city. Last night was the long-awaited USA vs. China basketball game, and again it seemed like many taxis had taken the night off. The entire staff of the restaurant I ate at last night had gotten together to watch the Games, postponing their work and eventual return home.

Yesterday, the Princeton community in Beijing got together to celebrate our Olympians (see picture below). Swimmer Doug Lennox '09 (representing Puerto Rico) made an appearance but we also celebrated the numerous other Princetonians competing here. Also of note, swimmer Bryan Tay '12 swam the swim of a lifetime last night dropping 2 seconds in the 200m Freestyle. He was roughly 4 short seconds slower than a man you may have heard of: Michael Phelps! Luckily, I've managed to get ahold of tickets to see Doug swim his 200m Butterfly tonight at the Water Cube. In fact, I've got to get going, I'd hate to be getting frisked while Doug is in the water doing the Orange and Black (as well as the Red, White and Blue) proud!

Yi hou zai shuo!