Changing China

Giant on the move

Beijing believer: a sideways look at the Games

August 7, 2008

The MPCMost blogs and reporter diaries from the Olympics start the same way. Your correspondent arrives in Beijing, jet-lagged but wide-eyed nonetheless, and waxes grateful about the helpful volunteers at the airport, the comfy shuttle bus to the media village and the smiling welcome from just about everyone, everywhere. And hey – even the smog isn’t as bad as everyone makes out.

Disillusion sets in a few days later, as they find access to athletes is incredibly hard to come by, you still can’t sleep properly and walking 400 metres in the city is enough to leave you with stinging eyes, a soaking shirt and an irritating cough. Damn that smog!

I arrived a week ago but decided to wait a while before starting this, to let the Beijing experience soak in for a while. Now the Games are actually about to start, I’ll be filing regularly about life here in the media bubble.

One thing to add: I really like to hear from readers and fellow bloggers, so please leave a comment in the section below.

Day release from North Star MV1:

I’m staying, along with thousands of others, at the North Star media village, a 15-minute ride from the huge complex they call  the Olympic Green. Most journos tell you at some point that it reminds them of being a student. You share a small but nice apartment with one or two others, with a private bedroom but usually a shared bathroom. There’s a refectory for your breakfast and a strip-lit late-night bar that you have to be desperate to visit.

In fact, it’s more like a comfortable low-security prison, with the inmates heading out each morning on day release.

You go through a strict security check to get on one of the buses, hauling your laptop bag on your shoulder and whistling or singing, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go.” Or at least I do, until one of my sleep-deprived colleagues asks me to shut up.

The bus takes us to the Main Press Centre, where you chip away at a laptop for about 14 hours before heading back on the bus to, in my case, cell block D3.

I’m joking, of course. Depending on your assignment, you may get to rush along to various press conference rooms, hop on more buses to the venues or take your chances with a hazy walk around town. You can even go up to the roof at the end of the day and drink a cold one.

Thinking about it, didn’t the inmates get to do that in the Shawshank Redemption?

More tomorrow.

PHOTO: The Olympic Main Press Centre, REUTERS/Claro Cortes


The stinging eyes thing is a bit worrying – my first reaction was that it was a combination of sweat and hair gel but then the smog really is as bad as people say so I haven’t a clue what it is and I am not sure I want to know.

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

how about a photograph of said “small but nice appartment” so we get a real feel for the life of your average hack. Don’t forget to get the 42″ Plasma and Bose sound system in shot!

posted from grade 2 listed government building (no air con) in a very muggy and wet London during a very short lucn break – no smog though!

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

You’re so right about the hackneyed arrival-in-Beijing journalism that I’m already totally sick of. Just try to avoid all the cliches over the next two weeks. Here in the US we’ll get more than enough of that from NBC’s telecasts.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

Great and keep it up. We especially want to know of banned atheletes be it doping or political indoctrination. I look forward to your releases.

How are the Chinese hookers?

I bet this one doesn’t get past the moderators.

Posted by Neal | Report as abusive

I just noticed one thing..
A co-incidence or … : its in 2008, 8th of 8th Month . Opening time is 8:08 local time. so 08/08/2008 @ 8:08 PM. Is it just a co-incidence or lucky no thing?


Yesterday it was Valentine´s day in China, did journalists get any special treat? I would like more insight on media life during the Olimpics: how is the food in the media center? Is it free? Are there any relax area to stretch or to sleep? How often are the apartments cleaned?

Posted by laura | Report as abusive

Neal, I have no first-hanf knowledge but a colleague went out to do some interviews around famous red-light areas to write a story and found the city’s sex workers less than delighted with the Olympics. You can read his story here… UKPAT41142720080804

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

The stinging eyes things seems like a bit of an exaggeration, I’ve lived here more than a decade and I’ve never once had stinging eyes. You are right though that Beijing is not really a city for walking. It is sad that Beijing is doing its best to live down to it’s smoggy stereotype. I’m praying for some wind to blow the smog away so that Beijing can show off the beautiful blue skies that those of us who live here know and love.

Obviously the 8s are not a coincidence. Ba (8) is close in sound to Fa (to prosper) and hence 8s are always lucky. Even the US Govt takes this into account. They opened their new Embassy in Beijing at 8 AM this morning.

Beijing hookers are lovely if you steer away from the streets and the barber shops. On the whole they are very sweet girls so be nice to them please.


Hey Kevin, thanks for the link to the article about hookers… interesting that the girls are having to cut their prices during the Olympics, here in the US, prices would go up during such times.

Posted by Neal | Report as abusive

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