Chuck In China -- Our Man on the Scene
|STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR|
|Hayden clan getting their feet wet in Beijing - especially Brent, pictured above as he prepares for competition.|
Our faithful correspondent Chuck Hayden, father of world champion swimmer Brent Hayden, has arrived on the scene in Beijing, making his “Chuck In China” missives even more official.
His insightful look into the life of a parent of an Olympic athlete has been a great addition to this blog. The fact it means less work for me is just an added bonus. His son Brent begins competing here Tuesday in the men’s 100-metre freestyle heats.
We’ll let Chuck take it away …
Here’s my latest edition of "Chuck in China" or "The Blog from the Smog."
On the daily weather in Beijing, they refer to the weather as being “overcast” and I suppose it is. It's overcast with a one to two kilometre thick by several hundred kilometre wide pall of smog. How do you tell the difference between smog and cloud?
"Taste"! (Reminds me of a joke about thermometers, but that's for another time).
We landed on Thursday and could not see the tops of buildings, or clearly across the oh-so-wide boulevards. You can feel the smog on your skin, in your nostrils and taste it in your mouth.
Anyone with breathing or respiratory problems must be having a time of it. If you do have those, don't come to Beijing.
Also, the temperature is rather warm. At street level with the crowds, the temperature must be about 95 F. (Sorry, I don't do Celsius.)
But, if you just refer to it as being "warm,” it doesn't seem so bad. Everyone is sweaty, and when greetings are exchanged , the hugs and handshakes are 'slick'
There is also big police and military presence, which is to be expected. But, they are not intrusive. They are there to establish a 'presence', and to set up barricades and shut down many main roads and thoroughfares to allow for the many official pre-Games functions.
Makes getting around Beijing a real pain, but everyone is hopeful that these incidents will decrease or disappear once the Games themselves get underway.
But something I was not prepared for was the people. Oh, the people! The people of Beijing are wonderful. They are at once hospitable, friendly, helpful, love to have they and their children’s pictures taken with us foreigners.
Our host cannot do enough for us. But he is not the only one. Everyone we have had any interaction with has been a joy from to waiters to taxi drivers. I was prepared to be swarmed and run over on the sidewalks, and the opposite is true.
Yes, there are literally hundreds of thousands of others sharing the sidewalks and boulevards with us, but they move deftly around you. There is no rudeness or pushiness. And I do not believe this is because of their "hospitality classes." I believe they are among the friendliest people in the world. Everywhere we have gone we have been treated so very well.
Oh, and for our first meal here, we went out for Chinese food with our host and family. Eight -- count ‘em eight -- very large dishes of fresh, hot steaming food, plus a couple of large beers and sodas came to a whopping 137 yuan, or about $23 Cdn
If I had shown my compound key card, it would have been 88 yuan. And, NO TIPPING! And the service was gracious and prompt.
Yes, it's rather warm, the lines are long, as are the roads, but the Chinese people are making this a wonderful experience for our family.
Now to try to not make ourselves ill fretting about Brent's events.