Giant on the move
By Kitty Bu
For many of the tourists expected to descend on Beijing for next month’s Olympics, an authentic Chinese home may be where the heart is. Beijing has recruited over 1,000 households to provide rooms during the Games. Like all other aspects of the Olympics, the “home stay” experience is regulated, with officials inspecting the ventilation, lighting, sanitary conditions, fire safety, bathroom facilities, location, transportation — and even the family pets. Other requirements include the “Olympic families” dressing appropriately, having good manners and basic Olympic knowledge, as well as the willingness to act as tour guides.
The restrictions have not put off film critic Zhao Jing, who has decided to rent out her own bedroom to help visitors make the most of their China stay. And she’s already got her tourist — a German man. “Because of globalisation, young people’s lifestyles are becoming more and more similar,” Zhao reckons. “This friend is coming to China to experience the country’s authentic culture. He wants to have a similar lifestyle to Chinese people. He wants to know how Chinese eat, drink. All I need to do is to show him how I live.”
The 1,000 rooms with “Olympic families” are to supplement the city’s 220,000 beds in 806 star-rated hotels, as, according to officials, supply may still fall short of demand, especially close to the sports venues. Tourism officials said homestay rooms will cost between $50 and $80 a night.
But retired school teacher Yuan Xiaoqing, who is offering rooms in her nine-bedroom apartment, is happy to charge just $15 for a place to stay, three meals a day and the chance to go on hiking tours with the family to the Great Wall and other sites. Yuan has hosted foreign visitors before, and said she liked the experiencing new cultures without leaving home. Even so, she’s preparing herself for culture shock. “Foreign students like to stay out all night on the weekend. But in more intellectual and traditional Chinese households, there is no way the kids would go out like that.”
A German water polo player who had earlier this year floated the idea of his team wearing orange robes a symbolic protest at the Olympics against China’s Tibet has changed his mind, saying the Tibet issue is far too complex and that he knows too little about China to organise such a demonstration.
Soeren Mackeben, 29, told Der Spiegel news magazine this week: “I’ve become more sceptical towards all sides in the meantime.” Mackeben had first proposed wearing the orange robes — the same colour as the Tibetan monks — in an interview in March.
My abiding memory of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City – just a few months after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. — is of removing and putting back on my heavy winter boots several times a day at security checkpoints.
On top of the ’nest’ he captured this inflatable structure.
The stadium is now effectively shut down to visitors because of the secrecy surrounding the preparations for the opening ceremony, which everyone is expecting to be a spectacular affair.
More recently the Hong Kong native and his group, China Exploration & Research Society, have taken on a number of conservation projects in Tibetan areas of China — work that helped him land a spot as an Olympic torch runner last week.
Former Olympic champion Cathy Freeman, the darling of the Sydney Games in 2000, was in Beijing at the weekend with a few words of advice for Liu Xiang.
I also asked her about pollution and, although she is now long-retired, I think her reply might still reflect the attitude of many of the top athletes coming to Beijing.
China has appealed to residents to take “green” transport ahead of the Olympics, casting the city’s pledge to provide clean air and unclogged roads as a civic “duty”.
I used to take green transport to work, cycling a round trip of 14 miles five days a week in the cooler months, and three days a week in the summer.
Since China first applied to host the Olympics, more than 4,000 babies have been named Aoyun — which means ”Olympic Games,” according to the BBC. Officials in charge of identity cards say that more than 92 percent of the 4,104 registered Aoyuns are boys.
The BBC reported that the first surge in Aoyuns came in 1992, when China applied to host to the 2000 Games with about 680 Aoyuns registered at that time. In 2002 another 553 babies were named Aoyuns after China was chosen to host the 2008 Games and the number has been rising ever since.
WASHINGTON – The Olympics are supposed to be all about sports, not politics, right?
Although the Games began in 1896 with the hope that sporting events between nations could bring about a more peaceful world, they have not escaped politics.
Balazs Koranyi was a semi-finallist in the 800 metres at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and will cover the Beijing Games for Reuters.
For an athlete, the Olympics are a bigger gamble than putting money on the zero at a roulette table. And when you take a big gamble, you’re bound to do dumb things.