Changing China

Giant on the move

The men who built the grand Olympic structures

July 18, 2008

By Linjun Fan  

Officials of the Beijing organising committee wished journalists happy times at the huge Main Press Centre when it was opened a couple of weeks ago. One official remarked that reporters will be provided with everything they needed, including free massages.

The building was indeed glamorous with fancy stores and nice Chinese decorations, although I have not found the masseurs yet.

Workers at the Bird's NestWhen I walked out of it to see more of the Olympic park, a shanty with piles of junk outside near the famous Bird Nest caught my eye.

Two men, one stripped to the waist, sat there smoking. Surrounding them were all splendid Olympic structures.

They told me they had been working day and night on the Olympic TV Tower, a tall glass-walled broadcast facility nearby. One said that he slept on the ground outside the hut at night. “There are lots of mosquitoes inside.”

The other was a foreman. He said he was having a hard time finding workers to fix glass to the frames of the tower.  Many were scared when they saw the 128-meter-tall tower and the two thin ropes they would be hoisted into the air on.

He talked to two dozen people and got only four to stay for the work. The project had thus been delayed for several weeks.

 I looked up to the tower nearby. The two men hanging high in the air looked tiny. Another was struggling to climb up a tilted pole at the bottom of the structure.

 I was a bit relieved when I heard that they earned more than 500 yuan ($70) a day, an unimaginable amount for them in ordinary times.  

Picture by Linjun Fan

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