Giant on the move
Long March to the Bird’s Nest
We set off last Friday to see the titanic building and a relatively low-key athletics meeting mainly contested by young Chinese athletes.
There were, however, still tens of thousands of people at the showpiece venue for Beijing Olympics, most of whom were looking forward to a first glimpse inside the stadium and to watching their hero Liu Xiang in action.
But our passions gradually died long before we entered the Bird’s Nest.
It took us nearly one and a half hours from seeing the stadium from the road to actually getting anywhere near it.
Every junction was gridlocked and we had to drive another 3 kms further down the fourth ring road, which runs alongside the Olympic Green, to find a place to turn around.
Twenty minutes later, we reached an entrance of the stadium only to find that there was no parking lot.
“Go! Go straight!” one cop shouted to us at a crossroads. Several more shouted the same phrase at us as we continued and we drove more than 2 km more before finally parking our car in a temporary “car park” on the curb as the cops directed.
“Closed! Closed! There are too many people! We can’t bear it!” one officials shouted. “We will take you to another entrance soon, by free bus!”
Less than a minute later, an empty bus arrived but there was only room to take a very small portion of the anxious crowd. The others stood in lines, waiting for another bus.
Officials, police and volunteers shouted through loudspeakers, asking people to keep calm and orderly.
But they seemed incredibly anxious themselves, as if they were surprised to see so many people. All this with a crowd of only about 30,000 making its way into the 91,000-seater stadium.
At one stage, some people behind us in the queue suddenly ran back to the gate, saying that it had been re-opened. We decided to wait on.
Another curious thing happened in the stadium when the athletes were being introduced.
“Lane one…” the announcer said. “From China!” (who?)
“Lane two…from China!” (who? again)
“Lane three…from China!”
Oh God, I know we Chinese don’t have lots of good runners besides Liu, but they could have found a list of their names.
Pictures by David Gray