Giant on the move
You stand in front of the Bird’s Nest stadium, hold up your hand and by a miracle of foreshortening appear to grip the vast cornetto-shaped torch burning on the roof of the athletics venue.
It is the most popular picture for visitors to take, judging by the streams of foreign and Chinese tourists posing with their arms in the air.
At an early press conference today the novel inclusion of information we hadn’t heard before briefly raised spirits in what has become quite a downbeat media camp.
As the weekend snowstorms destroyed the careful preparations the Chinese had made on the mountain and a second week in Tibet became an inevitability, there has been a lot of talk about going home. Not just from journalists, either. Many of the officials who travelled with us from Beijing or joined us at Lhasa airport barely attempt to disguise their low spirits any more. I don’t know whether the cause is the altitude, the cold, the increasingly predictable diet, the lack of showers or just day after day of telling news-hungry journalists that there is no news. One of the senior officials told me again today that he thought we were getting “closer and closer” to “our goal”, while another said he thought our fond farewells would not be not too far away.
The foreign media contingent was moved from the huts to rooms inside the media centre late on Saturday evening, due to to the extreme weather. It was welcome, and much warmer. It seems it was by way of compensation for not taking us back to a hotel for a shower and a night in a proper bed, as we had requested. After the recent snow, the roads were apparently too dangerous.
One man who did get away was Joerg Brase of German television. Joerg had been suffering with high blood pressure ever since our arrival at the foot of Everest.
You’ll never guess who I met at Base Camp.
After a quick stop to watch the monks and nuns at the Rongpo monastery at prayer this morning, we finally got up to Base Camp proper this afternoon.
It was pretty bleak. Basically, a cluster of tents on an exposed rocky flat. It made us feel almost grateful for our humble cabins back at the media centre.