The Olympics are fast approaching on the horizon

Countdown for Olympia
Only 499 days and some hours left.

It’s only 499 more days until the Olympic games in Beijing will be declared open. Just in time for the 500-days-to-go-mark everywhere in the city big countdown signs were set up. Just last weekend during the night working crews were still working to set them up at Beijing’s high traffic streets, it’s probably impossible to do this during the day, because it would instantly cause traffic jams.

Even in our block right next to a little sports field is one of these countdown signs. The sports field itself contains three ping-pong tables, some equipment that can be found in European or American fitness centers and a square where groups gather for Tai-Chi or all kinds of dances (I even have seen South American dances there). Most remarkably, there is a sign for the Olympics, so it seems to be an official training area…

Sports field with Olympic logo
Sports field with the Olympic logo.

There are also large billboard advertisements for Olympia 2008 all over the place, motivating the people to be a proud host of the games. So far everybody was happy the games are hosted in Beijing, but most Chinese also expect their team to keep a lot of gold medals in China. These expectations might not become reality and an article by the state owned news agency Xinhua warned Chinese not to be overenthusiastic.

Beijing itself is experiencing a makeover: Trees are planted along roads, Hutongs in the tourist areas are polished (although that way they are losing some of their atmosphere) and construction is going on everywhere. A major project is to extend the subway net, currently consisting of only three lines, none of them going to the Olympic park.

The Olympic park itself will be located less than 6 kilometers (or 4 miles) east of our home. It is located on the same axis as the Tiananmen Square and the forbidden city. I’ve already seen the shape of the Olympic stadium on my first day in Beijing: On the way from the airport we passed the “bird’s nest” as the Chinese are calling it because of its shape.

Once I was taking a cap the driver was listening to some tape recordings in English. It was to train the cap drivers, who often do not speak English, some basic vocabulary to communicate with international guests. For example, the piece I listened to, the driver explained that the customer will need a little patience because of a traffic jam. Obviously Beijing will not be able to solve its traffic problem until 2008…

Billboard for the Olympics
Sign reading “I participate, I am devoted to it, I am happy”

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