Archive for the ‘Olympics’ Category

Foreign students banned from Beijing during Olympics?

April 18, 2008

China is not only making it hard for Chinese students to enjoy the Olympic games, there is also a yet not confirmed but widely circulated rumor that foreign students will be banned from Beijing, maybe even from China altogether, during the games.

Student Visa of the PR China
Student Visa of the PR China

As German newspapers like Die ZEIT and Süddeutsche Zeitung both report, there will be not student visas issued for July and August, a time where universities typically hold summer courses. In this time no regular classes will be held and students who only stay for one semester but according to the articles students who are going to continue their studies in the winter term need to leave for Beijing for games time. There are estimates that about 10,000 students would be affected by this measure.

And even if students do not need to stay over the holidays to proceed with their studies in Beijing afterwards, I think a lot of students like I myself would like to lengthen in China to watch the Olympics or feel its atmosphere if ons is in Beijing studying this or the coming winter term.

While the statement by a spokesperson of Peking University was quite clear, it nonetheless is not confirmed by the authorities yet. Robert Heuser of Cologne University assumed that the students are seen as potential troublemakers and are thus unwanted in the proximity of the games, he argued in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Preparations for 08/08/08

May 11, 2007

The “Bird’s Nest” and the swim hall are the two buildings that are getting the most media attention as they are interesting pieces of architecture and will host some of the most watched fights for gold, silver and bronze medals. But there is a lot of other construction going on in Beijing that has to be done until August 8, 2008 (08.08.08) when the Olympic games will be declared open at 8:08 pm. Seems like some of the planners really believe in the tradition that the “8” is the lucky number in Chinese…

Beijing University - The new tabletennis gym
Behind the basketball court new facilities to host the table tennis competitions are being built.

Smaller events will take place at some universities’ campuses. Beijing University will be host of the table tennis competition. Too bad I’m not studying in Beijing next year, imagine I could watch an Olympic event just after class. Right now when standing at the fence near the construction area on campus, one cannot determine how the building will look like once it is ready, but at there’s a picture on the web.

Construction site for Subway Line No 4
Construction site for “Subway Line No 4”.

But the largest construction goes by mostly unseen: Beijing’s subway net will be drastically expanded by next year: From next year on, it is planned to open a new subway line each month! But at the moment one can only see some of the large holes along the future railway tracks. They are even labeled by they name since it takes so long for construction.

2008 Olympic’s mascots
Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and me – Nini is somehow cut off.

Earlier this week I visited the mascots for the Olympics at a store with all kinds of Olympic merchandise next to Tian’anmen square. I don’t want a judgment on their appearance, you can see them from up close here. Their names are the characters for “Beijing Huanying ni” – “Beijing welcomes you”.

Beijingers training etiquette for the Olympics

April 17, 2007

I just read an interesting article on how to prepare the Chinese for international guests during the 2008 Olympic games. According to the article curb public spitting, public cursing and littering are the main problems in Beijing, as well as a missing consciousness to properly line up and signs that badly translated into English.

I would agree that Beijing is a city where you every day see somebody who noisily spits on the street or at other places. I’ve even seen people spitting in a restaurant. During the first days I was shocked, but by know I guess I’m used to it – I was re-alerted again to this special behavior just when someone from Germany paid a visit and was new to this way of Beijing’s mostly male spitters.
A reason for spitting might be the dirty, dry air which might have some impact on the production of spit, but foreign visitors during the Olympics might still be offended.
There are some signs telling you not to spit, but so far this is limited only to certain places and has only shown little success.

No spitting
A “No spitting” sign in China. (By Harald Groven, released under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Another problem mentioned is the the lacking awareness to line up in Beijing. This phenomenon can be seen at various places: At subway stations, where everybody wants to get in the train even before other passengers had a chance to get off (I guess that traffic in general is a place where everybody is trying hard to push forward as fast as possible), at the cafeterias on Campus (well, it’s okay if you are able to maintain your position once you lined up) and so on.
At other places however, the Chinese aren’t too bad: Although the lines at the train station often reach 20 people in front of each counter, there is not jumping the queue.
There has been an official “queuing day” on the 11th every month, but so far I have not noticed any change (even on April 11, but I probably wasn’t in one of those lines where volunteers were telling people about the special day).

I don’t know about the public cursing mentioned in the article. It’s a little strange to watch Chinese use their cell phone: If the connection is not very good (or in cases where the other person is far away, who knows), Chinese start to shout when on the phone. It’s not that they are having an argument, it’s more that they want to make sure that the words are not lost on the way to their dialog partner.

The translation of some signs might be funny, some is simply not to understand if you don’t know Chinese. So you might order a “crap” dish instead of a “crab” dish or a sign on a mountain path warns you of slips (“Caution, slip”). But this is a large topic, I might want to write about it separately another day.

The Olympics are fast approaching on the horizon

March 28, 2007

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”