BLOGS: Womble Carlyle China Practice

Friday, August 15, 2008, 10:57 AM

Postcard from the Olympic Games

Hello again. It's been several days since I last talked to you. We've been busy going to various events.

We went to the tennis event on the 11th and watched Nadal Rafael defeat an Italian player and S. Williams defeat a Russian player. The Williams' match was a continuation of the match started the day before but was suspended due to rain. We had first row seats and had a great view of the games. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay to watch Federer. We had tickets to the women's basketball game that afternoon. The basketball stadium is beautiful, inside and outside. Our seats are way at the top but we still had a clear view of the game. The game was between Latvia and Bellarus. It was a great game. In addition to the professional cheerleaders performing during half time and timeouts, there was a group of Chinese cheerleaders in the audience cheering for both teams throughout the game.

We had a lot of difficulty getting to the Tennis Center and from the Tennis Center to the Basketball Stadium. The volunteers couldn't tell us exactly how to get to the Tennis Center and sent us going from place to place looking for the right bus to take. A taxi driver told us taxis weren't allowed to go to the Olympic venues (which turned out to be only half true- they can get to a certain point but not all the way to the gate) and refused to take us. After we finally got on the right bus (an Olympic bus route), we couldn't figure out which stop to get off because they only announced the names of the stops without telling you what venues were nearby. We ended up getting off one or two stops too early and had to walk the rest of the way. After tennis, we couldn't find a direct shuttle going from the Tennis Center to the Basketball Stadium (there wasn't any) which is half way across town. We had to go back into public transit to get to the Basketball Stadium. Luckily, we found a taxi driver who would take us.

The last event we watched was the men's cycling time trial on the 13th. My son Oliver is very into cycling lately and idolizes Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland. This was a road race that doesn't require any tickets, and none were sold. So we decided to go to the finish line at the foot of the Great Wall and watch the final moments of the race and the award ceremony. We couldn't find a bus going that way. Since Oliver was so anxious to watch the race, we decided to take a cab for the 50 or so kilometer ride there. When we got to the point which is about five kilometers to the destination, we came upon the first security road block. We were told that vehicles without BOCOG permit would not be allowed to pass that point. Seeing how disappointed Oliver was, my husband started talking to the guard. After 10 minutes or so, the guard decided to let us through. We came upon another road block at the three kilometer point. This time we weren't able to convince the guard to let us pass. Fortunately, there was a taxi there that had a BOCOG permit. We shared the cab with a local sports reporter who was also trying to get to the finish line. But, we couldn't get to the finish line. We were told no spectators, other than BOCOG employees and volunteers, were allowed at the finish line unless you had gotten there early in the morning before security was put in place. But we were able to get to the 500 meter point and watched the final dash from there. To Oliver's great satisfaction, Cancellara won gold!

Besides watching the games, we hosted two dinners at my in-laws' home to give our American friends an opportunity to visit a home in Beijing and to experience some real Chinese home life. Sam Williams, President of Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, was our first guest. My mother-in-law served one of my favorite traditional Beijing dishes called Chun Bing (Spring Wraps). We had a great time with Sam, sharing stories of attending the Beijing Olympics, watching and playing with fireworks and many more activities.

11 Alive's (Atlanta TV) Brenda Wood and her cameraman David Brook came to our home on the 12th. They talked to us about many things, including our paths from Beijing to Atlanta, cultural differences, and living as both a Chinese and an American. We invited them to join us for dinner after the interview. This time, my mother-in-law served the most typical and homey Beijing food of all, jiao-zi with many cold dishes. It wasn't elaborate but very traditional Beijing. We had a great conversation and had fun teaching Brenda how to use chopsticks. It's a lot easier to talk to reporters when you are not being interviewed.

Our visit in Beijing is coming to an end. This has truly been a lifetime experience from many perspectives. Oliver's interest in and appreciation of what he saw and experienced in China is a great satisfaction to us. He was in awe of the garden house, the Buddhist temple and the West Lake in Hangzhou, amazed by the development in Shanghai. He had a lot of fun cheering for both the Chinese and the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics. As Chinese, attending the Olympic Games in Beijing has been an unparalleled experience. Besides the excitement of watching world class competitions and seeing the world come together for the joy of sports, there is an added element of national pride.

Friends, thanks for visiting our blog. See you back home!

Monday, August 11, 2008, 2:02 PM

Swimming in Beijing

We ended up going to the swimming event on the 10th. Even though it was an event of qualifying contests, it was an incredible experience. Five or six Olympic records were broken, and the U.S. men's 4x100 meter breast stroke relay broke the World Record!

The area called the Olympic Greens where there are several Olympic venues is very nice. Many large sponsors, including Atlanta's Coca Cola, have set up hospitality centers there. There are a few souvenir stands. Besides checking out the souvenir shops and taking pictures, there aren't any activities there. The swimming event was held in the Aquatic Center, also known as the Water Cube. It's an incredible building. The outer walls are literally made of plastic sheets that look like bubble wraps. There are decorative ponds outside the building with water falls running into the ponds. The interior is quite beautiful as well. Half of the hall is a standard size Olympic pool, and the other half houses a diving pool with various diving boards and platforms.

Michael Phelps received warm applause when he walked in. Yes, he's well known in China as well. It started raining right before the event start time. It's a good thing it's an indoor event. By the time we left the stadium, it was raining cats and dogs. I wondered what happened to the rain cloud chasing plan that we've heard about.

Sunday, August 10, 2008, 9:05 AM

Opening Ceremonies at the Olympic Games

The opening ceremony was absolutely spectacular!

That the performance unfolded on an open scroll of a picture is a brilliant idea. The entire show displayed the richness of China's culture and was filled with beautiful colors and texture. There wasn't any blood pumping central piece of music. But overall, the music was beautiful. The torch is absolutely beautiful. Its form resembles the end of an unfolding scroll (another brilliant idea), with red and "lucky cloud" decoration.

The weather on the first day of the Games was not bad at all. We actually saw the blue sky and white clouds in the afternoon. It was so sunny that I wore my sun glasses most of the day. The air was still a little smoggy though. It looked like there was a thin veil hanging in the air all the time. We didn't have any tickets for the day. So, we decided to go to the Bird's Nest just to hang out. Unfortunately, we found out pretty quickly that without tickets to any of the events being held there, we were not allowed to even go near the Stadium. The closest we could get was several blocks away, across a couple of highways. There were a lot of people there, Chinese and non-Chinese, all trying to get a close look of the Bird's Nest and the flame and taking pictures. We were very disappointed. I wish they had set up some activities for the general public who are unable to get tickets to the Games but want to participate in some form. With everything I've seen and heard so far, it seems to me that the only thing the Beijing Olympic Organization focuses on is to make sure the Games go smoothly. Creating a positive, enjoyable and memorable experience for the local people and visitors around the world doesn't seem to be part of their plan or concern.

Nonetheless, we are still having a good time. Just being here is exciting, and we've got a ton of souvenirs.

Friday, August 8, 2008, 11:47 AM

Postcard from the Olympic Games - Beijing

After traveling in China for about a week, we are finally in Beijing. We took the train from Hangzhou last night. It was a 12-hour ride and quite an interesting experience. Security was not as tight as we had expected, and we went through security pretty quickly. I think part of the reason is that there were SO MANY people there that the security people just wanted to herd the crowd through. There seemed to be people in every inch of the train stations both in Hangzhou and in Beijing. I felt I had to pay extra attention to make sure I didn't lose one of my children. The place was relatively orderly. Despite the vast number of people, check-in went very quickly and we found our car easily. We had a sleeping compartment (with four seats/beds) all to ourselves after changing one ticket with another passenger. It was supposed to be a smoke-free car with designated smoking areas, but some passengers in the compartment next to ours obviously smoked in their compartment with the door closed. Smoke kept sipping though the cracks to our compartment. It took a couple of complaints to get them to stop.

Unlike the beautiful weather in Hangzhou, the weather in Beijing on this opening day of the Beijing Olympics is pretty foggy. The fog broke a little bit in the afternoon, and the sun peaked out for a couple of hours. It is forecasted that it would rain in the early evening right around the time of the opening ceremony. But we've heard that the Beijing Olympic Organization is prepared to interfere and manually chase the rain clouds away before the opening ceremony if necessary.

Traffic is extremely good today. The taxi ride from the train station home, which usually takes more than an hour, took us about half an hour today. We heard that most of the offices are closed today and people are given the day off, by government order.

Pretty much the only thing on TV is the Olympics - history of the Olympics, the development of China's sports, China's participation in international events, construction of the Olympic venues, etc. People in Beijing are genuinely excited about the Games. Many say this is the largest event of their lives. There is a genuine sense of pride everywhere. This is particularly more so in Beijing than in other parts of China.

Now that it's about a couple of hours before the opening, there is more and more broadcasting from the Bird's Nest. The broadcasters are speculating as to who the flag bearer will be for the Chinese team and who will light the torch.

Stay tuned. I will be back later.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008, 4:33 PM

Postcard from the Olympic Games - Traveling

This is the first report of several by Guanming Fang who is attending the Olympics. Born and raised in China and fluent in Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese, in addition to English, Guanming's innate understanding of the Chinese culture enables her to explain complex U.S. legal principles and business issues in a language and manner that is easy for her Chinese clients to understand. The reports in the days to come will be lighthearted and observational in nature.

We spent the day in Shanghai today. The weather is absolutely beautiful though very hot. The sky is blue with white clouds. Hope Beijing has the same weather. We took the world"s only commercially used Maglev train (photo, right) just for the experience. It was pretty cool. The fastest the train got was 431 km per hour. The ride is very smooth and quiet. The train wasn't crowded, and the train stations were clean. The only inconvenience is that the train station is a bit far from the city. We had to take a pretty long subway ride to get there. I've read that the Maglev train is underused partly because of its inconvenient location. I've been in Shanghai many times and this is my second time riding the Maglev train. Last time, I asked the driver taking me to the Pudong Airport to get out of the way to take me to the train station so I could ride it. It wasn't convenient getting to the station at all.

The subways in Shanghai are very nice. The best I've ridden anywhere. The stations are very clean and airy. The trains and clean and nice.

Because the Olympics are near, security measures in Shanghai have been tightened. When we left our bags at the hotel to store this morning, they asked us to open each bag for inspection. They told us it's a new measure during the Olympics. We are taking the train to Hangzhou. At the train station, they have closed most but a few entrances. All bags go through scanning. My hairspray was taken out for close inspection. Again these are new security measures during the Games, we are told.
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