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.


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