Giant on the move
This weekend, Beijing inaugurated the new Bird’s Nest Stadium with the “Good Luck Beijing” track and field event. I attended less than 24 hours after covering the earthquake in Sichuan, and the contrast between sports and rubble was a little hard to digest.
The Bird’s Nest stadium, built for the Olympics, can seat 91,000 fans. The air flows through well, keeping it cool in the muggy Beijing summer. The seats are well-positioned, so the contestants can be seen easily. The screens are visible, the sound-system clear, the lighting strong but not harsh.
The Mianyang stadium, in Sichuan, is currently housing nearly 20,000 refugees. Every railing is covered in clothing, the floors covered in cardboard and quilts. The glassed-in second story helps shield old people and children from the rain. The screens are tuned to television coverage of the disaster and the PA system booms out the radio news.
But the two stadiums have some things in common.
A small army of young volunteers works in each. Fresh faced volunteers in Beijing answered the call to help China’s Olympics make a shining impression on the world. Masked volunteers in Mianyang answered the call to serve fellow Chinese in an hour of need.
I was one of the first foreign reporters on the scene after a devastating earthquake hit the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan on May 12.
It all seemed so normal when I arrived in the provincial capital Chengdu, some 12 hours after the 7.9 magnitude tremor hit, that I thought maybe the area had got off lightly. But heading in the hard hit town of Dujiangyan, just north of Chengdu, two hours after arriving in Sichuan, I realised how bad the situation was.