Beijing Olympics: First Observations and Impressions

Posted in Beijing, Olympics at 10:58 am by Benjamin Ross

The Beijing Olympiad is almost three days old. Here are my initial thoughts.

-The “completely sold out” tickets for most events are cheap and widely available. Every day I have been picking events, showing up at the gate, and looking for second hand tickets.

Beijing 2008 Square

Other than high demand events like basketball, most tickets can easily be bought for face value second hand if you are willing to stand around the gate for fifteen minutes. Face value for most events is under 100 RMB (approx $15 USD). I bought boxing tickets for only 30 RMB ($4 USD).

-Yesterday’s weather reminded me of typhoons in Fuzhou. After half an hour of torrential downpour, there was standing water almost a foot deep. The rowing events could have been held on the Third Ring Road.

-Maybe I am just too American, but I was completely taken back by the fact you can get a beer for 5 RMB (less than 1 US dollar) inside the venues. Snacks are cheap too! Beijing and/or the IOC easily could have price gorged Olympic guests for much more than that, but instead concessions are priced cheaply, even by Chinese standards. In another pleasant surprise, I was watching judo when the Hurricane Yao hit yesterday. The Olympic volunteers passed out free ponchos to all attendees. If this was the US, they would have been selling them for ten bucks. Gotta love the 经济奥运 (economical Olympics).

-I watched the Opening Ceremony with two American friends in a Scandinavian bar. We were all a little worried about the reaction we would receive when we cheered for the American team. When our guys came out, the entire bar cheered. When CCTV panned to a shot of W, the entire crowd booed in unison…clockwork.

-Last night, I saw the US v. China men’s basketball game in a movie theater. By my count, we out-dunked them about 35-2. The problem was if we play with as much over-confidence and as little effort on defense as we did last night, we are going to get smoked by Argentina or Spain. I’d put the US’s chances of winning the gold this year at about 50/50.

-Kudos to the city of Beijing for preparing itself of the onslaught of foreign guests. An American friend of mine who had lived in China for five years, but had never been to Beijing, spent the first two days of the Olympics here with me. On multiple occasions, he remarked, “Beijing is so clean and orderly.” There are many of us who are fans of Beijing, but how often is it for those reasons?


  1. Jiang China said,

    August 11, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Is the air good there?

  2. John China said,

    August 11, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Nice observations. I think I appreciate your viewpoint more because you haven’t been in Beijing from the beginning; your take seems more balanced.

    Keep the reports coming! From a Shanghai perspective, the prices are very interesting as well… :)

  3. Benjamin Ross China said,

    August 12, 2008 at 1:40 am

    The air isn’t great, but it’s definitely better than normal. Skies are relatively blue instead of grey. In China terms, Beijing’s air is basically now at the typical level of a Southern City. It’s not great, but certainly nothing to throw a big stink over. Actually, it has been raining so much the past two days, that I think as soon as it clears up, we are going to get some really clear days.

  4. Alan United States said,

    August 12, 2008 at 6:54 am

    There was an unforunate incident where an American tourist was knived and killed in the Tower Building by a deranged Chinese man from Hangzhou. The victim’s wife and their Chinese tour guide were seriously injured. I have heard that Chinese media doesn’t do much reporting on that, which I understand. Do you think an average Chinese person would have heard about this tragic incident?

    I hope he didn’t die in vain. Maybe Chinese can learn a lesson here. In America, people usually don’t paint an event with a wide brush. When a deranged Chinese man kills an innocent American, Americans don’t think all Chinese are killers. Americans tend to look at people on the individual basis, whereas Chinese tend to do so on a collective basis.

    Hope my comment doesn’t cause any controversy.

  5. chriswaugh_bj China said,

    August 12, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Alan, the murder has been reported in the Chinese press, although nowhere near as extensively or in as much detail as in the Western press.

    Incidentally, am I the only one to notice that although the Western reports have gone into great detail about the two American tourists, their Chinese tour guide remains anonymous and is only mentioned in the reports almost as an afterthought?

  6. T. China said,

    August 12, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    50/50? Defense?

    Spain has a chance – but there’s no way that it was a defensive fault.

  7. NJD China said,

    August 12, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    I have seen a couple of articles where it mentioned that the Chinese authorities aren’t releasing any details on the tour guide or allowing media access, so maybe not intentionally leaving her out of stories, just little information available to them.

  8. NJD China said,

    August 12, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I agree with T., US has a better shot than 50/50. I got the feeling that they were taking it a bit easy on the hosts Sunday night, especially in the first half. They looked to kind of have that first half of an All Start Game mentality of no real defense except looking for steals and blocks, not a lot of guarding going on, and then a lot of flash on offense.
    If they wanted to run up the score they could have just kept dunking and stopped taking 3’s, as China had no answer to their inside game.

  9. Jetso China said,

    August 12, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    @ Ben: “On multiple occasions, he remarked, “Beijing is so clean and orderly.”’

    Well, just come back early next year if the big-event had any lasting impact …

    @ Alan: “Americans tend to look at people on the individual basis, whereas Chinese tend to do so on a collective basis.”

    This could hold true for most east Asians in general. When a mentally-insane Korean-American student went “postal” at Virginia Tech early this year, many Koreans reacted with great embarrassment & shame despite their generally “quiet hard-working” image & perception overseas …

  10. Jetso China said,

    August 12, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    The Chinese coach ought to be *canned* … quit counting on the big guy Yao & get him some much needed support! Remember, basketball is a *team* sports …

  11. Alan United States said,

    August 12, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    @Jetso: Yes, I totally agree with your observation on east Asians. Koreans are probably the most group-oriented people (much more so than other Asians). Even their president and congress stopped their regular session to mourn and apoligize to VA Tech victims. They did that several times to show their sincerity. They are such a cohesive group of people (both good and bad), but that’s not my point here.

    After seeing such a spetactular opening ceremony, many of my Chinese friends in America believe that the world would now view China more positively, which may be true. They also believe that Americans will now show more respect to the Chinese people in America. Most Chinese believe that a Chinese person will not be respected until Chinese as a group is respected. I just want to bring this up as a cultural difference, which might explain why so many of the Chinese all over the globe were so upset whenever torch relay was interrupted earlier this year. Their nationalism is deeply related to this group mentality.

  12. jesse warren China said,

    August 13, 2008 at 10:54 am

    interesting blog dude. i am in beijing for the olympics, a photographer covering the social aspect of the games and beijing. would you like to meet up for a beer or any kind of activity? i am looking for cool things going on around the city…

  13. chriswaugh_bj China said,

    August 13, 2008 at 11:31 am

    NJD, you may well be right. It’s interesting to note that the Chinese reports mention no details beyond gender and nationality of any of the victims. Oh, visa status… but that’s it.

  14. Kit United States said,

    August 16, 2008 at 9:08 am

    wonder why different reports. the newspaper says tickets are expensive and hard to get, but plenty of empty seats. my son http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessewarren/sets/72157606622862639/ says…they are easy to come by, but expensive. you say they are prevalent and inexpensive.

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