Sunday, August 03, 2008

Olympic Fever

I've got Olympic Fever of two kinds. Take your choice on the difference. Past or present. Winter or Summer. In the USA or in China.

On the first, I'm in Lake Placid right now, home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. We spent today at the ski jump (those people are insane to jump into the air like that, as was more apparent as I stood at the base of the jump where they took off for the distance) and the bobsled run. we went past the arena where the US beat the Soviets with "the Dream Team." But it all got me thinking about the current Olympic fever with Beijing, which starts very soon.

I was in Beijing in April of this year for a W3C meeting which was held near the Olympic area; it was also near the convention center, which got us the low hotel rates (<$100/night). You'll soon being seeing many pictures of a glowing clear-skied (hopefully) Olympic area, but I wanted to show what it was like 3.5 months before the opening day. This is not a criticism of China, as I am sure that your could have seen pictures like this for Athens or even Los Angeles. I was impressed by the massive new Beijing airport, but that faded fast as I left the airport for a cab to my hotel. My eyes began to tear and my throat tightened from the air. It was a combination of the worst smog I ever saw in Los Angeles (brown air that obscured all) with the dust and smoke particulates of Delhi. In other words, it was awful. The first picture is taken from my hotel room at around 4:00 on the Saturday that arrived. There was not a cloud in the sky; all of the haze that you see is pollution. Note that NBC's Olympic site does report that blue skies have appeared at last. Note that you can skip through all of this "how it looked in April" and just see the present on NBC's site.

The weather did take a few turns from there. Sunday was rainy (terrible for tourism, but it cleaned the air). These two pictures were from the street on that Sunday. The Olympic Stadium (aka the birds nest) was beautiful. At night it would glow red from the inside and was quite striking. Even through the rain, you can see the tower on the left with the multistory TV screen. The rain persisted for the rest of the day. I elected to visit the Forbidden City and see something incredible in person that was also no longer under construction.

A few days later the weather became more clear and the skies blue. It was hard to believe that it was the same city that had been so polluted a few days earlier. I took a few pictures from the window of my hotel room so that you could get a better idea. The tower that is shaped like an olympic torch with the four-story-tall television screen and the adjoining housing that had mini-screens (only two stories tall) was the neatest. In that picture you can see much of the Olympic grounds and the acquatic center on the right. The other pictures are of other Olympic venues across the ring road and the birds nest with the torch tower behind it on the left. My only regret was that the area was blocked off from public access, unless you were attending one of the qualifying events that they held in one of the venues; that was how people entered the Olympic grounds on that rainy Sunday.

My last view of the Olympic area was viewed from my cab as I went to the Adobe office on Wednesday and Thursday. There were good views of the Olympic area, still under construction from the road. In fact, many people walked down the access road parallel to the highway to get a better view of the area. While it looked much better with blue sky, they obviously had more construction and much more landscaping to do.

I can't wait to see how all of this looks when it is done.


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