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 Beijing Olympics 2008 Opening Ceremony

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PostSubject: Beijing Olympics 2008 Opening Ceremony   Sat Aug 09, 2008 12:11 pm

Beijing Olympics 2008 Opening Ceremony

Posted on July 28, 2008 by beijingolympic2008

Curious onlookers surround the cyclist; not because he has ridden here, to the Great Wall at Badaling - although, given the surrounding hills, that’s a feat in itself - but because of his bike. He is literally riding the Olympic rings.
Using the bike’s existing wheels as a base, he has attached three extra rings and painted all five circles in the Olympic colours. He’s immensely proud of his novel invention but more proud of his Olympic spirit.

This is Beijing in the grip of Olympic fever.
As I stand on this section of the Great Wall, 70 kilometres north-west of Beijing, marvelling at the extent of this austere rampart - it snakes over the mountains and disappears into the mist - a giant Olympic sign dominates a nearby hill. It’s an incongruous juxtaposition of ancient and modern that is being repeated all over the city.

In Tiananmen Square an electronic board counting down to the Games glows in front of the National Museum. Such new, minimalist, monochromatic constructions as the “bird’s nest” Olympic Stadium, the bubbled Swimming Centre and the glass-domed Opera House make a striking contrast to ornately detailed, brightly coloured, Imperial Chinese
Some residents applaud these new facilities, which thrust Beijing into the 21st century; others see them as aesthetically discordant blights on their historic city.
It’s not just public buildings that are creating mixed feelings.
High-rise office towers, hotels and apartment buildings now dominate the once low-level skyline. While some Beijingers are thrilled to move out of the cramped, rundown hutongs (traditional courtyard houses) to apartment blocks with modern facilities, others miss the sense of community and despair at their lost heritage.
China is not just gearing up for the Games, it is striding towards a future as a global superpower - and Beijing is bubbling with an energy and enthusiasm that is exciting and contagious. Many Europeans swept up in the momentum have relocated here; one young Frenchman tells me Beijing is far more exciting than “boring, stagnant” Paris.
Beijing’s makeover includes improved public transport, new hotels, restaurants and shopping precincts. It will benefit business and tourism for years to come and not just for international guests.
Increased prosperity and freedom in China means more domestic tourists will also reap the rewards.
Everywhere I go in Beijing domestic tourists out-number foreign travellers. Locals, many on organised tours, queue patiently to file into Mao’s mausoleum in Tiananmen Square and not so patiently to glimpse into the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City.
Beijing is gaining from its new sophistication but it’s the city’s historical buildings that attract the most visitors. They, too, have benefited from an Olympic spruce-up.
At the Forbidden City, the imperial court of the Ming and Qing dynasties, artists have been repainting the buildings’ ornate detailing in a $13 million restoration. The fresh, gleaming paintwork is in stark contrast to the dull, unrestored sections, hinting at how regal the place once looked.
The Summer Palace, built by Emperor Qianlong in 1750, has also undergone a multimillion-dollar touch-up. I’m astounded by the detail of the 14,000 paintings on the ceiling of the Long Corridor, which skirts tranquil Kunming Lake. This was definitely an opulent summer residence for the privileged few.
Thankfully, the historical significance of the hutongs is being recognised and some are being preserved and restored, having been saved from demolition. They are vibrant, bustling places to visit, reflecting the traditional lifestyle of old Beijing. Bicycles still rule here despite 1000 new cars hitting the city’s roads each day and clogging the narrow hutong laneways.
With the influx of hotels are new sophisticated dining options such as Le Pre Lenotre in the five-star Sofitel Wanda Beijing, where I sip champagne while being waited on with impeccable silver service. At Quanjude Wangfujing, a traditional Peking-duck restaurant opened in 1864, I sip green tea while watching the waiter chop roast duck on a trolley beside me. The contrasts are striking and delicious.
This extends to shopping, too. At the new designer malls, which are often connected to five-star hotels, the service is discreet, quiet and respectful. But at the markets, which stock cheap knock-offs, it’s in-your-face, loud and brash. “Missy, missy, missy,” a shrill voice beckons as I walk through the Xiushui silk market. “Hey, preeeetty lady,” shouts another stallholder, grabbing my arm.
Back at Badaling, climbing an astonishingly steep section of the Great Wall, I’m accosted by a hawker flogging Games merchandise with persistence worthy of a medal. It appears everyone is embracing the Olympic theme.
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