Changing China

Giant on the move

Bird’s Nest paperweight anyone?

January 11, 2008

Impromptu viewing platform

That the vast majority of the Chinese are incredibly enthusiastic about the Beijing Olympics now goes without saying.

As the showpiece of the event, the National Stadium — known to one and all as the “Bird’s Nest” — has unsurprisingly attracted fevered interest.

Equally unsurprisingly, security at the building site in the north of Beijing is tight.

Only visiting dignitaries and (very occasionally) journalists have been allowed a peep beyond the blue fence that surrounds the stadium and its neighbour the National Aquatics Centre, or “Water Cube”.

But many snap-happy Beijingers are not prepared to wait until the 91,000-seater arena is finished to satisfy their desire for digital images of family and friends in front of the iconic structure.

An impromptu viewing platform has therefore come into being on the hard shoulder of a busy junction on the city’s fourth ring road.

Taxi drivers already need little prompting to pull over and disgorge their passengers for a session of snaps, smiles and that most Chinese of photographic accompaniments, the two-fingered “V” sign.

And, as anyone who has been to the Great Wall will attest, where there are tourists in China, there are souvenir hawkers.

Last weekend, I was offered Bird’s Nest paperweights and post cards as well as a variety of products featuring the Olympic mascots, the Fuwa. Very few, I fear, were officially sanctioned merchandise.

An example of the ingenuity of the Chinese or simply an illustration of the contempt Beijingers have for traffic laws? Probably both.

Photo credit: REUTERS/David Gray

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