In Beijing, Just Before Olympic Games

I am in Beijing now. I am here to attend a meeting. Today is July 30, 2008, just 9 days before the Olympic Games. As we waited for this date for more than 7 years, and we are really going to see it with our own eyes. What does Beijing look like these days? How do I feel as a unprofessional reporter who happen to be in this city? Here is my report.

Over Impression – Bad

The Game has not started yet. I hope it will be better after August 8, 2008, and as I always hoped, the joy of the Games and the big economic boom after that will help Beijing and China a lot, but currently, what I felt is, bad.

Why?

Weather

The weather yesterday and today are still terrible. I am not talking about pollution since I don’t have any data – or to be more exact, I don’t have TRUSTED data. I am just talking about the weather itself. It is pretty foggy and visibility is very low. The sky is some kind of color between gray and brown – full of clouds. There is no blue sky at all. It is very humid and hot. Just now, heavy rain came and I hope this will help to drive the clouds and dirts away.

I was told the last week before I came was even terrible. People call it water-steam weather – it is just as being in the bath room and taking a bath.

How about the next few days? I don’t think anyone will report positively about this weather. To be fair, these are among the worst weather I saw in Beijing myself in the last few years. But it can be the first impression for many people, especially with the pre-caution of the bad pollution in Beijing. Anyway, weather is not such a big deal. Even it is reported 41% rain possibility at the opening ceremony, weather is just weather. To take it too seriously can be a problem.

Traffic Control

Beijing implemented traffic control. Cars can use the road alternatively. Cars with even number plates can only run on the road on even days, and so do the odd number cars.

I had dinner with my friends, and they really complained about it. They mentioned the Olympic Special Lane, which is the inner lane in many roads.

A: “Have you tried to use that lane?”

B: “I hate anyone who are on that lane, and I will be very embarrassed even if I have a permission to use that lane”

The reason is, many roads were reduced from 3 lanes to two, or from two to one just because of the special lane for Olympic. Although cars are reduced in half, roads are also reduced.

Hmmm.. Just one of the opinions people in Beijing have for the Olympics, despite of unified support voices.

Stopped Work

Many companies will be on vacation during the Olympic, and even for companies still work, there are not many thing to do. My friend at dinner who are in media industry told me they don’t need to report anything during this special time, and they have their personal vacations arranged in this time slot. One of them will fly to Europe, the other to Korea, and anther one I know will fly to Sri Lanka.

It sounds to me that it is very special time for many people. The excitement of Games have not arrived yet, but people’s life is completely taken up-side-down.

Volunteers

The two most visible thing in Beijing are 1) Banner of Olympic 2) Volunteers. There are volunteers everywhere with their unique blue T-shirt.

They are not on duty yet. I just find out they are hanging around on their way to the Olympic village, or just leaving. I didn’t try to go to that area, since it is a restricted area already.

Foreigners

Foreigners? Where are foreigners?

I didn’t see many – my impression is, I felt Beijing is more internationalized in my last few trips than this time.

It should because of the same reason – the game is not coming yet. Let’s be patient and wait.

However, hotels and rented apartment also show the same thing – they are still empty these days. I talked with a broker about the Olympic rental. They told me, the business is even worse than normal days. Many of them have closed office for vacation during the Olympic period since even normal business rental or residential rental were paused during the Olympic period but demand for Olympic Rental didn’t show up at all.

People’s Reaction

I talked with many people, including hotel servant, taxi driver, and my friend.

My over impression is, they feel depressed because of all the restrictions. They just feel the “interference” of the Game is beyond that line.

My Hope

I just record what I see and hear during my one day short stay. I hope it can be of some value. I never thought I can be a complete or even objective observer of anything, but at least the small part of world I see from my own perspective can help to add more information to pain the “Elephant” .

I just hope Olympic is successful. I will be very happy to see all the cost people paid for the game can get a wonderful game.

I also hope we can see blue sky during the game.

11 thoughts on “In Beijing, Just Before Olympic Games

  1. Miikka

    It will be interested to see how many people there will on the 8th of August, I will be arriving to Beijing on that day and I guess it will be either very busy day for the airports or then really quiet. I will have plenty of time before my next flight to Qingdao. I am really interested to see what kind of differences I can find although I will not be spending time in the Olympics but in a smaller city.

  2. Alain R.

    I think at this point, the chinese government just wants finish with these Games as quickly and as quietly as possible.

    When they took the “job”in 2001, China was confident, full of energy and wanted to show to the world its rising power.

    Now, China is going back slowly to a time when it was “closed” distrustful of anything and anybody (domestic and foreign). I have read many articles both about economy, vosa restrictions etc…but at the end of the day, the truth is: China is losing speed economically, and at same time, huge social tensions are coming to the surface…

    mybe the central power is just afraid of losing control, and act in disordinate and weird ways…

    For example, the visa troubles were supposed to keep at bay threats to the Olympics (both “terrorists” and human rights campaigners or other dissent), but right now , they are mostly annoying to say the least, the international and domestic business community…

    The government complained this month about the need to support again the exports sector, and at same time , is sending signals to all international buyers that it doesn’t care at all if the buyers can visit factories, inspect their orders etc…

    In short, for the sake of domestic stability, China will go even to the extremes to hurt its international image, its commercial and diplomatic relationships… It just doesnt give a damn…!!

    And in my opinion, the worst is yet to come for China… Dont get me wrong, I love China, I live here and do business with China…. I am just very worried of the near future

  3. TW

    JS,

    Thank you for your cindidness sharing with your readers what your overall impressions are of Beijing weatherwise, traffic wise and most importantly how its residents react to the pros and cons the Olympic Games are bringing to their life. As a mega city itself, BJ already has tens of millions of people. Coupled with the athelets, visitors from all over the world, Chinese government and BJ city really have massive problems to deal with. I truly believe they have been trying to do a good job.

    I’m glad everyone will sigh with a big relief when the Games are over. Beijinese can go back to their own normal lives. On the flip side, I think the government and BJ people will learn a great deal from having to cope with all ins and outs of this historical event for them.

  4. TW

    OOOPS! I didn’t proof read my earlier post. I had a typo by spelling candidness with cindidness. By the way, please remind your reader to be extra cautious with their belongings when travel to BJ, especially the valuables and their passports. Unfortunately, at a chaotic time like the Olympics, it also invites many pickpoketers. I’ve already heard many people, especially the foreigners, having their briefcases, handbags, computer bags etc stolen right from one foot away from them.

  5. steven chen

    in fact, some of foreigners all over the world are also be refused to come to beijing for security.

    and many of us complaint about the restriction that stops people without ID from entering the captail.

  6. elliottng

    thanks for sharing. I have been wondering how the city feels during this special time. I’m hopeful that once the games start in earnest and people start arriving, it will be a festive celebration for the Chinese people and the athletes.

  7. Monse FRias

    WJS,

    Do you have any pictures from this trip?

    I think your report is quite insightful but you know the saying: a picture says more than 1000 words and i think it could complement your info =)

    Love and thanks again for sharing,

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