It’s quite stunning to walk through the main Olympic grounds here, and to take in the surrounding streets that flank the Olympic Green. The roads and interchanges are simply overflowing with flowers of every colour and variety; bright yellow marigolds, small lantana trees, bright bougainvillea and deep-orange roses.
You simply don’t see litter on the roads. If anyone was to drop anything someone would leap to pick it up. And they even polish the garbage cans around here, just to make sure everything is up to standards. Yeah, they’ve got the manpower, but it’s pretty amazing.
The media village most of us live in looks like Edwards Gardens, with potted palms and enormous coleus blossoms spilling out of containers. The grass is impeccably green, and they water down the pavement every morning to make it look shiny and clean. But who’s going to do this when the world media leaves and regular Chinese folks move into our towering, white apartments? Will anyone spray the pavement for them in the morning and carefully nourish all those plants? Will they simply truck the plants away and plant them in President Hu Jintao’s summer garden somewhere?
And what about the billions of blossoms in parks and along the roadways? You can’t leave a bougainvillea out in a Beijing winter, and the marigolds all are going to fade come October.
It would be interesting to come back in a year – or three – and see what the place looks like. You also have to wonder what will happen to the Bird’s Nest stadium. There’s talk of various sporting events and concerts and such, but even the sports-crazy folks in Australia don’t fill the main stadium they built more than a few times a year. And we suspect a table tennis tournament or a badminton match wouldn’t work so well in a cavernous stadium like the Bird’s Nest, so what giant sporting event will fill the seats two years from now?
The Olympic people always talk about leaving a legacy. The folks in Barcelona transformed their city into a hugely popular tourist destination by rebuilding neighborhood parks and even getting chic designers to build new bridges and light standards with Catalan flare. But Atlanta left hardly any sign that the Olympics were there. The subway and rapid transit improvements in Athens and Beijing no doubt will be of big benefit, but the stadiums often sit silently and empty once the Games are over.
The Olympic legacy, it seems, is a rather mixed bag.
MENU DU JOUR
Canadians love water sports and we excel at things like rowing and kayaking. We’re getting better in swimming. So Canadian media tends to look for those events on the screen at the Main Press Centre. In Germany, they go ga-ga over discus and hammer throws, which might have something to do with building up strength from carrying trays of beer during Octoberfest. Kazakhs love wrestling, boxing, weightlifting and shooting. China, of course, is big on badminton and diving and ping pong, among other sports.
It makes for entertaining days in the press room. A Canadian reporter will be sitting at his laptop, quietly minding his own business and working on schedules for reporters when a sudden roar will erupt from someone watching a nearby TV screen. “What on earth are those people all excited about,” you wonder, and sometimes you find yourself shaking your head.
But they’ve got to feel the same way when we all dash over to get one of the young girls to change the channel on the big screen set next to the Star’s desk and ask them to put on, gulp, trampoline. As colleague Dave Perkins likes to say, “That’s why they have menus in restaurants.”
YEAH, BUT WHICH PARTS?
A store in downtown Beijing sports this sign: “Digital Cameras. Video Cameras. Parts of Cameras.”
BRING YOUR OWN
It’s one thing when the people who stock the toilets with paper forget to re-load, as has happened at the media centre several times lately. But a quick trip downtown for some t-shirts (REALLY EXPENSIVE ONES, if anyone back home who gets one wants to know) and a Chairman Mao shoulder bag and waving Chairman Mao watch revealed a toilet stall in a high-end shopping centre without even a holder to place a roll of paper in.
What’s up with that?
HOW MUCH FOR THE SOCKS?
Chinese badminton star Lin Dan tossed his shoes and a racket into a crowd of fans after his match the other day. The on-line bidding for the golden shoes is said to be starting at around $75,000 Canadian. Of course, 100 people claim they’ve got the real shoes, just as there probably 100,000 people who claim they were at the last Stanley Cup game the Leafs won. And how anyone other than Lin will be able to tell which are the real golden slippers, Lord only knows.
EVEN BEATS K.D.
If you’re ever looking for a nice treat, a trip to the Olympic Hospitality Centre here reveals that Pommery champagne and Peking duck make an outstanding combination. Try it instead of nachos and wings at the next Super Bowl party you go to. Or not.