Changing China

Giant on the move

The bin-scavenging Olympics

August 14, 2008

food courtListening to journalists bellyache about how tough life is at the Games gets old pretty quickly, but there is one genuinely frustrating aspect of the Beijing media beat — finding something to eat.

The Main Press Centre has a cavernous dining area with food from around the world but reporters out at the venues are typing to the sound of rumbling stomachs — with nothing more than a few nuts and berries available anywhere near the stadiums.

They’re not complaining — just hungry — and in the interest of telling you what life is really like here I thought I’d share their stories. Over to Al Himmer, our man at the basketball, who sums up the situation nicely:

Normally I wouldn’t eat a burger from a fast food joint if you paid me $100. After less than a week of the Beijing Olympics I would sell my granny for one. (Sorry, nan but you’ve had a good innings).

How much did organisers spend on these state-of-the-art facilities? I could look it up but I’m too weak. Suffice it to say it was a wodge-load of cash yet no one thought to stick in a café. I’d be willing to offload another family member for a triple tall latte and a sticky bun.

The basketball venue offers bananas at breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a mystifying system for pre-ordering meals for the FOLLOWING DAY at this, and many other venues. “But I may not be hungry or have time to eat it tomorrow, and I’m hungry NOW!”

One Reuters colleague told us he’d lined up with punters for half an hour in the scorching heat for a hotdog at the tennis venue, only to be told when he reached the counter that they didn’t actually have hotdogs, or indeed anything else apart from crisps.

Another of our reporters has resorted to scavenging through the bins and yesterday she proudly informed fellow sufferers that she’d dug out a half-nibbled sandwich and half a tub of yoghurt, which she promptly wolfed down.

Other journalists, meanwhile, have it easy. The baseball writers happily tuck into burgers and slurp beers in the pressbox, while others stroll to monster shopping malls just across the road. That’s nice for them.

Now, where are those crisps?

PHOTO: Visitors buy lunch at a food court inside the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) during its opening in Beijing July 8, 2008. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV


What architect forgot to include the concession stands in these Chinese 21st century structures? How ridiculous was that?This is what can happen when a government controls all. And we haven’t even discussed eminent domain.

Posted by Frank E. Areyano | Report as abusive

To be honest, I’m glad the food options are limited. I’ve thankfully managed to lose a few kilos here in the last 2 weeks while running around from venue to venue without the zillion food options competing for my eye’s attention. No wonder the Chinese are, for the most part, so skinny.

Posted by A happy camper | Report as abusive

To add insult to injury, when I bought my own lunch with me (after hearing stories of people going hungry), I had my bread rolls confiscated at the security gate! I would love to know what kind of security threat they posed.

Posted by Hungry in BJG | Report as abusive

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